Month: September 2019

2014 NFL Preview The TopHeavy NFC West

Editor’s Note: FiveThirtyEight is running a series of eight NFL previews, one division at a time, to highlight the numbers that may influence each team’s season. America’s favorite weekly soap opera is about to begin; get prepped.Seattle SeahawksExpected wins (Using implied power ratings from Las Vegas point spreads): 10.0Playoff probability: 64 percent (43 percent to win the NFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 10 percent The Cardinals won 10 games last year, only the second time the team reached double digits in victories since moving to Arizona in 1988. Their run defense was the key. The Cardinals allowed just 1,351 rushing yards, the fewest in the NFL. They ranked first in rushing defense DVOA, Football Outsiders’ main defensive statistic, and stuffed opposing ball-carriers for no gain or a loss on 28 percent of runs, the most in the NFL.But three of the key players responsible for that success are gone, including inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. Dansby was one of just two players in 2013 to record 100 tackles, more than four sacks, and more than four interceptions. He is a very good run defender, but he is also a strong pass-rusher and is excellent in pass coverage. Of course, that’s why the Cleveland Browns signed him to a four-year, $24 million deal on the first day of free agency.The Cardinals were prepared for Dansby’s departure, but the other two exits left the team with little time to find a solution. In June, starting inside linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the season for (again) violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Like Dansby, Washington is a versatile player: He’s a great pass-rusher (his nine sacks in 2012 were the most by an inside linebacker since Bart Scott’s 9.5 in 2006) and above-average in coverage, in addition to being a strong run-defender.And last Monday, defensive end Darnell Dockett was lost for the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. Dockett is not just an above-average 3-4 defensive end against the run, but a team leader and — along with superstar wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald — the player on the team with the longest tenure.Replacing Dansby and Washington are a pair of players on opposite ends of their career arcs. Kevin Minter was the Cardinals’ second-round pick a year ago, but played just one defensive snap as a rookie. Ex-Steeler Larry Foote, 34, has started just 22 games over the past four seasons. The Cardinals, so used to relying on their run defense, now don’t know quite what to expect from it.St. Louis RamsExpected wins: 6.8Playoff probability: 18 percent (8 percent to win the NFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 1 percent Over the last three seasons, Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch was the only player to record at least 900 carries in the regular season, and was one of just two players to rush for more than 4,000 yards since 2011.While those stats are gaudy, to some they’re also a potential sign of overuse. There’s a line of thinking among NFL-watchers that running backs only have so many yards in them before they exhaust their skill.But Seahawks fans (and management) shouldn’t be concerned about Lynch’s heavy workload. Proving the connection between “high number of carries” and “sharp decline in ability” has never been easy, in large part because the running backs who earn the most carries tend to be among the most talented. Moreover, Lynch’s workload isn’t that high. While his 901 carries over the last three years is the most in the NFL, it’s also the fewest number of carries the leader in this statistic has had in any three-year period since 1989-1991, when Barry Sanders recorded 877 carries. Seattle fans may have flashbacks to running back Shaun Alexander, whose career crashed shortly after leading the team to the Super Bowl in 2005, but Alexander recorded 1,049 carries from 2003 to 2005.From 1970 to 2013, there were 43 players who had between 850 and 950 carries in a three-year period, and who were 26 to 28 years old in the final year of that span. On average, those players (excluding Lynch) rushed 300 times per season and averaged 4.3 yards per carry during those three years. And, on average, those players played in 12.6 games the following season, rushed 224 times and averaged 4.2 yards per carry.To test whether that drop-off is due to a heavy workload, we need to measure against a control group. To do that, I looked at all running backs since 1970 who recorded between 600 and 800 carries1By looking at players with at least 600 carries, we’re excluding part-time players of lower quality; by capping the number of carries at 800, we’re keeping the heavy-workload players out of this sample. over a three-year period, averaged between 4.1 and 4.5 yards per carry,2Since that provides a nice band around the average 4.3 yards per carry produced by the players comparable to Lynch during their three-year runs. and were 26, 27 or 28 years old at the end of the three years. There were 44 such players,3Excluding the four players who missed all of the following season. and on average they rushed 237 times per season over those three years and averaged 4.3 yards per carry. The following season, that group