Be Skeptical Of American Pharoah

UPDATE (June 6, 5:27 p.m.): The Belmont Stakes is today, so we’re unearthing this article about American Pharoah’s chances, and why the Belmont always seems to snag Triple Crown aspirants. On Saturday, American Pharoah (yes, it’s really spelled that way) won a muddy Preakness Stakes by an impressive seven lengths, leaving only the Belmont Stakes between him and becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. Commentators and oddsmakers both like his chances. But you should be wary.Though official pari-mutuel odds won’t be available for another two weeks, offshore sportsbooks immediately installed Pharoah as a two-to-three favorite (the equivalent of about a 60 percent chance of winning). If it feels like we’ve been here before, it’s because we have: Just last year, California Chrome (pride of Fresno County) was the Superhorse-du-jour before finishing fourth in New York.For the past 30-plus years, the Belmont has been unconquerable for Crown contenders. But that hasn’t always been the case. Prior to Spectacular Bid’s spectacular upset in 1979, horses that won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness won 11 of 19 Belmonts they raced (58 percent). Since then, they’ve won 0 of 12 (zero percent). Though the Belmont has been over 1.5 miles (12 furlongs) since 1926, its longer distance usually gets the blame. (The Derby and Preakness are raced at 10 and 9.5 furlongs, respectively.)That there has been some kind of paradigm shift seems evident. The 1.5 mile distance has become very rare in the U.S., and American horses have little to no experience with it. The 3-year-olds just aren’t very good at winning both distances anymore:Perhaps even more amazing: If you break out Triple Crown contenders, horses that won exactly one of the shorter races went on to win Belmont 21.2 percent of the time before 1979 (compared to 50.0 percent if they won both), and 15.2 percent of the time since 1979 (compared to zero percent when they won both). In other words: Horses that have won one precursor have gotten a little worse, but horses that won both shorter races went from having the best chances at Belmont to the worst:Part of this may just be a matter of specialization: Horses capable of winning both short races may be more likely to be calibrated to the shorter distance. It reminds me a little bit of the 200 and 400 meter sprints in human racing. There are a lot of sprinters who run both of these distances, but Michael Johnson is the only man ever to win both at the Olympics.Also, Belmont entrants and winners that raced in both the Preakness and the Derby are becoming rarer and rarer—the last nine Belmont winners have skipped one or more of the precursors. This has led to some speculation that fresher horses have an unfair advantage in the Belmont. But even if so, this is another variety of the idea that horses that win the Belmont probably do so because they’re more targeted to it.While this seems plausible, it doesn’t really explain why there has been such a dramatic shift: The Belmont has always been the grueling final leg — the “Test of Champions.”If horses who won the precursors were at a big disadvantage in the Belmont, you’d think that horse-bettors would have picked up on it at some point. But the market has remained pretty bullish on Triple Crown contenders. You can see the chances of winning for each based on its final racebook odds to the left of this paragraph.Of the 12 Triple Crown potentials that raced, there were some big favorites, no big underdogs, and eight were better than even money against the field.Say you took $2 in 1979 and used it to bet against Spectacular Bid winning the Belmont at racebook odds, and then just “let it ride” — betting it all against every horse that won the Derby and Preakness. Assuming you gave up 15 percent to the “takeout” (horse racing’s equivalent of the rake) each year, you’d have over $15,000 today (with no takeout, you’d have over $100,000).While technically it’s possible that this has all been one big fluke, it seems pretty likely that the market has been botching this consistently. But the tricky thing about markets is that when you identify that they’re doing something wrong, betting on it requires presuming that the rest of the market hasn’t identified the same thing.We’ve seen an impressive horse before and thought: “Wow, the market sure screwed this up in the past. But it must have gotten wise by now and [insert superhorse here] must be the real deal.” But by the end of the Belmont, not so much. read more

Tampa Bay Bucs Sign Paralyzed Rutgers Football Player

In a heart-felt gesture, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed to a contract Rutgers’ Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed when he broke two vertebrae and suffered a serious spinal cord injury on Oct. 16, 2010, during a kickoff return against Army.It was the act of new Bucs coach Greg Schiano, who was LeGrand’s coach at the time of his injury.‘It came out of nowhere,” LeGrand said Wednesday to the Associated Press. Schiano called it a ”small gesture” that recognizes LeGrand’s ”character, spirit and perseverance.””It’s a symbolic gesture,” LeGrand added. “They can’t give me any money with the salary cap and all that kind of stuff. It’s symbolic, something Coach wanted to do and I appreciate that. It just shows the man that he is.”LeGrand remains in rehab. He fought hard to be able to stand upright with the help of a metal frame.When Chiano told his former player of his intentions, LeGrand was stunned. ”I said, ‘Are you serious? You want to do this?’ He said: ‘It’s the least we could do,”’ LeGrand said during a conference call from the apartment he shares with his mother in New Jersey. ”I said, ‘I don’t even know what to say to you right now, Coach. This is amazing.”’Part of this gesture is a No. 52 Bucs jersey, Bucs helmet and contract.”It’s something I always dreamed about, go to the NFL and retire and become a sportscaster,” LeGrand said. ”Dreams do come true if you really believe. You do the right things in life, good things happen to you. He really just did this out of the kindness of his heart. It’s really what he wanted to do. I had no idea this was going to happen.” read more

Gabby Douglas Being Recruited By Spelman College

Atlanta’s Spelman College has begun to recruit 16-year-old Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas, the first African American to win all-around gold in Olympic gymnastics.Spelman president Dr. Beverly Tatum reportedly has flown out to London to get a head start on recruiting.According to an unnamed source, Spelman would love to have Gabby attend the college, and have made the gymnastics superstar the school’s number one recruit.Earlier this week a photo was taken of Douglas and her mother holding a gift bag from Spelman. The bag, presented by Coca Cola exec and Spelman alum Helen Smith Price, contained a congratulatory note, school t-shirt and a CD containing a song produced by the college.In a statement released to TMZ, Tatum makes no mention of recruiting the 16-year-old star but does admit the school would love for her to attend.“A young woman who has demonstrated the drive and discipline needed to achieve world-class excellence is likely to have what it takes to be successful at Spelman, and we would welcome her interest in the college,” the statement said.Spelman College is an all-female historically black liberal art’s college located in Atlanta, Georgia. Spelman is consistently ranked among the nation’s top liberal arts colleges by Forbes and the U.S. News and World Reports, and once again was named the #1 HBCU in the country this year.The college also ranks among the nation’s top 50 four-year colleges and universities for producing Fulbright Scholars, while also being the second largest producer of African-American college graduates who attend medical school.Some of the school’s notable alumni include the Executive VP of Walmart Rosalind Brewer, Dean of Harvard College Evelynn M. Hammonds, Pulitzer Prize winning writer Alice Walker and actress Keshia Knight Pulliam.There has been no word from Douglas or her family concerning her interest in the College. read more

Stephon Marbury Ordered to Pay Mistress More Than 300000

So, Stephon Marbury had a mistress and wanted to keep it a secret from his wife. To do so, he offered to pay the side chick $900,000 — and he put it in writing. That was Mistake No. 2.After paying Thurayyah Mitchell $600,000 to maintain the secret, Marbury stopped distributing the hush money. Mistake No. 3.Mitchell, once a chef, wanted all they had agreed to, and so she sued Marbury for the remaining $331,584.50, making public their 2006 affair. And so, the intent to keep his transgression a secret was compromised because he did not fully pay to keep his transgression a secret. All this according to TMZ, which got ahold of the suit.So, the question begs that Marbury has not answered: Why in the name of Tiger Woods would the former NBA star put in play a legal, signed document that would reveal his affair? Marbury’s signature on the agreement gave Mitchell the pathway to a lawsuit to collect the remaining agreed-to balance.Marbury still refused, claiming that filing her claim was a breach of the confidentially deal. Did not work.On Feb. 1 a judge sided with Mitchell and ordered Marbury to pay the remaining $331,584.50 he owes plus interest. And so, it is all there for public consumption  — including Marbury’s wife. Seems he defeated the whole purpose in making the deal in the first place, you know? read more

