September, 2019 Archive

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Another Fight Night Another Controversial Decision as Boxing Continues

Just in case you missed it, which surely is a possibility, a boxing match took place this weekend featuring Timothy Bradley Jr., the man who beat Manny Pacquiao, who is the man many believed could beat Floyd Mayweather.Bradley dominated the fight, but the judges ruled it a split draw.Boxing.It is a feat that the sport still exists, what with the lack of dynamic talent, engaging personalities and with the usual controversy that engineers thoughts of corruption and fight-fixing.Bradley is not an exciting fighter, but he controlled the match Saturday against Diego Chaves. Was not close. But the judges were all over the place. One had Bradley winning it 115-113. Another had it even at 114-144. And still another, Julie Lederman, scored it a 116-112 victory for Chaves.When the announcement came, people booed. Loudly. The unruly reaction was about that decision for sure, but it also represented how they feel about the sport.Once a centerpiece of the athletic world, boxing has diminished into an afterthought. Black kids who were young athletes seeking a sport to engage—and even pursue a professional career—have turned away from the sport. There is no longer much honor in being a champion prize fighter in African-American communities. There hardly are any boxers with enough cache to command their attention.It’s one reason Mayweather is so big in the Black community. He’s a special talent, but he also is relatable to urban youth (and not in all honorable ways, either). But Mayweather is alone in being an identifiable figure in the game that can save it from itself or inspire kids to take it up.If Mayweather were to finally fight Pacquaio, boxing would be back in the front of people’s minds—at least for that night. And if it does happen, by some unforeseeable twist of good fortune, both men will be beyond their prime. Because the boxing public has waited so long for that match—too long, in fact—if they meet in the next year it would be anticlimactic to many, not worth watching to some.Nights like what Bradley experienced do not help.Bob Arum, the longtime promoter, said: “I don’t understand anymore. Julie Lederman [of New York] should not be allowed to judge in this state anymore. That was the worst decision. I had it 8-4 for Bradley. I could see it 7-5. OK, maybe even 114-114. But her scorecard for Chaves was an absolute disgrace.”Ironic that Bradley was on the robbed end of a decision. He became champion with his decision over Pacquiao, but it was widely disputed. Most observers judged that Bradley got beat handily. But boxing being boxing…Pacquiao dominated the rematch with a unanimous decision. But too often nights like this weekend happen, and the sport suffers from the madness more than the boxer. read more

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Baseballs Biggest Games Are Taking Forever

October brings falling leaves, great postseason pitching and hitting, and painfully long baseball games. Look no further than Game 2 of the World Series: On the game’s biggest national stage, the Cubs and Indians played a 5-1 game Wednesday night that took four hours and four minutes to complete. Interminable games like Wednesday’s contest are the norm for the MLB postseason — but even by that standard, this year has been by far the slowest in recent memory.Baseball usually reserves its longest games for October, with the average game length jumping precipitously in the final month of each of the past five seasons. But even keeping that in mind, this year has been extraordinary: The last 27 games have featured an average game length of three hours and 24 minutes, the highest average for any continuous block of 27 games in the past five years (and far above the overall 2016 season average of three hours, two minutes). The only block of games that even comes close to the one we’re in now came in 2014 — and 2014 was before baseball commissioner Rob Manfred announced new rules designed to speed up the games. That this year’s games are surpassing the heights of 2014 even with those pace-of-play rules in place is extraordinary.There are a number of contributors to baseball’s recent sluggishness, including instant replay reviews, reliever usage and pitcher pace. Managers are using replay-review challenges more aggressively in the postseason, averaging more than one per game, in comparison with the regular season average of 0.6 per game. Replay challenges take about 96 seconds each1According to data from Retrosheet on regular-season replay challenges., so the additional challenges are probably only adding a little less than a minute to the bloated postseason average.Reliever usage is probably a larger factor. As I documented in a recent piece, managers are asking more relievers to chew up a greater fraction of the innings this postseason than ever before. So far this postseason, there have been 4.06 relief appearances per game, compared with a regular season average of 3.14 per game. Each pitching change can take up to two minutes and 30 seconds, so pitcher usage accounts for another two- to three-minute chunk of the sluggish pace.Relievers themselves also