averaged 206 carries and 4.1 yards per carry. In other words, the control group rushed for fewer yards and averaged fewer yards per carry than the “high-workload” backs.The real worry about Lynch should be his age. Older running backs are much more likely to decline than younger running backs, and nearly every running back in his late 20s is on the wrong side of the age curve.San Francisco 49ersExpected wins: 9.7Playoff probability: 59 percent (37 percent to win the NFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 8 percent The 49ers were the second-oldest team in the league last year, after weighting each player by how important he was to the team (as I did, using Pro-Football-Reference.com’s Approximate Value system). The average AV-adjusted age of last season’s 49ers as of Sept. 1, 2013, was 28.2 years. That may make San Francisco more vulnerable to a regression to the mean in 2014.I calculated the AV-adjusted ages for the 138 teams from 1990 to 2012 that won 11 to 13 games in a season. (The 49ers won 12 last year.) I then measured how many wins those teams had the following year. Age appears to be a factor, but only at the extremes.I grouped the teams into four buckets based solely on age. For example, the oldest quarter of teams in this study had an average age of 28.9 in the first year and won 12.0 games; the following year, those teams dropped to an average of 8.6 wins.The youngest quarter of teams regressed the least, which isn’t surprising. But the evidence here suggests that being just a bit older than average isn’t any worse for a team than being average or slightly younger than average. The teams in the middle quartiles — like the 49ers — are not nearly as sensitive to age effects as the teams on the extremes.This is good news for 49ers fans, but the performance of the defense’s top players remains uncertain. Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman was a first-team All-Pro choice last year, but tore his ACL and MCL in January and will miss much of the 2014 season. Outside linebacker Aldon Smith is the team’s main pass-rusher — he has 42 sacks over the last three years, 20 more than the next-best 49er — but he will likely be suspended for at least part of the season.Defensive end Justin Smith, who has compiled the second-most AV on the team over the last three years, turns 35 in September. Even linebacker Patrick Willis, perhaps the team’s best player, will be 30 by the time Super Bowl XLIX comes around. The window isn’t closed on the 49ers, but the defense’s best days are already behind it.Arizona CardinalsExpected wins: 7.5Playoff probability: 26 percent (12 percent to win the NFC West)Super Bowl win probability: 2 percent The Rams emerged as a trendy breakout pick this offseason because their young players were supposed to have finally matured. Last year, the Rams had the third-youngest offense and the youngest defense in the NFL, according to AV-adjusted team age.Rarely has a team fielded so many highly drafted players along both lines. All four of the team’s projected starting defensive linemen were selected in the first 14 picks of the NFL draft, which would be a league first; the offensive line features Jake Long (the first overall pick in 2008), Greg Robinson (the second overall selection this year) and Rodger Saffold (selected 33rd overall in 2010).The starting wide receivers (Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Kenny Britt) were all selected in the first 33 picks of the draft, and tight end Jared Cook is one of the highest-paid players at his position. Running back Zac Stacy began last year on the bench, but the rookie rushed for 969 yards in the final 12 games of the year, the seventh-most in the NFL over that stretch. St. Louis also drafted Tre Mason in May, the Southeastern Conference leader in yards from scrimmage and touchdowns in 2013.And then last weekend quarterback Sam Bradford tore his ACL. Since 2007, St. Louis ranks last in both passing touchdowns and net yards per pass attempt. The team has been only marginally better since Bradford arrived, ranking third from the bottom in both categories since 2010. Now, without Bradford, its offense could sputter just as it was supposed to be ascending.Over the course of his career, Bradford’s backup, Shaun Hill, has been the definition of an average passer, which is enough to make him one of the better backup quarterbacks of all time. Hill’s career efficiency numbers are more impressive than Bradford’s, but it’s hard to get excited about a 34-year-old quarterback who has thrown just 16 passes over the last three seasons and who is set to take snaps in the league’s toughest division. But Hill is a good fit for the Rams offense because, like Bradford, he is more likely to stretch the field horizontally than vertically. Among quarterbacks to enter the league since 2005, Hill and Bradford have the fourth- and third-lowest yards per completion averages among quarterbacks with at least 900 pass attempts.4Hill has averaged 10.8 yards per completion for his career, while Bradford has averaged 10.7. Only Trent Edwards (10.7) and Christian Ponder (10.6) have lower average gains. The Rams won’t need to modify their offensive plans with Hill in the huddle, but that says all you need to know about Bradford’s career.Read more of FiveThirtyEight’s NFL season previews. read more