The US Draws An Easy Group At The 2019 World Cup France

South Africa23.758.2 Japan98.389.3 Brazil96.089.7 Australia95.390.2 Cameroon24.957.7 Argentina14.732.9 Group avg.—65.1 ANorway66.879.7 Jamaica22.053.3 Germany95.292.6 ENew Zealand69.779.5 Group avg.—78.6 Group avg.—78.9 CItaly58.368.2 Group avg.—80.7 Chile22.343.8 United States99.896.4 Despite underperforming at the youth level, the U.S. still boasts the best senior-level women’s soccer team on the planet.2Both our SPI and FIFA put the Americans in the top spot. The Americans have won the most World Cups (three), and they’ve played in the past two finals, but they’ve never repeated as champions.3Only Germany has done so — it won the championship in 2003 and 2007. That could change this year, as they’ve been drawn into Group F with Sweden, Thailand and Chile. According to our SPI, it’s the second-easiest of the six groups. At 99.8 percent, the Americans have the highest chance of advancing to the Round of 16 of any of the 24 teams in the tournament.The Swedes are always strong at the World Cup — they’ve finished in third place twice and were runners-up in 2003 — but the same cannot be said for the other two teams: Thailand didn’t advance out of the group stage in its first World Cup appearance at Canada 2015, and Chile is making its first ever World Cup appearance. If U.S. stars like captain Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe bring their goal-scoring boots to France next summer, fledgling teams like Thailand and Chile will be in a world of trouble.The weakest group in terms of average SPI is Group D, which contains England, Japan, Scotland and Argentina. England and Japan are two of the best teams in the tournament,4According to both our SPI and FIFA’s rankings. but Scotland and Argentina5Unlike their male counterparts, the Argentina women’s team is without a Lionel Messi. are two of the weakest. SPI has them ranked as the third-worst and worst teams in the tournament, respectively.That said, Group D still promises to be interesting: England will get the chance to avenge its semifinal loss to Japan at Canada 2015, and Scotland will get the chance to spoil the plans of its neighbors to the south. If the feelings of the England squad reflect those of its star winger Karen Carney, they won’t be looking forward to playing their rivals.“I wouldn’t want them,” Carney told BBC Radio 5. “It’s good to have the rivalry, but you want to win the group. They’d have a lot of fans coming over, and the rivalry can be a leveler.”The Scots better hope that’s true — the last time they played England in a major tournament, they lost 6-0. But even if they do get shellacked again, Scottish women will be able to say something Scottish men haven’t been able to say for two decades: They played at the World Cup. England98.787.9 groupteamMAKE ROUND OF 16SPI Rating Group avg.—75.3 BSpain74.380.3 FThailand38.053.8 DScotland45.250.1 The hardest (and easiest) groups in the Women’s World CupEach team’s chance of advancing to the Round of 16 and each group’s average Soccer Power Index* rating Netherlands89.488.7 Canada91.289.5 France94.9%93.4 Nigeria37.767.7 China78.283.2 Sweden93.283.1 It was fitting that Didier Deschamps drew the first lottery ball for the 2019 Women’s World Cup, which placed France in Group A. He’s lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy for France on two occasions, as team captain in 1998 and as team manager of France’s men’s team in 2018. But what first felt poetic felt anything but by the time the rest of Group A had been fleshed out: He couldn’t have known it ahead of time, but Deschamps had doomed his beloved French to the dreaded group of death.Joining the French in Group A are Norway and South Korea — each ranked in the FIFA top 15 — and Nigeria, three-time defending champion of the Africa Women Cup of Nations. According to our Soccer Power Index (SPI), the French are the second best team in the world at the moment,1FIFA has them ranked third. ranked behind tournament favorites the United States.Host nations have never failed to advance to the knockout stages of the Women’s World Cup, and the French roster, led by creative midfielder Eugenie Le Sommer, will be full of class. The French will almost certainly make it out of the group stage and challenge for the hardware next summer. Our projections give them a 94.9 percent chance of advancing past the group stage, which is the second lowest number of any top team in a group. (Only Canada at 91.2 percent is lower.) Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg’s absence from the Norwegian team will make it less a threat to France’s chances of finishing at the top of the group — but playing in the group of death will ensure France’s path isn’t an easy one. * FiveThirtyEight’s measure of team strength on a scale of 0-100. Group avg.—69.3 South Korea72.181.9 read more