slow the pace of the game. Relief pitchers take much more time between pitches — about 1.7 seconds more per throw — than starters do. Combine that leisurely tempo with the fact that relievers are being used more so far this postseason — about 14 more pitches are thrown by the bullpen per game — and we’ve accounted for another 25 or so extra seconds per game.Speaking of slow pitching pace, by far the worst offender this year was the Los Angeles Dodgers’ bullpen. At 25.9 seconds per pitch, Dodgers relievers were 0.3 seconds slower between pitches than the second-place team (the Boston Red Sox, who also made it to the playoffs), 3.3 seconds slower — per pitch, mind you! — than their NLCS opponent, the Cubs, and 2.2 seconds slower than the AL champion Indians.2A significant fraction of that was probably due to L.A. middle reliever Pedro Baez, whose astounding 30.2 seconds per pitch pace was highest in the league. Fans and announcers complain about replay challenges and pitching changes, but combined they probably have less impact on game length than specific teams (like the Dodgers) do.So after the Cubs advanced over L.A. in the NLCS, it was fair to think that the strongest influence on this postseason’s slow games was out of the race, and that we might see snappier baseball in the World Series as a result. But despite the Cubs and Indians being two relatively fast-paced teams, the World Series has featured two of the longest games of the postseason, each with relatively little offense and only nine innings. There’s a big chunk of this postseason slowdown that doesn’t seem to be due to relievers, or replay, or pace. Maybe it’s the drama of the moment or the potential to break a title drought, but baseball games now take longer than at any point in recent memory. read more

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How The Draft Lottery Reshaped The NBA Landscape

natesilver: I mean, that’s how the system is supposed to work, right?neil: Well, I’ve always thought these tanking teams underestimated the luck involved in the lottery. Even under the old system.chris.herring: Last night’s outcome was probably about as solid as you could hope for from the league’s perspective if that’s the message you wanted to send. That being awful gives you a better chance but by no means guarantees you the very best — or even second-best — pick.tchow: Big win for Mr. Silver. (Adam, not Nate.)natesilver: And it’s not like the Knicks were categorically different than the Cavs, Suns or Bulls. They were just better at tanking. No. 3 is a comparatively good result vs. the rest of that group.BTW, someone should check the lottery ball codes to see what the results would have been under last year’s system.neil: Yeah, it’s weird to think of the Knicks as “winners” last night. But things could have been worse.chris.herring: The Knicks were the only team with the best lottery odds that didn’t fall out of the top four!natesilver: I really don’t get the losers talk, and I think it goes to show how people’s intuitions about probability aren’t very good.tchow: 14 percent means 100 percent, Nate!natesilver: People were treating it like 60 percent or something, I swear.neil: Knick fans’ expectations are always out of whack with reality, though… (This is a franchise that wins like the Mets but acts like it has the pedigree of the Yankees.)tchow: Neil, this is an NBA chat.chris.herring: I’m on record saying that I feel like the average Knick fan expects bad things to happen.neil: Maybe it’s more the New York media than rank-and-file fans, Chris.natesilver: This does leave open at least the tantalizing possibility of trading for Anthony Davis. If the Knicks do want to make a play for AD, this is one of the better scenarios for them. There’s no one who can trade Zion to the Pels since they already have him! The No. 3 pick is probably comparable to the best single asset that the Celtics and Lakers can offer. And if the Knicks get Kyrie Irving, maybe the Celtics don’t even try to get AD anyway.The Lakers do have the No. 4 pick, but at least based on the scouting consensus, there’s a big drop-off between 3 and 4. We’ll see if the Pelicans agree with that or not.chris.herring: I honestly don’t have a sense of what the Pelicans would prefer at this point.The Celtics would obviously be in play, based on their young talent and the draft picks they have. The Knicks just got the No. 3 pick and have two picks they got from Dallas in the Porzingis trade. Though those picks could end up being lower-end ones, depending on how the Mavericks are in the future. And then there are the Lakers, who just landed the No. 4 pick, plus all the guys they reportedly offered in February for Davis already.So it’s a combination of which players the Pelicans like, plus how they value the notion of future picks that would likely be lower in the draft, as opposed to higher ones they could make use of right now.natesilver: 🔥 Fun hot take: RJ Barrett could be the new Carmelo Anthony. High-volume, medium efficiency, good rebounder, mediocre effort on defense despite good athleticism. 