Skeptical Football Manning Redux Ancient History And An Award For Tony Romo

Something marvelous has happened to me. I was transported to the seventh heaven. There sat all the gods assembled. As a special dispensation, I was granted the favor of making a wish. “What do you want?” asked Mercury. … “Choose — but only one thing.” For a moment I was bewildered; then I addressed the gods, saying: “My esteemed contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughter on my side.” Not one of the gods said a word; instead, all of them began to laugh. From that I concluded that my wish was granted and decided that the gods knew how to express themselves with good taste, for it would indeed have been inappropriate to reply solemnly: It is granted to you.— Soren Kierkegaard, Either/Or Part 1There’s nothing more satisfying than to have the Hacker Gods1The non-omnipotent, non-omniscient beings who likely post-selected this universe as the answer to some even bigger question. laugh at you, and that’s pretty much what this past weekend of NFL action entailed. So let’s get right to it.Twitter question of the weekFollowing Peyton Manning’s costly interception with 2:25 left, down 5 points and in Seattle Seahawks territory, I took the opportunity to tweet the “Comeback King” chart from last week’s Skeptical Football column:I intended to gently remind people that Manning far outpaces the field in big comebacks, and that taking risks like the one that led to his interception is likely one of the main reasons why.But then things got crazy. Following a Seattle field goal, Manning got the ball back with less than a minute left, led the Broncos on an 80-yard touchdown drive in 41 seconds, and then scored on a two-point conversion to send the game to overtime. Twitter exploded. High drama, tempers flared, things were said.Even before the Seahawks took the first OT possession down the field for a touchdown, a number of people were questioning Manning’s comeback cred. The chart I tweeted showed that Manning has come back to win 10 of the 41 games in which his team has fallen behind by 15 points or more, which compares favorably to Tom Brady doing the same in five of 25 chances. Several people seemed underwhelmed by this difference, with many pushing back like so:@skepticalsports @ESPNStatsInfo also can be stated as manning 25%, brady 20% of the time. doesn’t seem quite as special that way.— Rich (@Liberty8691) September 21, 2014Some enterprising tweeters also pointed out that Andrew Luck already has three comeback wins in 13 opportunities, good for 23 percent.Granted, Manning’s comeback rate is only a few percentage points higher than Brady’s or Luck’s. But that doesn’t make it any less “special.” With the league average at just 5.6 percent, having 10 comebacks in 41 attempts is way, way more ridiculous and impressive than having five in 25.And those are very carefully calculated “way”s.Microsoft Excel has a function2Some version also exists in R and every other mathematical or statistical package on earth. called binom.dist() that can easily tell you the probability of something happening a certain number of times in a certain number of tries (an issue that, in my experience, comes up about every five minutes in life). It’s probably more useful than a sonic screwdriver.In this case, to find out the odds against each quarterback getting the number of wins he did, assuming they were all exactly as good as the league average,3Note that that this is slightly unfair to Peyton Manning, since he has accounted for about 10 percent of all the 15+ point comebacks in the NFL in the last 14 years, so he’s setting his own comparison level a bit. we plug in the numbers like so:=1/(1-BINOM.DIST([Comeback wins]-1,[Comeback opportunities],[League average comeback rate],TRUE))That spits out odds that lead to this chart:Yes, that’s a logarithmic scale. It needs to be because Manning’s results are that much better.4Here’s what that looks like on a non-log scale:Wowza.Peyton Manning’s 10 comebacks in 41 attempts is over 150 times less likely than Tom Brady’s five comebacks in 25.To put that in perspective: The odds against an average quarterback duplicating Brady’s feat are roughly the same as the odds of a .500 team winning its first six or seven games of the season.5Log 90, base 2 = 6.5. The odds against duplicating Manning’s feat are the equivalent of a .500 team starting the season 14-0.6Log 15,523, base 2 = 13.9.Chart of the weekThe NFL is now down to just three undefeated teams: the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cincinnati Bengals and Patrick Peterson’s Arizona Cardinals.Of these, the Bengals have been the most dominant, winning their three games by an average of nearly 16 points.The Eagles have needed three improbable comebacks (and as my colleague Neil Paine pointed out after Week 2 — and is still true now — they’ve spent most of this season trailing). However, the Eagles were a 10-6 team last year, and teams that start hot are far more likely to be successful if they have a track record.Since 1990 (when the league introduced a salary cap) there have been 72 teams that started 3-0 after winning eight or more games the year before, and 57 have made the playoffs (79 percent). There have been 24 teams that started 3-0 after winning seven or fewer games the year before, and only 12 of them made the playoffs (50 percent).Here are all the teams that have started 3-0 and whether they did or didn’t make the playoffs, arranged by the number of games they won the year before:Indeed, given that a team has started the season 3-0, knowing how many wins it had the season before is about twice as valuable as knowing what its margin of victory was in its first three games of this season (more on this later).While these probably wouldn’t have been the three teams most observers would have picked to start the season 3-0, they’re not really shocking either: The Bengals were 11-5 last year, and both the Cardinals and the Eagles were 10-6. While starting 3-0 certainly isn’t a guarantee of anything, immediate history suggests all three teams should be fine.Rookie QB watchThis was quite a week for rookie QBs! The top four quarterbacks in this year’s draft all saw action.As a reminder, my most basic criteria for evaluating a rookie quarterback’s career prospects (as discussed here, here, and here) are:Starting = GoodTouchdowns = GoodYards = GoodWins = Don’t careInterceptions = Don’t careCompletion percentage = Don’t care (possibly even a negative indicator, all else being equal)Our leaderboard for “best career prospects,” — which, yes, I just invented — is shaken up considerably. It had been basically just draft order until the start of the season, with Derek Carr on top since then, but now …Blake Bortles is on the board, and has re-assumed the No. 1 position. In a loss (which, according to my analysis, doesn’t matter) against Indianapolis, he had two touchdowns (good), 223 yards (good) and has been named the starter for next week (more starts = more good). Importantly, he’s starting early enough that any advantage Carr had in the rankings from his early starts should now be nil. The relationship between the number of rookie starts and career prospects isn’t very linear — the main thing that matters is that a QB starts at least four games; then it’s marginally better for him to start eight, etc.After limited action, Teddy Bridgewater is looking like he’ll start this week as well.Meanwhile, Derek Carr hasn’t really been lighting it up. Carr has only three TDs in three games, and is averaging under 200 yards per game. At this point, the main thing he has going for him is starting earlier than the others, but his stock is slowly dropping because he hasn’t been more productive.But it will take a lot of bad play for Carr to drop behind our favorite underweight QB Johnny Manziel, who is looking less and less likely to get much action as a starter this year. Manziel was in for a nifty-looking trick play, which was called back for a penalty, and was probably illegal anyway. According to my rigorous and proprietary analysis, acting ability is not a statistically significant predictor of a rookie QB’s future success.In case you missed itIf you haven’t read it, you should really click through to my colleague Neil Paine’s article from earlier this week that revisits the Greatest Show on Turf. I particularly liked this line: “The Rams anticipated what statistical analysts would eventually come to learn about football: Teams run when they win; they don’t win when they run.”That’s a causal chiasmus that holds true for so many things about football.Experimental chart of the weekIn Skeptical Football Week 1, we posted a chart showing the percentage of teams with a given record making the playoffs (since updated), and also noted that the odds were considerably different if a team had gone 12-4 or better the previous season. We’re still at a point in this season where the previous year’s results matter a good deal.We can combine each team’s results from this point in the season with its results from the previous season in a regression to see which is more important: what a team has shown over three games this year, or what it showed over 16 games the year prior. Using raw winning percentages or average margin of victory, we can predict wins or margin of victory for the remainder of the current season — which metric we use doesn’t really matter. Here, for the hobbyists at home, are a couple of examples of how to do these calculations yourself:To predict a team’s average margin of victory over its next 13 games, you can take 0.23 times its average margin of victory over the first three games, and then add 0.29 times its average MOV for the previous season.If you don’t have margins of victory to work with, you can predict a team’s winning percentage for the rest of the season like so: Start with a base of 30 percent, then add 0.18 times the first three games’ winning percentage and 0.22 times the team’s winning percentage from the previous year.For the whole set of teams since 1990, the first three games of the current season and the entirety of the previous season are roughly about equally predictive.But if we break the sample down by record, we can see that a disproportionate amount of the predictive work is being done by the 3-0 teams. Here’s a comparison of the previous season’s margin of victory with the percentage of games won over the remaining 13 games, broken down by number of wins after three games:Note that in the red plot there are fewer outliers and the slope of the fit is steeper. (If you look just at 3-0 teams, the previous season’s record is about twice as important as the margin of victory the team put up over the first three games.) Pedigree appears to be even better at separating the contenders from the pretenders than it is at predicting team performance in general.Gunslinger of the weekKudos to previous Gunslinger of the Week awardees Andrew Luck and Matt Ryan, who both took out their aggression on lesser opponents, going off against Jacksonville and Tampa Bay, respectively, for a combined 52 of 63 for 656 yards and four TDs, with no INTs. The same mindset that leads to a game-costing interception today may lead to game-breaking touchdowns tomorrow.But unlike the previous weekend, last week’s gunslinging produced more immediate results. Six quarterbacks won despite throwing interceptions (up from just one the week before). There’s nothing more exciting to me than seeing a QB who is scraping to get back in a game throw an interception, and then come back to win anyway — particularly if it’s a back-breaking pick-6.7I have a special place in my heart for pick-6s.Which is why, in a stunning upset, the Gunslinger of the Week award goes to … Tony Romo. I know, right? I demand a recount! But so it is. Throwing a pick-6 when down 14 and then managing to come back from 21 down to win anyway is just too much to ignore, despite Peyton Manning’s late-game theatrics against Seattle. Romo’s heroics deserve acknowledgement.Despite being one of the gunslingers fans most love to hate, Romo is actually a decent close-game QB. He has won 44 percent of games decided by less than a touchdown — no Brady (64 percent) or Manning (59 percent) to be sure, but better than the likes of Donovan McNabb, Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Kurt Warner, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford. Along with Matt Ryan, he’s one of only two players since 1990 to win a game despite throwing five interceptions (in 2007 against Buffalo).Perhaps most interestingly, Romo has much better relative results in games when he throws one interception or more (where he wins 53 percent of the time) than in games where he doesn’t (where he wins 66 percent of the time).Among quarterbacks with at least 40 starts since 2001, that’s the fifth-highest winning percentage in games with an interception (behind Donovan McNabb and Ben Roethlisberger as well as Brady and Manning).Most empirically significant game of Week 4This is a no-brainer for me: It’s the Eagles vs. the 49ers, for at least three reasons:Colin Kaepernick is the most empirically interesting “running QB” to watch, since he doesn’t play for an amazing team like his counterpart up the coast.So far, Kaepernick and Alex Smith have both had their “career” years in the eight games they each played with Randy Moss. The more difficult matchups we see Kaepernick play, the better we understand his true skill, and by extension Moss’s, and by domino effect that of many others.Any time a team wins a lot of close or comeback games, it gets interesting. This year, the Eagles are ground zero for the question of how much skill there is to winning in the NFL, aside from just scoring and allowing points.Also, in a roundabout way, every time I watch the 49ers I feel like I learn something about the Seahawks, and what they’re all about is pretty interesting right now.Charts by Reuben Fischer-Baum. read more