A Head Coach Botched The End Of The Super Bowl And It

These are gaudy numbers. Lynch is clearly an unstoppable force going up against an extremely moveable object. Why wouldn’t Carroll give him the ball?First, some amount of passing is, at least theoretically, probably necessary. It’s unlikely that the optimal strategy is to run 100 percent of the time because if a team did that, the opponent would adjust accordingly. But for the purposes of this analysis, I’m going to assume that, for any given play from the 1-yard line, running was Seattle’s best option.An NFL head coach’s goal isn’t to maximize his team’s chances of scoring a touchdown on a given play; it’s to maximize its chances of winning the game. That distinction seems to have gotten lost in all the rancor and rush to condemn Carroll.Second, the fateful play didn’t take place as time expired. There were 26 seconds left. Let’s see what Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell had to say:“We were conscious of how much time was on the clock, and we wanted to use it all.”But why would that lead to a pass? That takes less time off the clock than rushing. Let’s see what Carroll had to say:“We were going to run the ball in to win the game, but not on that play,” he said. “I didn’t want to waste a run play on their goal-line guys. It was a clear thought, but it didn’t work out right.”Defiant! Basically, he thought the Seahawks were going to score regardless, so he was willing to waste a play on a pass. If they scored, fine. But if they didn’t, at least they would’ve run a few seconds off the clock.Sounds crazy, but he’s right: With 26 seconds left and only one timeout, the Seahawks couldn’t run Lynch three times in a row. If they rushed on second down, didn’t make it in, called timeout, rushed again, and still didn’t make it in, they’d probably be out of time before they could get off another play. So, the Seahawks had three downs to work with, but they could only run Lynch twice at most.Thus the question isn’t whether the Seahawks should’ve called a run — we’ve already stipulated that. The question is when they should’ve called a run.And this is where the logic of those Harvard tweets undoes itself. If Lynch were a sure thing, the Seahawks definitely wouldn’t run on second down. They’d want to run time off the clock. The scenario would be the same as when a team can win with a short field goal. Because the field goal is a sure thing, the team is willing to wait.But as great as Lynch is, he isn’t the same a kicker attempting a 20-yard field goal. For this analysis, I’m going to assume he’s about 80 percent. If that sounds high or low, it doesn’t really matter: It’s not the most important factor in the calculation. The most important thing is the odds of the Patriots coming back to win if the Seahawks score too quickly.Based on Advanced Football Analytics’ Win Probability Calculator, a team starting at the 25-yard line and down three points with 20 seconds left in the game will win about 5 percent of the time. However, there are a few problems with this:AFA’s model may broadly underestimate the ability of modern kickers.Even if it is generally right relative to the league today, it is still calibrated to the average NFL kicker, whereas Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski is one of the best long-range kickers in the league. Over his career, he has made 14 of 18 kicks from over 50 yards (78 percent), including eight of nine in the past three years.The Patriots’ offense is not typical. It’s Tom Brady’s. Brady eats pieces of game-winning drives for breakfast.Let’s spot the Pats some yards, then, and assume the Patriots win1Probably in overtime. about as often as a typical team in the AFA model would2In overtime or regulation. if they started on the 40-yard line. That would give them a 14 percent chance. Maybe that’s generous, but we’re looking for an upper bound.A secondary factor, noted by Brian Burke of AFA, is that stopping the clock by passing on second down also forces the defense to defend both the pass and run on third down (because the Seahawks still had a timeout). That would make Carroll’s decision better, so I’ll give him a 5 percent bonus in the “pro-passing” scenario and none in the pro-run scenario.The main objection to this thinking seems to be: “But the risk of throwing an interception was too great.” As evidenced by, you know, the fact that Wilson threw an interception.For this, I’ll turn first to Mike Sando, who had this to tweet: Everyone knew it was coming. Second-and-1 on the 1-yard line. Marshawn Lynch was waiting in the backfield, poised to do what he was put on this Earth to do: Get a touchdown — this touchdown. The football gods had telegraphed how they wanted the game to end, directing a floating ball straight into Jermaine Kearse’s hands. Beast Mode was going to drag the New England team kicking and screaming into the end zone if he had to. But the play call came in, Russell Wilson attempted a doomed pass that Malcolm Butler intercepted, and it was Seattle that punched and screamed its way off the field.The Web erupted in outrage that Beast Mode never got his moment. For Seahawks fans, calling a pass was essentially Pete Carroll denying his team’s fate. For many others, it seemed like an inexplicable miscue.“Pete Carroll botches the Super Bowl,” wrote Ian O’Connor, simply stating what most people were thinking.The first wave of stats to roll in wasn’t particularly favorable either: As noted by my colleague Neil Paine, the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective laid out the damning facts: That’s right. On the 1-yard line, QBs threw 66 touchdowns with no interceptions prior to Wilson’s errant toss.3This season’s goal-line interception rate is fairly low though. Since 2001, on second-and-1s on the goal line, quarterbacks have thrown interceptions on about 2 percent of passes. Not mentioned: They also scored four touchdowns on scrambles (which Wilson is pretty good at last I checked). That’s a 60.9 percent success rate.Just for comparison’s sake, here’s how more than 200 runs fared this year in the same situation:125 led to touchdowns.94 failed to score.Of those, 23 were for loss of yardage.Two resulted in lost fumbles.So overall, runs do a bit worse than passes (57.1 percent vs. 60.9 percent).But the Seahawks don’t have an average rusher; they have Beast Mode. As I said, we’re stipulating that he’s way more likely to score than a pass is, so his exact number doesn’t matter very much for our calculations. It does matter that he isn’t particularly fumble-prone — but he has still fumbled about 1 percent of the time in his career, which means passing carries an extra 1 percentage point of risk.On the other hand, due to the peculiar scenario, it behooves a QB to play extremely carefully. Throwing an incomplete pass only moves the needle a tiny bit, whereas throwing an interception is devastating. Thus a coach might believe that his QB will throw a pick even less often than normal. So, we’ll try favorable and unfavorable assumptions about that as well.Putting these various factors together, we can assign probabilities to various outcomes like so:This isn’t about passions, and it isn’t about statistical mumbo-jumbo. It’s about arithmetic.Under the most pro-Beast set of assumptions, rushing may have been the better play but by the slimmest of margins (0.3 percentage points). Under a more pro-Gostkowski set of assumptions, passing may have been the best play by up to 3 percentage points.But we’re still discussing marginal improvements in odds. Pick which assumptions you like; it doesn’t really matter. Carroll’s decision wasn’t the epically bad call many have made it out to be.On the other handMeanwhile, the coach on the other sideline had a mildly controversial call that history will forget because A) it was more than one play before the decisive play (people tend to have a short memory for these things), and B) the Patriots won, so who cares.After Lynch ran 4 yards to set up second-and-goal at the 1, most people expected the Patriots to call a timeout. After all, there was a million percent chance that Beast Mode was going to score, so why not save as much time on the clock as possible?Yet the Pats let the clock run, as if head coach Bill Belichick psychically knew the Seahawks would muck it up.Of course, normally, the leading team wants to shorten the game to give its opponent the fewest number of opportunities to catch up as possible.In this case, however, the Seahawks were going to get three shots at the end zone regardless.That isn’t to say there is no benefit to letting the clock wind down. As already discussed, leaving only 26 seconds doesn’t leave Seattle enough time to attempt three rushes (which we’re stipulating are better plays for them).So, when the Patriots had to decide whether to call a timeout, there were essentially three paths to victory for them:Seattle turns the ball over on either second or third down. Letting the clock run slightly increases the chances of this, assuming the odds of a turnover are higher on a pass than a run (we’ll take it as about 2.5 percent combined instead of 2 percent).Seattle fails to score on all three plays. Again, leaving the Seahawks a little less time probably increases the chances of this happening because it forces them to pass at least once. And we’ve seen how that worked out.Seattle scores. New England gets the ball back and then goes on to win the game (most likely by kicking a field goal and then winning in overtime).But the smaller amount of time the Patriots would have under scenario No. 3 easily dwarfs the other considerations. Belichick should have called a timeout. Here’s how the math looks under some assumptions that are fairly charitable to Belichick:Note again that if we take the assumptions that are most unfavorable to Carroll, his mistake would have cost Seattle only 0.3 percentage points, while under the assumptions most favorable to Belichick, his error cost the Patriots 2.1 percent.4And that’s not even counting the possibility that the Patriots may have avoided this whole situation if they had intentionally missed the extra point one drive earlier, therefore not encouraging the Seahawks to go for a touchdown.But winning erases all sins. read more