🔥tchow: Looking at the different mock drafts, it does seem like there is a consensus on Top 3 (Zion, Ja, RJ in that order) and the fourth pick is immediately where you start seeing disagreements.neil: Which I think speaks to how few truly elite picks are in this draft class, Tony.chris.herring: Totally agreed.neil: But the Lakers can’t complain too much. They only had the 11th-best odds going on, so even moving up to fourth in a three-star draft is something.chris.herring: On Tuesday I walked past Gar Forman, from the Bulls’ front office, and he had a pretty grim look on his face after the team finished No. 7. Thought it was noteworthy that the Bulls’ John Paxson all but acknowledged that with a pick that low, the team was more likely to trade for a veteran as opposed to making it work with a rookie.It’s far more of a crapshoot outside of the Top 3.natesilver: We do know that the Pelicans didn’t like the Lakers’ pu pu platter back in February. And that was before Brandon Ingram’s DVT diagnosis. Although also before David Griffin took over, so maybe not as relevant now.chris.herring: There are a lot of options now for New Orleans. A lot of people were wondering out loud, too, whether getting Williamson might make the Pelicans more likely to find a deal for point guard Jrue Holiday, who could help a ton of teams as well.tchow: Chris, Paxson also had another pretty optimistic outlook on the results that I hadn’t thought of last night: neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): So we just witnessed what our friend Zach Lowe called the “wildest lottery ever.” The Zion-Williamson-to-the-Knicks (or its less-heralded cousin, Zion-to-the-Lakers) hype train gained a ton of steam when both teams were revealed to be in the Top 4 … and then it crashed and burned on live TV as the Lakers ended up at No. 4 and the Knicks at No. 3.Guys, take me through each of your experiences and emotions as you saw what unfolded.chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): I think we saw right away how crazy this new lottery system has the potential to be. By flattening out the worst teams’ odds of winning, you get a higher probability of something like last night playing out. It was insane at the actual lottery here in Chicago. There were these enormous gasps when they announced that the Bulls were going to pick seventh, the Suns were going to pick sixth, and the Cavs were going to choose fifth.natesilver (Nate Silver, editor in chief): I was at a fairly nice Italian restaurant with a friend who doesn’t really like basketball, and I made him pull out his phone along with my phone just so we could see who had the faster livestream. Unfortunately, this restaurant had a lot of wood paneling or something that was causing the signal to be pretty weak. Anyway, the livestream cut out right when it looked like the Knicks might be shut out of the Top 4 entirely, then it came back on and they were in the Top 4, and then right after that they got the No. 3 pick. As dumb as it sounds, the experience of having my expectations lowered made the No. 3 pick seem a lot better as a quasi-Knicks fan.Also, we ordered pasta for dessert, which people should try.tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): My fingers and toes were crossed from the time Boston’s 14th pick was announced. I started jumping up and down on my couch and screaming sometime between Phoenix’s sixth pick reveal and Cleveland’s fifth. There was a moment during that window that I thought 14 percent really meant something like 98 percent, and I was ready to buy my Zion Knicks jersey.chris.herring: Hahahahaha. Brutal.neil: Our colleague Chad Matlin had a great experience as well that he granted me permission to share:“a small anecdote from brooklyn last night: I’m walking home from dinner down Flatbush Ave and a man appears half a block behind me and starts violently screaming something, but I can’t quite make out what. he keeps screaming. I only catch snippets. “FUCKING!!!” “ALL!!!” “LOSING!“”” this goes on for 90 seconds as he crosses street aimlessly, screaming the same thing over and over. I finally piece it together: “ALL THAT FUCKING LOSING FOR NOTHING!!”And that’s when I found out the Knicks didn’t win the lottery.”Suffice to say, emotions were running high here in New York.chris.herring: LMAOnatesilver: I had run the numbers beforehand, and the No. 3 pick — in a draft where there’s a clear drop-off between Nos. 3 and 4 — is slightly above the expected value for the Knicks pick. Even if you think Zion is going to be reaaaaaaaaaaaly good, a 14 percent chance just isn’t that high.chris.herring: On some level, the lottery process and unveiling is really, really challenging for the average person — even for me — to follow along with if you aren’t focused on a single team and where they’re ending up.tchow: Yeah, Chris, in the hysteria last night, the graphics on TV really played a trick on me: They had the Top 4 picks in individual blocks on top, while 5 through 14 were listed below as they were revealing the picks. As the blocks were getting filled in, you saw the Lakers, then the Grizzlies and then the Pelicans, and I went, “Holy shit, we got No. 1!”chris.herring: One team being slotted lower than you expect is useful information, but it’s hard to know exactly who it benefits until there are only two or three teams left.Rachel Nichols was explaining it in real time, but it still takes a hot second or