The Cavs Are Trying But The Warriors Are Just Too Good

Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (June 7, 2016), we welcome ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz as a special guest host to discuss the NBA Finals and ask him what is going wrong for the Cleveland Cavaliers. We also assess the legacy of Muhammad Ali and wonder whether analytics are useful when trying to understand just how great he was. Finally, Mike Goodman of ESPN FC joins us to discuss the Copa America and the U.S. men’s national team’s chances in the rest of the tournament. Plus, a special segment on the definition of the hot take inspired by Slate’s Stefan Fatsis. Please send your own definition and your favorite examples to podcasts@fivethirtyeight.com. We’ll pass them along to Slate!Links to what we discuss are here:Neil Paine writes that the Cavs’ shooting went to hell in Game 1 of the NBA Finals but that they probably won’t get swept by the Warriors.ESPN Stats & Information Group says Draymond Green’s return to form makes the Warriors look unstoppable.The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg writes that blame for the Cavs’ defeats must lie at the feet of LeBron James.Kyle Wagner says Muhammad Ali can’t be judged by mere statistics.Wesley Morris writes in The New York Times that Ali evolved from a great fighter into the nation’s conscience.BBC Sport tries to assess what it was about Ali that made him so great.According to Tom Dart in the Guardian, this is crunch time for Jürgen Klinsmann as he tries to find a winning formula for the U.S. men’s national soccer team.Mike Goodman explains why Clint Dempsey doesn’t fit into Klinsmann’s new-look attack.Michael Caley says Christian Pulisic might be the key to U.S. success at the Copa America.Finally, here’s a link to the episode of Slate’s “Hang Up and Listen” in which Fatsis announced his hot-take-crowd-sourcing project. Get involved! FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. read more

Kevin Garnett Paul Pierce Officially Sign to Brooklyn Nets

The Boston Celtics officially announced today that they have moved on with the trade of Kevin Garnett (forward/center), Paul Pierce (forward), Jason Terry (guard) and D.J. White (forward) to the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, they will receive forwards Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans (guard/forward), MarShon Brooks(guard), Kris Joseph(forward), along with three future first-round draft picks and the option to trade first-round picks during the 2017 NBA draft.“We would like to thank Paul, Kevin, and Jason for everything that they have done for this franchise. We would not have won Banner 17 without Paul and Kevin and they will go down amongst the all-time great players to have ever worn a Celtics uniform,” said Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge. “At the same time we are excited to welcome Gerald, Kris, Keith, MarShon and Kris to the Celtics family. They bring a wealth of talent, experience, depth, and flexibility to our team.”“Paul and Kevin exemplified everything it means to be a Celtic,” said Celtics Managing Partner and CEO Wyc Grousbeck. “They were instrumental in bringing back Celtic Pride and providing our fans with the franchise’s first championship in over 20 years in 2008. We wish them nothing but the best in the future.” read more