Each NL Playoff Teams Biggest Strength — And Weakness

Between the record-smashing rookie campaign of Aaron Judge, the Cleveland Indians’ win streak and the Houston Astros’ ridiculous feats of offense, the National League has felt like a bit of an afterthought this season. (A huge amount of NL attention went to a player who isn’t even in the playoffs.) But in any other season, elite contenders like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals wouldn’t be flying under the radar. As we did with the American League earlier this week, we picked out each National League team’s most important strength, plus the one weakness that might trip them up en route to the World Series.Los Angeles Dodgers (17 percent chance of winning the World Series) Strength: Power, speed and pitching.As they showcased in the wild-card game against the Colorado Rockies — crushing two home runs and legging out three triples — the D-Backs can beat you in a variety of different ways. During the regular season, they ranked second among all MLB teams in isolated power (trailing only the hard-hitting Astros), first in baserunning value over average1Averaging together the baserunning metrics found at Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com. and first in Bill James’s Speed Score (a composite that indexes a bunch of speed-related stats). Before Arizona did it this year, no team since 2001 had posted a .190 slugging and a 5.0 Speed Score in the same season. Add in a pitching staff that ranked second overall by WAR, and the Diamondbacks might have the most unique combination of strengths in this playoff field.Weakness: Hitting for average.Despite playing in a ballpark that boosts batting average the second-most of any team’s home digs (only Coors Field is better to hit in), the Diamondbacks hit just .254 this season, 18 points lower than we’d expect of an average team in the same park. Only three teams — the Blue Jays, Rangers and Padres — hit for a lower average relative to expectations, and all three of those teams had below-average offenses. Arizona managed to make things work anyway because of their rare combination of power and speed, but the D-Backs’s lousy average meant they were mediocre at plating base runners with two outs, and generally subpar in the clutch. On Wednesday night, Arizona’s lineup showed everyone how it can erupt in big offensive outbursts, but it still needs to prove it can do some of the situational hitting the playoffs will inevitably require.Washington Nationals(11 percent chance of winning the World Series) Strength: Ace-level starters.The Nationals have long been led by a superb starting rotation, but Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez put up some of their best career performances this year. According to The Baseball Gauge’s wins above replacement meta-metric,2The metric takes Baseball Gauge’s own WAR metric and averages it with aspects from two other versions of WAR — Baseball-Reference.com’s and FanGraphs’. Specifically, for this article, I set the meta-metric to average together every option equally in each category, with no regression for fielding metrics and the positional adjustment not included in offensive and defensive WAR. To see the leaderboards I saw while writing this piece, click through to the Baseball Gauge links and make sure the filters are set correctly. the Nationals ranked third in the majors in total WAR from their starting pitchers, and the Scherzer-Strasburg-Gonzalez trio was especially great — each ranked among baseball’s 10 best starters by WAR.3Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, is the only other team that can even claim two of the top 10. For Strasburg and Gonzalez, the 2017 season was somewhat out of line with their recent track records, but Scherzer has been dominant forever — only LA’s Clayton Kershaw has been a more valuable starter over the past five seasons. In the postseason, when top-of-the-rotation pitching is paramount, Washington’s aces give them an enviable advantage against just about anybody.Weakness: Their best might not be enough.There aren’t many holes in Washington’s roster, especially now that two of its top players — shortstop Trea Turner and, more recently, right fielder Bryce Harper — are back after missing large portions of the season with injuries. But even with all their stars, it’s fair to ask where the Nationals stand relative to what might be the most stacked postseason field ever. Our Elo ratings currently place Washington seventh in MLB.4Behind the Indians, Astros, Yankees, Cubs, Dodgers and Red Sox. Most years, a team as good as Washington would rank third or fourth,5Since the wild-card era began in 1995, the average MLB ranking for teams who finished the regular season with an Elo between 1550 and 1560 was 3.48. but this is no ordinary season. And as much as MLB’s playoffs have earned their reputation as a crapshoot, there’s a definite relationship between a team’s talent and its World Series chances.Chicago Cubs(10 percent chance of winning the World Series) Strength: Completeness.The defending-champion Cubs were nowhere near as dominant in 2017 as they were in 2016, dropping from No. 1 in WAR (by far) to a lowly seventh. But one area where the club still had that championship feel was in its lack of a glaring weak point. A year removed from sending an absurd number of players to the All-Star Game, Chicago still had one of the best top-to-bottom teams in baseball. According to WAR, the Cubs got the most production in baseball from its catchers, the second-most from its third basemen, the third-most from its first basemen and — most importantly — didn’t rank any lower than 14th at any single position.6Including pitchers but excluding designated hitters, to fairly compare NL and AL teams. Not even the mighty Indians can say their weakest links were so strong. In the playoffs, important contributions often come from unlikely sources. Chicago should be covered.Weakness: Inexplicably mediocre pitching.One of Chicago’s deadliest weapons a year ago was its stellar pitching staff, led by an outstanding crop of starters. The group got a lot of help from a historically sturdy defense, which fell back to earth (though was still excellent) this season, but that doesn’t explain why Chicago’s pitchers declined in fielding-independent measurements. Chicago hurlers fell from 3rd to 8th in strikeout rate this season, from 18th to 24th in walk rate and from 6th to 16th in home run rate — perhaps because their average fastball velocity was among the slowest in baseball. As a result, the Cubs’ top pitchers saw their value drop almost across the board, and as a group they generated about 7 fewer wins this year than last. Without that fearsome rotation, Chicago’s title hopes are a shadow of what they were this time last season. Strength: Best form.Although the Dodgers had baseball’s best Elo rating (FiveThirtyEight’s pet metric for judging a team’s strength at any moment) for a decent chunk of the season, they ultimately finished the year behind the Indians. But when the Dodgers were at their very best, they reached a higher peak than any other team this season — including Cleveland during its 22-game winning streak. In the course of a scorching midseason run — winning 52 times in 61 games — LA’s Elo rating hit a high of 1612, not only the best of any MLB team this year, but also the 19th-best of all time (and the second-best of the last 48 seasons, trailing only the 1998 Yankees). The Dodgers looked totally unbeatable for more than two months, with a lineup full of hot hitters crawling out of the woodwork and an excessively deep pitching staff.Weakness: Recent form.As invincible as the Dodgers seemed during their hot streak, they stumbled badly beginning in late August, losing 16 of 17 games (including 11 straight at one point) before righting the ship with a 12-6 finish to the regular season. In the process, they became the only team in baseball history to have separate 16-game stretches where they both won and lost 15 times. A late-season swoon doesn’t carry any special penalty in terms of “momentum,” but the fact that LA was even capable of such putrid play for a sustained period means there are still some questions to be answered about how reliable a favorite the Dodgers really are.Arizona Diamondbacks (6 percent chance of winning the World Series) read more

The Pistons Are Far From Perfect But They Could Make Noise In

Reggie Jackson feeding Blake Griffin in the post (via @BleacherReport) pic.twitter.com/yx5tmzqwuK— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) February 1, 2019The team has to use an array of handoffs and screens, both on and off the ball, to convince defenders to move and to free up jump-shooters.4The team’s lineups lack two-way balance. So despite Bruce Brown’s valuable defensive contributions, his inability to shoot allows defenders to ignore him along the perimeter, making it tougher to find someone like Luke Kennard or Wayne Ellington. No team scores fewer fast-break points per night than Detroit, and the Pistons are less efficient after forcing a turnover on D than any other NBA club.If there’s been a surprise during the team’s stretch of solid play, it’s that Detroit has shot so well in the aftermath of trading its best shooter, Reggie Bullock — a deal that initially looked suspect and suggested to many that the Pistons were trying to dodge paying the luxury tax. (Signing perimeter threat Wayne Ellington obviously made up for much of that.)But there’s a strong argument to be made that speedy backup guard Ish Smith has been the catalyst in the turnaround. The Pistons were terrible in the time he missed earlier in the season with an injury but looked competent again once he rejoined the lineup. (With Smith out, the only other point guard Detroit had outside of Jackson was 37-year-old Jose Calderon.)Heading into Wednesday night’s games, only four players5Charlotte’s Tony Parker, Golden State’s Alfonzo McKinnie, Utah’s Georges Niang and Boston’s Semi Ojeleye. had helped boost their teams’ winning percentages more than Smith,6Only counting players who’d appeared in at least 30 games while also missing at least 10. according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Pistons have logged a 21-13 record with Smith (61.8 percent) and an 8-18 mark (30.8 percent) without him.Buying stock in the Pistons feels risky because of their shallow depth and their cold spells that feel like arctic blasts straight from Canada. This 11-game stretch hasn’t been tough, featuring just two wins over teams that would make the playoffs if the season ended today.Still, Detroit owns an 87 percent playoff probability and a favorable remaining schedule — far easier than that of Brooklyn, Charlotte or Miami.7But slightly tougher than Orlando’s. The Pistons’ defense has been solid all year (Drummond is among the league leaders in steals), and the club limits opponents to a league-low 33.7 percent from the 3-point line.There’s a bizarre universe in which the Pistons could reach the playoffs at below .500 and still be favored in the first round. If the Pistons land at the No. 6 seed, and the Pacers minus star Victor Oladipo hold on to the No. 3, not only would Detroit have the top player in the series, but it would also have a real chance to advance to the second round.Beggars can’t be choosers, and those might be high hopes for now. But for a capped-out franchise that hasn’t reached the second round since 2008, the mere dream itself almost feels like a noteworthy accomplishment.Check out our latest NBA predictions. There’s a natural tendency in the NBA to lavish attention on teams that, with every bad loss, send social media into a tizzy because of what it might mean for the league’s landscape. For instance, if the LeBron-led Lakers don’t reach the postseason — a 80 percent probability at this point — it would seem a foregone conclusion that major changes would take place in L.A. this summer.On the other extreme, then, are the Pistons. Detroit, which has been to the NBA playoffs once in the past nine seasons, desperately craves a postseason berth. But if the Pistons don’t make it, there won’t be headlines in national news outlets criticizing them for it. And even if there were, it would be tough to make big changes within an organization that has a first-year head coach and a top-heavy roster. This is their team for now.The Pistons are clearly an imperfect club. But they can bolster their fortunes by simply continuing to play the way they have in recent weeks, winning eight of their past 11 games. Through Feb. 1, the sputtering Pistons’ offense ranked 29th out of the league’s 30 teams in both effective field goal rate and true shooting percentage. Since Feb. 2, though, the club has jumped into the top five leaguewide in both categories.Unlike earlier stretches in the season, when All-Star forward Blake Griffin was carrying the offense, the Pistons have enjoyed a far more balanced approach over the past month. The team’s share of one-on-one plays — which was the NBA’s second-highest through Feb. 11Behind Houston. — ranked just 12th over the past month of action, according to stat-tracking database Second Spectrum.After coming into the season showing off a jumper that wasn’t quite game-ready, two-time All-Star Andre Drummond has looked better than ever simply by getting back to the basics near the rim. He’s averaging more than 22 points and 17 boards2He’s leading the NBA again in rebounding. over his past seven games and has found considerable success with a nifty little push shot from about 8 feet out. Beyond that, maddeningly inconsistent guard Reggie Jackson has been consistently good for a month now and is shooting a career-best 36 percent from deep.All of this is noteworthy for an offense that sometimes shoots as if the object of the sport is to bruise the backboard with repeated misfires. On Wednesday in San Antonio, for instance, Detroit bricked 14 of its first 15 shots to begin the second quarter. Coach Dwane Casey has acknowledged that the iso-heavy games prior to February were largely a necessity: Griffin trying to break down an entire defense — or simply trying to post up — was often Detroit’s best hope.3With Griffin and others often standing around waiting for things to happen on offense, the Pistons rank third in the NBA in three-second violations. read more