two to register what it all means, because of the pick swaps and protections, etc.neil: It’s kind of incredible that so many of us devote time to watching the unveiling of the results of pingpong balls based on probabilities, which each have obscure caveats (protections, etc), and it actually makes for compelling TV. The NBA is amazing.natesilver: Maybe they should reveal it one pick per day at a time over the course of the playoffs, sort of like an advent calendar.Think of all the opportunities for #content.chris.herring: I’m still kind of shocked that New Orleans ended up getting it. Makes a huge difference for them going forward. All this time, analysts were suggesting that they make a deal with the team that wins the lottery for Anthony Davis. Now they have the No. 1 pick AND Anthony Davis.neil: And David Griffin said their big priority is convincing AD to stay now. Is that feasible?chris.herring: It doesn’t seem the most feasible to me. You’d love for him to change his tune on that, but reports suggest that he won’t. It’s incredibly risky to gamble on the hunch that he will.natesilver: I think Zion might make it more likely that AD is traded, if anythingBecause now the franchise has something to play for and sell hope/tickets for, even without AD. So any scenario where they’re just being super stubborn and desperate is probably off the table.chris.herring: You don’t know whether Zion alone would be enough for them to make a huge jump in the next year, which is what you’d need to feel better about letting Davis test free agency.natesilver: New Orleans was one of just three teams to win the lottery that was neither undeserving, nor boring, nor annoying. So that was a win in my book. neil: SO many people were looking at that!tchow: It must have meant something!neil: NBA conspiracies are the best.chris.herring: It seemed that might have been his preference.tchow: Can you imagine all the “it’s rigged” people if the Hawks did end up getting No. 1 after the logo double tap?chris.herring: Can’t remember too many people WANTING to go to Atlanta, but I actually hoped he’d end up there after that.neil: 😢tchow: Zion with Trae Young is really intriguing.But if we’re playing alternate universes and what-ifs, can we play “what if Zion did go to the Knicks?” Neil thinks owner James Dolan would have somehow messed it up anyway. I disagree.neil: Right, my take was always that he should be happy he didn’t go to the Knicks. Everything that franchise touches goes to ruin.tchow: But he could have changed that, Neil!chris.herring: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was reporting pretty adamantly that the Knicks wouldn’t have traded him. So it seems like they would have moved forward with him, and then gone into free agency shooting for the stars.natesilver: I think it would have been dumb to trade him. Like, more dumb than people realize. When you consider the contracts, and that the Pelicans don’t rally have much leverage, I think you can even argue that Zion straight up is TOO MUCH for AD, without all the other assets that the Knicks were likely to have to throw into the deal. But, anyway, I guess we don’t have to worry about that now.chris.herring: I agree. You’re going to want and need cost-controlled contracts for when you get other stars, anyway. Having Zion would allow you to do that.tchow: Is it wrong of me to think that this is even more proof that the lottery was rigged? Like, the results were so much the complete opposite of what you thought a “rigged” one would look like that it’s almost too opposite. Am I making sense? Like, the results seemed to be what someone would produce to prove that something wasn’t rigged when it actually was.natesilver: Tony I think you’re overthinking this just a liiiiiiiiiiiiittle bit.chris.herring: LOLneil: Of course, they did invite some of this rigging speculation by having Patrick “Frozen Envelope” Ewing there to represent the Knicks.chris.herring: As someone who’s been in the room, it’s not rigged. They go to great lengths to let people watch it. And make the actual process available on YouTube shortly after.I think the variance is going to be really wild going forward because of how they’ve flattened out the odds for the worst few teams, though. And honestly, it will make it more fun and heartbreaking.tchow: I know it’s not rigged. But……Just kiddingneil: But yeah Chris, I wanted to ask about that. Did we see the death of tanking last night?Look at how much the results at the top differed from the ranking in order of worst records: tchow: Nate, I disagree with so much of that Venn diagram.natesilver: Hahaneil: As an Atlantan who also once worked for the Hawks, I guess I’ll take “basically OK.”chris.herring: Neil, I’m sure die-hard Hawks fans were disappointed last night. Basketball people seem to universally feel that would’ve been his best fit.Did you all see the video of Williamson hitting the Hawks logo twice before the lottery began? chris.herring: Yeah, that quote infuriated Bulls fans here. It read like something out of The Onion.tchow: LOLneil: Do the Pels have more or less leverage in an AD trade now than they did at the deadline?natesilver: Weirdly, they have less, because there’s no one who can trade them Zion!chris.herring: Exactly. Likely