How The 68 Raiders Can Still Make The Playoffs

The Oakland Raiders have less than a 1 percent chance to make the playoffs. But that means there’s still a chance! To see how they can make it to a wild-card game, watch the video above.

The Rockets Are Finally Playing Their Game In The Playoffs

The strangest thing about the Houston Rockets’ 126-99 dismantling of the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night wasn’t the final score, or the Spurs’ bloodless play, or even the 50 3-pointers (and 22 makes) that Houston threw up in the game. Those were all unusual, but in the way that any one-off game in a seven-game series might be. For Rockets fans, however, the big change was that for once in the playoffs, the Rockets looked like the Rockets.Over the last four seasons,1The period for which we have player-tracking data for the league. Houston general manager Daryl Morey has built the NBA’s model of efficiency. The Rockets of the regular season adhere to the fundamental tenets of Moreyball: shooting threes, driving for layups and drawing fouls. Then the playoffs begin. That’s when Houston has gone off script and played the sort of inefficient basketball it’s built to avoid. It’s unlikely that the Rockets will play the rest of the series at the level they played Game 1 — the 27-point loss was the worst of the Spurs’ season. But however the series plays out, it’s progress that the Rockets have finally brought Rockets basketball to the playoffs. The biggest change has been in the number of threes the team gets. Over the previous three seasons, the Rockets led the league in 3-point attempt rate (the share of field-goal attempts that are 3-pointers) during the regular season before seeing significant dropoffs in the postseason. That’s particularly unusual, considering the playoff field as a whole had a higher rate in this span than the leaguewide regular-season rate.This season, the Rockets have seen a similar slide toward the mean. But they began with such an overwhelming cushion that although they’ve gone from 46.2 percent of their attempts being threes during the season to 40.3 being so in the playoffs, that 40.3 number would have led all teams during the regular season.It’s especially promising for the Rockets’ identity that they’ve continued to put up shots even though they haven’t been falling. In the Oklahoma City series, Houston shot 28 percent from three over five games and 169 attempts, including 6-for-37 in the series clincher. This was somewhat because of good coverage — the Thunder held the Rockets to 10 uncontested2No defender within 6 feet. threes per game, five fewer than their regular season average — but mostly it was just a cold spell that seems to have corrected itself. Against the Spurs in Game 1, the Rockets got 14 wide-open threes, right around their season average.Houston’s free-throw rate (a team’s number of free-throw attempts per field-goal attempt) hasn’t seen as consistent a downturn in the playoffs as its 3-pointers, but it’s fluctuated. The team has finished in the top two in each of the last four regular seasons, but the fouls dried up in its 2014 and 2016 playoff campaigns. Through six games this postseason, however, the team is drawing free throws at by far the highest rate in the field. read more