Evan Turner to miss eight weeks

Turner sustained the injury early in the first half of Ohio State’s 111-60 victory over Eastern Michigan Saturday. Turner landed on his back after a dunk attempt. He left the court under his own power before going to the Ohio State Medical Center for tests. He was released from the facility and is home resting. Turner left the game with four points in seven minutes. After eight games, Turner led Ohio State in scoring (18.5 ppg.), rebounding (11.4 rpg.), assists (47), field goals (62) and free throws made (22). He is shooting 61 percent from the field (62-102) and was the only Big Ten player averaging a double-double. COLUMBUS, Ohio– Ohio State junior guard Evan Turner has been diagnosed with a transverse process fracture on the second and third lumbar vertebra of his spine. He is expected to miss the next eight weeks, Vince O’Brien, athletic trainer for the Buckeyes’ men’s basketball team, said. Here is the press release, from the OSU athletic communications department: Ohio State is off to a 7-1 start, but will be without junior guard Evan Turner for the next eight weeks, the team announced Saturday in a press release. Turner was injured early in the first half of Saturday’s 111-60 win over Eastern Michigan when he was fouled attempting a dunk. Turner leads the Buckeyes in just about every statistical category, including points, rebounds and assists. Ohio State is off the next week for final exams and will resume competition at noon Dec. 12 at Butler. read more

Ohio State soccer outlasts Wisconsin

Not to be outdone by their football counterparts, the Ohio State men’s soccer team defeated conference foe Wisconsin on the road Sunday afternoon on the legs of the Hegngi brothers, albeit in less thrilling fashion. The Buckeyes knocked off the Badgers 2-0 to improve their conference record to 4-1 and take the driver’s seat in the Big Ten title race. Head coach John Bluem praised his defense after the game saying he knew it would be a tough task winning on the road. “We just had a really good game,” Bluem said. “The guys were really determined; they played well and followed the plan very well.” Ohio State got on the board early when senior forward Parnell Hegngi was fouled in the box by Wisconsin freshman defender A.J. Cochran, giving OSU a penalty kick. Parnell Hegngi’s brother Chris Hegngi took the penalty kick and got it past sophomore goalkeeper Max Jentsch to give the Buckeyes a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute of the contest. It was Chris Hegngi’s third goal on three penalty kick attempts this season. Chris Hegngi’s goal was his ninth on the season, which leads the Big Ten. In the second half, Parnell Hegngi took a free kick from just outside the box and curled it around the Wisconsin defensive wall and into the upper right corner of the goal to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead. It was Parnell Hegngi’s third goal of the season and first since the Buckeyes’ Sept. 4 win over Stetson. “Parnell Hegngi was a big part of the reason we won today,” Bluem said. “He was the guy who drew the penalty kick and in the second half Parnell scores a goal off of a free kick. He had a very good game.” The Buckeyes were out-shot 20-13 in the contest but junior goalkeeper Matt Lampson tallied seven saves and notched his fifth shutout of the season. He is now in second place all-time with 24 career saves, three saves away from tying Casey Latchem’s career record for OSU. With Northwestern playing No. 10 Indiana to a 2-2 tie Sunday, the Buckeyes (10-5-2) take sole control over the Big Ten lead. They will play Indiana (10-3-4) for the regular season conference title Saturday. “If we win against Indiana, that would make us the conference champions, no matter what other scenario,” Bluem said. “We control our own destiny.” The game will kick off from Bloomington, Ind., at 1 p.m. read more

Ohio State running backs battle for playing time

Redshirt-senior running back Jordan Hall (2) uses the referee as a blocker during a game against Florida A&M Sept. 21 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won, 76-0.Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editorThe Ohio State football team (4-0) faces a considerable issue at the running back position this season: It has too many of them.With the return of senior Carlos Hyde from a three-game suspension, OSU now has eight active running backs on its roster. Among those including redshirt-senior H-back Jordan Hall one of seven whom participated in the Buckeyes’ 76-0 win over Florida A&M.Hyde, Hall, redshirt-junior Rod Smith, redshirt-freshman Warren Ball, freshmen Ezekiel Elliott and Devonte Butler all recorded at least three rushes. Freshman Dontre Wilson also played, but lined up as a receiver, tallying three catches for 12 yards.The only running back on the team that did not play was sophomore Bri’onte Dunn, who has yet to play this season and is likely to be redshirted.Elliott was the leading rusher on the day, gaining 162 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries. It was the first significant playing time for the freshman, who only had seven total carries in the first three games.The St. Louis native said his big take away from Saturday was an opportunity to get onto the field during a game.“I’ve gotten a little bit from earlier this season, but just a little more game experience,” Elliott said. “Just getting out there and running the ball.”Despite the big performance from Elliott in the second half, coach Urban Meyer said he is not included in the top tier of running backs for the Buckeyes.“I think you have three that are above the others right now. You have Jordan Hall, Rod Smith and Carlos Hyde (who) are the top three backs,” Meyer said. “I think Warren Ball ran hard and I think Ezekiel Elliott’s got an incredible future here. I wanted to reward him a little bit; he’s involved in special teams now.”Even though a lot of running backs received playing time against the Rattlers Saturday, Elliott said it is a constant battle to earn carries at OSU.“It’s hard to get a spot and even hold the spot,” Elliott said. “The guy in front of you is great and the guy behind you is great so every day we out and compete and go hard.”Hall, the team leader in rushing yards with 422 on the season, saw his workload decreased with the return of Hyde, only carrying the ball four times against Florida A&M.“It’s tough, (there is) only one football,” Hall said. “When you come to Ohio State… there’s competition everywhere, so a lot of backs in the backfield, that makes us go hard in practice every day and I think that’s helped us in a way.”Meyer said the return of Hyde changes things in the Buckeye backfield, with both Hyde and Hall offering different skill sets to the team.“Jordan Hall gives you flexibility, too, I’m evaluating what to do with him, because I know he’s a heck of a tailback as well,” Meyer said.Meyer said he thought Hall should have seen more of the field with how he has played so far this season, but said that in a blowout it is hard for the starters to play a lot.“Jordan Hall deserved more carries than he got, but you just can’t do that. I’ve been on the other end of those, so I try to do the best we could, just run the ball every snap and let guys earn an opportunity to get on the field,” Meyer said. “Thing is, if you get depth on your field, you tell Ezekiel Elliott not to run hard, he’ll look at you like, ‘I’m running hard, because I have to get more carries.’”Hyde marked his return from suspension with a five-carry, 41-yard performance and a one-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.Redshirt-senior quarterback Kenny Guiton said Hyde’s return helped boost the team’s energy and motivated them to keep playing hard.“It was nice,” Guiton said. “The standing ovation they gave him, that made me get some juice in my body and just some tingling went through my body and I told him, ‘Let’s go man, you got to go get this first (down) now.’”For the younger guys, having Hyde back helped with their nerves as they received more playing time than normal, with Elliott calling him a “great leader.”One of Hyde’s blockers, junior tight end Jeff Heuerman, said it was nice to have Hyde back because of his leadership and influence on the field.“Seeing him back out there was good. That’s definitely a player that carries a big load with us, and having him back was good,” Heuerman said.Hall said he enjoyed having Hyde back because it was a new experience for players who “are like brothers.”“It was fun because me and Carlos, we came in the same time but we never really got to play with each other at the same time,” Hall said. “So we’re excited about that and we got a lot of good backs, it’s going to be tough.”The running backs will have their next opportunity to separate themselves from the rest when the Buckeyes host No. 23 Wisconsin (3-1) Saturday at 8:00 p.m. read more

Buckeyes fend off comeback attempts defeat Ohio 7969

Junior forward, Sam Thompson (12), dunks the ball for Ohio State. OSU won against Ohio, 79-69, Nov. 12 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Ritika Shah / Asst. photo editor Following a 19-year hiatus, the Ohio State men’s basketball team held on to beat in-state rival Ohio University Tuesday, 79-69.The Buckeyes (2-0, 0-0) started fast, scoring the first nine points of the game and making their first three shots. The Bobcats did not get on the board until junior guard Stevie Taylor connected on a jumper more than five minutes into the game.A total of 55 fouls were called over the course of the game, causing play to be disjointed at times. OSU finished 38 of 51 from the free throw line on the night, attempting seven more free throws than field goal attempts. The 38 made free throws tied a school record, set in 1968.The heavy amount of foul calls could be the result of a new rule implemented for the 2013-14 season by the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee, who voted to pass a new stipulation banning any hand or forearm contact by a defensive player. OSU coach Thad Matta said the change is something his team needs to continue to adjust to.“I (said) at the beginning of the season it was going to be a little bit different and I think we got to continue to adjust,” Matta said after the win.Senior guard Aaron Craft agreed, and said it was tough to get into a flow in the game.“We kind of came into this year having an understanding, that’s how games are going to be called … a lot of fouls, a lot of stoppage in play,” Craft said. “It really just makes you focus. You have to refocus every time the ball stops.”Four Buckeyes scored in double figures, led by Craft with 18. Junior center Amir Williams recorded his first double-double of his career, scoring 14 points and snatching 10 rebounds. Junior forward Sam Thompson scored 12 points, and junior forward LaQuinton Ross added 10.The Buckeyes led, 40-28, at halftime, partly because they shot 15 of 20 from the free throw line.While the Buckeyes’ lead swelled to 17 in the first half, the Bobcats cut it to five after junior forward Maurice Ndour put back a miss with just less than four minutes to go.Senior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. hit a 3-pointer from the corner, though, with 1:55 on the clock to extend OSU’s lead to 10. The Bobcats (1-1, 0-0) fired right back, as senior guard Nick Kellogg answered with a three of his own, keeping the Bobcat fans into the game. Kellogg and Taylor finished with 21 points each.“We’ve been in tight situations before. They had momentum, they had courage. They thought they were going to win the game,” Smith Jr. said. “For some teams, they might have panicked, but for us, I wouldn’t expect us to panic at all. We’ve been at every spectrum of the basketball game. We’ve been in tight situations.”Playing a team who would not back down like Ohio is an experience Smith Jr. said will help the team later in the season, including Saturday when the Buckeyes travel to Marquette to battle the No. 17 Golden Eagles.“It’s definitely going to keep us on our toes. Marquette is a very good basketball team,” Smith Jr. said. “(It’s) another humbling experience, no matter who you play, you gotta show up every game now, if you want to win games at this level.”Craft found the ball in his hands as the game clock wound down, making enough free throws to seal the victory for the Buckeyes.“Having them come back the way they did, making big play after big play down the stretch, and us having to come back and make a big play on our own, that’s something that’s really going to help us later on,” Craft said. “It’s games like this that really help us later on.”Matta agreed with Craft, adding that his players had “a little bit of a dazed look” in their eyes in the second half while facing the relentless Bobcats. The Buckeyes responded well though, which Matta said is a positive moving forward.“We weren’t as sharp as we needed to be, and maybe it was a little too easy early (on),” Matta said. “But I thought down the the stretch we made some big plays.”OSU travels to Milwaukee Saturday to take on the Golden Eagles. Tip off is scheduled for 1 p.m. read more

Wrestling Ohio State settles uncertainty at weight classes with wrestleoffs

Ohio State wrestling coach Tom Ryan addresses his team after the Buckeyes’ practice on Oct. 20. Credit: Jeff Helfrich | Lantern ReporterWhile most of Ohio State’s wrestling lineup is set already due to a roster full of veterans, a pair of wrestle-offs were held to determine competitors for three of the lower weights Thursday evening. The Buckeyes begin their season with the Princeton Open on Nov. 4.141/149 pounds  Junior Joey McKenna and redshirt sophomore Ke-Shawn Hayes squared off for the right to compete at 141 pounds in a best-of-three series that would see the loser move up to 149 pounds. The match, which was created to settle the weight classes, simply yielded the Buckeyes more uncertainty.After McKenna, a transfer from Stanford, won the first match 3-2 by way of a tiebreaker, he sustained a knee injury in the second contest, ending the night early for he and Hayes. The injury occurred as the two went towards the edge of the mat and Hayes tried to float his lower half over McKenna, whose knee appeared to give out. “Things looked scary at first, but it looks like he’s going to be alright,” Ryan said. “He had nothing major. Definitely some pain there, but more and more, a lot of times it’s just fear. You hear something, you immediately go to the place of ‘I’m out, I’m hurt.’”Ryan said he would leave the decision up to the doctors, but he’s optimistic McKenna will be ready to go for the season opener in two weeks. As far as settling who will compete at 141 pounds, Ryan said he is leaning towards McKenna. McKenna will be competing in the U-23 World Championships for the United States in late November and will need to be at a leaner weight. Ryan also said Hayes has the more capable frame to compete at a higher weight. “I think ultimately that’s the way that it will probably go,” Ryan said. “And not necessarily just that Joey may be a hair better than him. Ke-Shawn just looks bigger. He’s just taller and it just seems to be a weight class that would make sense for him physically.” 125 poundsA pair of freshmen hit the mat for the chance to compete at 125 pounds at the Princeton Open. Brakan Mead won the best-of-three series over Brady Koontz 2-0 after securing a pin during the first match and winning a hefty points victory in the second. The 125-pound class was left vacant after redshirt senior Nathan Tomasello suffered a right knee injury earlier this month while competing at an international qualifying event. The former NCAA champion will be out for at least the first two months of the season. Ryan appeared ready to go with Mead until Tomasello’s return. “That weight is settled,” Ryan said. “[Mead] pretty much showed, at least at this point in his career, he’s our guy. He’s coachable. He loves wrestling, so those are real positives. He’s good on top. He’s a very good mat wrestler. Mead, a Columbus native, won a high school state championship at Olentangy Liberty his senior year, registering a 45-4 record. The freshman will now be thrust into a lineup that trots out multiple former All-Americans and national champions. Tomasello liked what he saw from his young replacement Thursday night. “He looked good,” Tomasello said. “I was happy to see that he was able to get the pin in the first match. He’s a good top wrestler. He’s intense. I like to see that intensity before the match, during the match. He’s going to scrap hard. When I’m out, I feel like he’d be a good guy that could score points and get the pin.” read more