Mens hockey OSU travels to rocky Colorado for opener at No 3

OSU junior forward Nick Schilkey (7) during a game against Brock on Oct. 3 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File PhotoIn the 2014-15 season, the Ohio State men’s hockey team opened up its season at home against the Providence Friars. The Buckeyes split the series, but little did they know at the time they were facing the eventual national champions.Now opening the 2016-17 season as the second favorite to win the Big Ten conference, OSU will face a legitimate title contender in the third-ranked Denver Pioneers.OSU’s offense was sharp early and often against Wilfrid-Laurier University in an exhibition on Oct. 2. The team scored two goals in the first period, then followed that up with four more in the second, including a hat trick from sophomore forward Dakota Joshua. Against Denver, the Buckeyes will face a faster, bigger, more skilled team who poses a significant barrier for OSU’s highly potent offense; a threshold senior captain forward Nick Schilkey and the rest of the team didn’t have to confront in its exhibition.“We’ve talked about their speed versus our speed. We know if we make a mistake, they’re going to be right down our throats,” Schilkey said. “We’re excited to play one of the top teams in the country.”The No. 3 Pioneers were an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament last season out of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference and eventually made the Frozen Four for the program’s 15th time. Fifth-year coach Jim Montgomery returns five of his top 10 goal scorers and four of his top 10 points leaders from a season ago.Sophomore forward Dylan Gambrell was a force in his inaugural season in 2015-16, finishing second on the team in goals (17), assists (30) and points.On the backline, senior defenseman Will Butcher was a captain on last year’s Frozen Four team and will continue to be an integral part of a Denver defense which ranked 15th in the country with 2.34 goals allowed per game in 2015-16.Besides the caliber of play Denver possesses, OSU will have to deal with an external factor: the altitude.For any team in any sport, playing in Denver hosts the issue of being able to perform at a high altitude. The University of Denver is at an estimated 5,345 feet above sea level, compared to Columbus being at 746 feet. Junior forward Christian Lampasso said that he’s taking extra precautions before Friday’s game.“I’m a little scared. I’ve got a little bit of asthma so I’m bringing all of my inhalers,” Lampasso said.Coach Steve Rohlik has a group of seniors this season that he hasn’t had in his previous three years at Ohio State. After last season’s 0-8 start, the Buckeyes are looking to get off to a fast start and be considered among the elite teams in college hockey. Going into Denver, Lampasso said last season’s brutal beginning is water under the bridge.“I don’t think our guys need to be reminded of how we’ve done in the past. They know that,” Rohlik said. “I go back to the parity of college hockey … anybody can beat anybody on any given night.”Rohlik said on Wednesday that he wasn’t sure who would start in net between senior goaltenders Christian Frey and Matt Tomkins. Frey started the exhibition game, and Tomkins entered the contest in the second period. Rohlik said he was pleased with their play. Frey allowed one goal on 13 shots. Tomkins faced 12 shots and allowed a powerplay goal.Following its game against Denver at the IceBreaker Tournament, the Buckeyes will face either Boston College or Air Force. Boston College is ranked fifth in the USCHO.com preseason poll.“I think it gives us an early look at what we are, who we are and where we stand,” Rohlik said. “We know we’re going to have our hands full and we got to play our best game.” read more

Weekly football predictions Week 1

With another college football season ready to get underway, it’s time for another year of weekly predictions. Quinn Pitcock, the reigning champion who blew away the competition in 2009, returns to battle former OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis, former OSU quarterback Justin Zwick, current OSU men’s basketball center Dallas Lauderdale and Lantern sports editor Zack Meisel. THIS WEEK’S GAMES: Marshall @ No. 2 Ohio State UCONN @ Michigan No. 3 Boise State @ No. 10 Virginia Tech James Laurinaitis: Ohio State, UCONN, Virginia Tech Dallas Lauderdale: Ohio State, UCONN, Virginia Tech Quinn Pitcock: Ohio State, Michigan, Boise State Justin Zwick: Ohio State, Michigan, Boise State Zack Meisel: Ohio State, UCONN, Virginia Tech read more

Football Binjimen Victor steps up after Macks injury

Ohio State junior wide receiver Binjimen Victor (9) catches a pass in the second half of the game against Purdue on Oct. 20. Ohio State lost 49-20. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorNext man up.It’s been the mentality of the defensive line, with the loss of junior All-American defensive end Nick Bosa for the rest of the season. The Ohio State secondary has needed the phrase as well, with redshirt junior cornerback Damon Arnette failing to make the trip to Purdue last Saturday because of injury. Now, that phrase has made its way to the offense. Junior wide receiver Austin Mack suffered a foot injury in the second half of Saturday’s 49-20 loss to Purdue. On his weekly radio show, head coach Urban Meyer called Mack’s ailment a “fluke injury,” saying it was a non-contact injury and he was “twisted wrong on the field.” However, Meyer did give some hope, saying Mack could be back in time for postseason play. But moving forward, it’s back to the “next man up” mentality. In Mack’s absence, junior wide receiver Binjimen Victor will take the majority of his snaps in his place. Through eight games, Victor has 236 yards on 14 catches, recording three touchdown receptions. Even though Ohio State has older depth at the wide receiver position, with redshirt senior wide receivers Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin splitting time at the other receiver slot, offensive coordinator Ryan Day said its Victor’s time to shine. “Ben’s got to step up and he’s now got to mature into a role where he’s going to be the starter over there,” Day said. However, that does not mean that McLaurin and DIxon will not be there to help in terms of picking up Mack’s production. Day said Ohio State has older players that know the offensive system very well, saying he will move some guys around if necessary. But Victor is not the only one with a statement to make in the absence of Mack. After recording two catches for 27 yards in three games during his true freshman season, now-sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Harris, a former four-star prospect, will have increased playing time with Mack shelved. Day called Mack’s injury Harris’ time to step up, calling for more from the Cleveland native. In four games this season, Harris has recorded two catches for 22 yards, bringing in one 16-yard catch against Oregon State. Meyer said Mack’s injury will also give freshman wide receiver Chris Olave, who has recorded two catches for 14 yards this season, an opportunity to get more playing time as well. However, make no mistake, Day and Meyer both agree that Victor is a starting receiver as Mack gets healthy. This is something Victor has been striving for ever since he got to Ohio State. Victor has shown it in bursts, bringing in two catches for 55 yards and a touchdown against Penn State and five catches for 67 yards against Purdue. After the 2018 Spring Game, Meyer highlighted the expectation he had of Victor going into the fall. “That’s one of the most talented receivers we have ever had,” Meyer said. “It’s consistency and the fight in those kind of things because when he does, it’s fun to watch.”Now, Victor is not the next man up. He is the man. read more