Football and basketball punishments differ drastically in Ohio State selfreported NCAA violations

Former five-star prospect and now-Penn State defensive end Micah Parsons (left) poses for a photo with former Ohio State running back Eddie George (right) at the set of College GameDay on Sept. 9. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOne football recruit and a group of three men’s basketball recruits went on their official visits to Ohio State and took trips to the set of College GameDay before the football team’s game against Oklahoma on Sept. 9. Both parties walked onto the stage of College GameDay and met with former Ohio State quarterback and ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit, former Ohio State running back and celebrity guest picker Eddie George and two other ESPN analysts. The visits, it turns out, weren’t permitted, and Ohio State ended up self-reporting three NCAA violations for reach program.But the Ohio State football program issued a much harsher self-imposed punishment from the university than the basketball program, despite the exact same violations occurring at the same location on the same day. As part of its self-imposed punishment, the football program agreed to end its recruitment of former five-star defensive end and now-Penn State freshman Micah Parsons, who was declared ineligible to compete for Ohio State, while issuing a one-game suspension to the football recruiting assistant — Ed Terwilliger — who brought Parsons to the stage. The NCAA agreed with the action and decided no further action should be taken.However, Ohio State did not give its men’s basketball program nearly as harsh of a punishment. In fact, it’s possible two of the prospects have already signed with the Buckeyes for next season. The self-imposed punishments were not harsh enough for the NCAA, which added three additional sanctions including one that made the three recruits temporarily ineligible and required Ohio State to apply for reinstatement in order them to play for the Buckeyes. Both Cleveland.com and 247Sports reported three basketball prospects visited Ohio State that weekend: Elijah Weaver, Luther Muhammad and Jaedon LeDee. Muhammad and Ledee have since signed letters of commitment with Ohio State and will join the program in the fall. The two were seen at St. John Arena that day and tweeted about their visits during that weekend.LeDee committed on Sept. 19 while Muhammad joined him on Sept. 22. The violation was not reported until Nov. 16. Ohio State was unwilling to confirm whether Weaver, Muhammad and LeDee were the three prospects in the violation.Despite committing the same NCAA infractions, the basketball program continued its recruitment of the three basketball players and did not suspend the staff member — director of player development Scoonie Penn — who allowed the prospects to walk onto the stage and set area. Instead, the program was forbidden from returning to the set of any future College GameDay sets over the remainder of the 2017-18 school year and letters of education regarding the violation of the bylaws were sent to both the basketball program and the producers and analysts of GameDay, according to the report obtained by The Lantern.As noted, the NCAA did not agree with Ohio State’s action and decided to impose three additional penalties, according to Ohio State’s compliance department.It declared the three prospects ineligible, requiring Ohio State to apply for reinstatement for the student-athletes involved in the violation from the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff. This specific sanction matches what Ohio State self-imposed in its punishment of the football program.Eddie George, Lee Corso & Kirk Herbstreit make their game predictions on the ESPN College GameDay broadcast during the 2017 Ohio State- Oklahoma game on Sep. 9. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe NCAA also issued a reduction of “two recruiting person days” and forced Penn to sit out one game. The Lantern reached out to the NCAA for comment about the current eligibility status of the basketball recruits, but did not receive a response in time for publication. David Ridpath, an Ohio University professor and former compliance director at Marshall, said he expects the two players to be reinstated quickly and that the process is more of a formality than anything else. He cited his own personal experience, where at Marshall, the program self-reported a violation in the morning, had the player ineligible, contacted the NCAA and had the player reinstated before the end of the day.“If it’s something very minor and I look at this as pretty innocuous with the basketball players, it can happen relatively quick,” Ridpath said. “But I’d be stunned if it’s not done in a little while, but certainly it would be done by the season and they don’t really have anything to worry about.”The main difference between the punishment for the football program and that of the men’s basketball program is neither the university’s compliance department nor the NCAA told the program it could not recruit any of the three basketball players. This calls into question how Ohio State decided to determine the self-imposed punishments and why they differed so drastically. Ohio State did not comment on the discrepancy in the the self-imposed punishments.After learning of the self-imposed punishment on Ohio State’s football program, Parsons’ father, Terrance, told The Lantern that he believed the recruitment of his son ended because of a tweet his son had sent out after the Oklahoma game that then-redshirt freshman quarterback Dwayne Haskins should replace then-redshirt senior J.T. Barrett.Parsons said he and his son were supposed to meet head coach Urban Meyer the next day, but did not see him and were not contacted by Ohio State after the Oklahoma game except for a brief exchange with Meyer. He said no one ever notified him of the violation, which Ohio State reported on Sept. 26.The idea of Ohio State using this to smoothen the ending of the recruitment is not far-fetched to Ridpath. He said that if a program decided it no longer wanted to pursue a player, an NCAA violation would be a convenient excuse to tell the recruit that they can’t be recruited anymore because of a violation. Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit react to being served a ‘Thurmanator’ from The Thurman Cafe in Columbus during the ESPN College GameDay broadcast for the 2017 OSU- Oklahoma game on Sep. 9. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo Editor“I think Mr. Parsons is spot-on correct,” Ridpath said. “Is that nefarious of Ohio State? Not really. They’re playing the game and they’re playing it pretty effectively to be honest with you.”In both instances, the same three NCAA bylaws were broken.Though it was not a violation to meet with the former Buckeyes, it was a violation for all recruits to meet with other members of the media during an official visit. The contact broke two NCAA bylaws that state members of the media may not be present during a school’s recruiting contact with the prospect. In both cases, the prospects entered the stage and set area, which is not accessible to the general public, which broke the third NCAA bylaw.Both Ridpath and Don Jackson — an attorney from Montgomery, Alabama, with experience representing college athletes — said they believe the punishment for Micah Parsons was excessive, given the type of violation. Jackson called it an “awfully serious sanction for this violation.”Ohio State reported the football program’s violations in September, but did not report the basketball program’s violations until November. Jackson said because Ohio State self-imposed a much more severe punishment on the football program before and set a precedent for a harsh penalty, the sanctions self-imposed by the basketball program did not appear to be enough in the eyes of the NCAA.“Had they self-reported the offenses or the violations and self-imposed the less-severe sanctions, it’s quite possible that the NCAA might have accepted that,” Jackson said. “Unless there was some degree of intentional conduct or a past history of compliance issues in a particular program, this was not a significant violation.”Terrance Parsons declined to comment on the matter, saying he just wanted to put the whole incident behind him and his family.“Well I think it’s important to say, I don’t think Ohio State’s done anything bad or wrong here,” Ridpath said. “They’ve done the reporting and there’s two different results really because of the way they reported it and I think they have to be honest that Micah Parsons wasn’t part of their plans anymore. These three basketball players — even though one wasn’t — obviously [were].”Correction: Don Jackson was misidentified as “Brown” on second reference instead of “Jackson” on three occasions. He also was incorrectly quoted in the story as saying “awful” instead of “awfully.” The Lantern regrets and apologizes for this error. read more

Former wrestlers reportedly pressured by coach to support Jim Jordan

Richard Strauss in his Ohio State College of Medicine photograph. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio StateFormer Ohio State wrestlers were pressured by their former head coach Russ Hellickson to make statements clearing Rep. Jim Jordan of any guilt relating to allegations against Richard Strauss, a report by NBC News said.Jordan, who is in the midst of a bid to be the next Speaker of the House, was the assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1987-1995. He has come under fire for allegedly knowing about abuse by Strauss and saying nothing.According to the wrestlers and texts they showed NBC News, Hellickson asked them to make a statement clearing Jordan of wrongdoing a day after they publicly accused him of knowing about it. NBC News’ report also said the wrestlers say it was made clear to them by Hellickson that he was under pressure from Jordan to convince the wrestlers to clear Jordan’s name.“I’m sorry you got caught up in the media train,” Hellickson wrote in a text to a former wrestler that was shared with NBC News. “If you think the story got told wrong about Jim, you could probably write a statement for release that tells your story and corrects what you feel bad about. I can put you in contact with someone who would release it.”In response to the report Jordan’s spokesman, Ian Fury, released a statement saying they encourage the truth.“Seven coaches have said exactly what the Congressman said. Many wrestlers have echoed those comments and support for the Congressman,” the statement said. “Why are they all saying the same thing? Because it’s the truth. Of course we encouraged folks to speak the truth.” read more

UK warship HMS Diamond to target people smugglers in Libya mission

first_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. A British warship will arrive off the Libyan coast in the next few days in an attempt to intercept and arrest people smugglers.HMS Diamond, a Type-45 destroyer equipped with missiles and a fast-firing cannon, will join EU flotilla, Operation Sophia, tasked with catching smugglers at sea.Formal authorisation for the mission was given by Brussels in June.The intervention comes as the flow of migrants trying to cross the Meditteranean for Italy reached record levels.Last week, smugglers sent record numbers of migrants to sea, with more than 13,000 people being picked up by rescue boats and the Italian coastguard.The plan to deploy HMS Diamond was met with disapproval by the head of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Crispin Blunt. He told the Observer: “The smugglers are taking advantage of the fact there is no coherent government in Libya.“Until there is a political settlement in Libya that encourages a Libyan government to accept assistance in its territorial waters, I fail to see how this can be effective.”HMS Diamond joins HMS Enterprise, which last week rescued 700 migrants off Libya, and more than a dozen EU vessels.last_img read more

Ofsted inspectors pelted with food and jostled in corridors on nightmare school

first_imgWillenhall E-ACT Academy, which has more than 1,300 pupils, has been put into special measuresCredit:Aaron Chown / SWNS.com “Persistently poor behaviour at social times and in lessons leads to many pupils feeling unsafe and not learning well.”Amongst all the negative reports, the inspectors did provide a glimmer of hope for the academy.They stated the school recognises the challenges it faces and had begun to address some of the concerns.They added that a vocational sixth form was proving a hit with students. “Inspectors were jostled in corridors and witnessed staff being ignored or defied. A senior leader was spoken to disrespectfully by pupils and told inspectors this was the norm.”During 2015 and 2016, 70 per cent of teachers left the school. This high turnover of staff has greatly hampered what leaders have been able to accomplish.”Over a third of pupils in Years 7 to 11 are persistently absent. Of these, just under a half are disadvantaged pupils. The findings revealed a catalogue of issues, including poor student behaviour and sub-standard teaching.It stated one third of pupils in Years 7 to 11 are regularly absent, students feel unsafe and teachers are regularly interrupted in lessons.Inspectors also highlighted the fact that 70 per cent of teaching staff had left the school during 2015 and 2016.The report states: “Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector is of the opinion that this school requires special measures because it is failing to give its pupils an acceptable standard of education and the persons responsible for leading, managing or governing the school are not demonstrating the capacity to secure the necessary improvement in the school.”Inspectors had food thrown at them in the canteen and in a classroom. A small number of pupils were rude to 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.center_img Ofsted inspectors were pelted with food in a classroom on a nightmare school visit.Out-of-control pupils also threw food at them in a canteen and jostled past them in the corridors.The inspectors promptly placed the 1430-pupil Willenhall E-ACT Academy, in Walsall, West Midlands, into special measures.The school was ranked inadequate in every single area in the scathing Ofsted report. Willenhall E-ACT Academy, which has more than 1,300 pupils, has been put into special measures An E-ACT Trust spokesman said: “Naturally we are disappointed by Ofsted’s decision.”However, under the strong leadership of Ms Kirsty Jones as the recently appointed headteacher, and with the close support that we provide across all aspects of the academy, we are confident that Willenhall Academy will continue to make rapid progress so that we can offer the best possible education to our students.”At E-ACT we are proud of the fact that almost two thirds of our academies are rated at least Good by Ofsted, and we expect Willenhall to join this group by the time of their next Ofsted inspection.”last_img read more

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge set off for Pippa Middletons wedding

first_img“We love all the royals. We just love Pippa. My mother actually named her dog after Pippa. And my dog is named after George.”I hope we get to see them!”David and Meryl Evans traveled from West Wales to see the spectacle.”We were coming to the area on holiday and when we put the address into Google, we realised this was where the wedding would be taking place, so we thought we have to go!” says Meryl. Crowds of well-wishers have turned up at St Mark’s Church in Berkshire, hoping to see a glimpse of the Royals.Kourtney Coleman  travelled all the way from the United States with her mother Joanne Kloser in the hope of catching a glimpse of the bride and her royal guests.”We were supposed to be here in March and our plans changed and when I realised when the wedding was going to be, we planned the whole trip around it,” said Kourtney.”I was on the streets for her sister’s wedding, so I just had to be here. “I hope we see something, I want to see Prince Harry!” The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been pictured heading to Pippa Middleton’s wedding.The two appear to be dressed to the nines for the nuptials, which is reportedly Scottish-themed.Prince William and his wife were seen leaving Kensington Palace to travel to the event in Berkshire.They are bringing their children, who will attend for the first section of the wedding and leave before the dinner and partying later in the evening. 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. Credit:FlynetPictures.co.uk FlynetPictures.co.uklast_img read more

Yellow weather warning issued as heavy rain and strong winds expected to

For the southern half of the UK then it it currently a cloudy and wet picture, with rather widespread rain. Further north there are a scattering of showers. Keep an umbrella handy today ☔️ However from above the satellite shows an impressive swirl of low pressure. ☁️ pic.twitter.com/l01Nnmg5ze— MeteoGroup UK (@WeatherCast_UK) April 27, 2018 As well as a lot of rain in places on Monday 🌧️ there is the potential for a little bit of wet snow over some hills in England ❄️ and this got us thinking … when was the latest widespread late season snow in the UK? (poll to follow) pic.twitter.com/cmjYZaTEDX— Met Office (@metoffice) April 28, 2018 Heavy downpours and strong winds are set to batter much of England and Wales on Sunday and into next week, as the Met Office issued a Yellow weather warning for rain.Experts cautioned that spray and flooding could lead to difficult driving conditions, some road closures, and a small risk of damage to homes and businesses.Heavy precipitation is likely to affect much of eastern, southeastern and central England on Sunday night and Monday, as a deep area of low pressure makes its way across the UK from Europe. 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. “We’ve got a breeze coming in off the North Sea so temperatures along the east coast will reach only 8C is some places, and the wind is going to pick up a little bit throughout the day.“Further to the north, in northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland we’ll see a mixture of sunshine and showers, some of which may be on the heavy side, perhaps with a bit of thunder towards Northern Ireland as well.“There may perhaps be some brightness on Sunday along western parts of wales and the far south west of England.” Temperatures on Sunday are expected to reach a high of 9-12C (48-54F), with lows of 7-10C (45-50F) more likely along the length of England’s east coast. Rain and winds are also anticipated in much of Wales, and the overall UK outlook one of light rain and drizzly spells going into Tuesday. Forecasters had previously warned that it would be cold enough to produce snow on high ground such as the North and South Downs, with some snowfall still possible on higher ground such as the Chilterns and the Pennines on Monday.For most areas, however, Sunday was expected to start with sunny and dry spells in the north and west, with a few showers.Elsewhere the outlook is cloudier and wetter, with 50-70mm of rain falling locally in the south east, coupled with strong north to north-easterly winds, making it feel colder. A Met Office spokesman said: “It will be quite a story of two halves across the UK.“Sunday will be quite cloudy across many southern parts, with some outbreaks of drizzle and still feeling quite cool. read more