Brief Encounter clock stilled by row over racist comments about child migrants

first_imgThe article questioned whether the migrants and refugees arriving from Calais were children and whether they were in any real danger.Peter Crowther, chairman of the Carnforth Station Trust, which runs the heritage centre at the station, told The Telegraph: “A visitor to the station who was with his family complained about insulting and racist comments made by Mr Walker.“He said that if action wasn’t taken he would report the matter as a hate crime to the police.”Members of the trust interviewed a number of witnesses about the incident and decided to ban Mr Walker from those parts of the station it operates and rents from Network Rail.The trust said Mr Walker, who the trust claims refused to attend the meeting at which his fate was decided, has since refused to wind the clock up.“Mr Walker has been given the right to go into the station to get the tools to maintain the clock without having to go into trust buildings and he is not doing it,” said Mr Crowther. “The clock not being wound up is his personal decision and nothing to do with the trust.”But Mr Walker, 71, hit back at the ban, saying: “It’s a matter of free speech. I was talking to a friend, discussing a newspaper article which questioned the comparison being made between the Calais migrants and the Jewish kindertransport children who fled to Britain in 1939.“I said it was a ridiculous comparison because the kindertransport children were being rescued from the jaws of death. I didn’t say anything I’d consider offensive or deserving of what’s happened to me.“No wonder people nowadays are scared to say what they think. They are scared of being labelled racist. Where has the right to free speech gone? It is not as if I was Hitler addressing a rally.”Mr Walker denies he was invited to attend the trust’ meeting which decided on the ban and also denies that he still has access to the equipment needed to wind the clock up.“I can’t get to the ladder without going on trust property and even if I could I wouldn’t do it anymore,” he said. “I don’t want to associate with that nest of vipers.”Whatever the circumstances, Alex and Laura might well have welcomed a similar respite from the relentless tick-tock which brought an end to their fleeting affair. 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. Although Brief Encounter was set amid the narrow confines of an imagined Home Counties town, the station scenes were shot by director David Lean at Carnforth, where the large clock stood above the subway through which the lovers ran to catch their respective trains.Mr Walker, a former fireman and engine driver with British Rail, helped install the clock after his friend Peter Yates, the former chairman of Carnforth station trust, tracked it down to a shop in Twickenham, west London, and returned it to the station 13 years ago, as part of the £650,00 project to save the building from dereliction.But the trust claims relations with Mr Walker have soured in recent years. Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) say goodbye at Canforth station in David Lean's Brief Encounter (1945) Standing above the station platform where they first met it was the timepiece which, with an iron hand, governed Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson’s short-lived affair and determined when they should part.But the clock which played such a symbolic role in the 1945 British cinema classic Brief Encounter has been stilled – the victim of a very modern row over allegedly racist comments made by the man who until now kept it working.Jim Walker has been banned from key parts of the station at Carnforth, in Lancashire, after he was overheard by a member of the public talking about comments about child migrants and refugees.As a result the clock – which in the film signals when Johnson’s character Laura must leave Alec, played by Howard, and catch the train back to her husband – stands permanently stuck at 9.46.The row exploded after a family visiting the station last October overheard Mr Walker making what they said were racist comments about child refugees, in response to a column he was reading in a national newspaper.center_img Jim Walker winding the clock up at Carnforth station, before the row over his remarks on child migrants Laura (Celia Johnson) and Alec (Trevor Howard) say goodbye at Canforth station in David Lean’s Brief Encounter (1945)Credit:ITV/REX Shutterstock Jim Walker winding the clock up at Carnforth station, before the row over his remarks on child migrantslast_img read more