less leverage but more flexibility in terms of the path they take, since they can feel pretty comfortable about building their future around him.natesilver: Are people too confident that Memphis will take Ja Morant and not RJ Barrett? They both have one glaring flaw (Morant: defense, Barrett: shooting), and historically, you’d rather go with the guy who can fix his shooting than a guy who is probably too undersized to ever be a great defender. Barrett’s also almost a year younger.Just to show how much a year can matter, compare Morant’s stats this year vs. last year: neil: And how does either affect where Mike Conley goes? They were shopping him pretty aggressively at the deadline but didn’t find the right deal.natesilver: I don’t think Memphis has any business keeping Conley either way.chris.herring: I’m interested in that question, too.natesilver: And I’m not sure it affects their pick much. If you want Ja, you can keep him and use Conley as a mentor if you want.chris.herring: Memphis is one of the smaller markets in the league, and because of that, I think they maybe hold on to players a year or two longer than they should. Perhaps because of the ties those fans feel to certain players.Morant is seemingly good enough where you draft him and then figure out the answer to that question with Conley later.natesilver: The Grizzlies have historically been a bit allergic to high-usage-rate guys, and both Barrett and Morant use a lot of possessions, so in some ways neither one feels like a natural Grizzly.chris.herring: Morant is a great passer, too, though, and averaged a double-double with assists. So I’d hope they make an exception in this case.tchow: If I were the Grizzlies, I’d take RJ.chris.herring: Wow. Knick fans would love if you became the Grizzlies’ GM.natesilver: The thing that’s really hard to project with Barrett is his defense. A lot of the comparables are pretty unflattering because people want to typecast him as Andrew Wiggins 2.0, maybe just because they’re both Canadian. But Wiggins was thought of as a guy who was going to be a plus defender, and he’s been pretty darn terrible instead. If Barrett’s a good defender, though, you start getting into a whole different set of comps, more along the lines of Jimmy Butler (if he tamps down the usage rate a bit) or Victor Oladipo.neil: Just goes to show how much defense — which I think can go overlooked for prospects at times (and is difficult to predict out of college) — can really alter a player’s pro trajectory. This, from ESPN’s mock draft on Barrett, sounds like it’s ripped out of the Wiggins scouting report: “he wasn’t the defender his physical tools suggest he should have been.”chris.herring: In fairness, Morant’s defense isn’t all that great, either. That’s part of what makes the No. 1 pick so easy, among other things.natesilver: Barrett was a much better rebounder, which counts for something. A much better and more active passer. And he was using a ton of possessions, which sometimes yields lower effort on defense. And Duke played a very tough schedule.I don’t know. If Barrett had shot 38 percent from three instead of 31 percent, I think people would be talking about him and Williamson like it’s … I don’t know, the Kevin Durant/Greg Oden draft or something. And of course, you can’t just disregard the difference between 38 percent and 31 percent. But he’s a pretty spectacular prospect if he learns how to shoot.chris.herring: It’s so hard to tell in college. The shooting is somewhat predictive. But even if he had shot 38 percent this year, I think there would be room to ask whether it was completely real.I remember Justise Winslow shooting a pretty healthy percentage from out there during his lone year at Duke, but so many of the makes came with Jahlil Okafor being doubled in the post, which left Winslow wide-open a lot of the time. And then he initially struggled from three once he came into the league, which was what many folks predicted.natesilver: The low free-throw percentage is troubling for Barrett.Like, Jayson Tatum — a guy who’s been a much better 3-point shooter as a pro than people thought — shot free throws pretty darned well in college. Barrett didn’t.chris.herring: Completely agreed. That tends to have solid predictive value.neil: It’s also worth remembering that Barrett was actually the No. 1 prospect in that star-studded class going into their freshman seasons. But I’ve seen studies that indicate the weight given to even one year of college should far outweigh our priors for prospects coming out of high school.tchow: This chat is just becoming a conversation about how Duke players perform in the NBA.chris.herring: Seems fair to me: tchow: Out of RJ, Zion, Winslow and Tatum, who is the most likely to also believe the Earth is flat?natesilver: New Orleans is extremely flat, so I’m guessing it will be Zion after a few years.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

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6 Things You Should Know About Mondays NCAA Championship Game

VIDEO: Gonzaga has the numbers, but UNC has the pedigree Why North Carolina can win:Gonzaga has the nation’s eighth-tallest team this season, with its third-tallest frontcourt, thanks to the 7-footer pairing of Przemek Karnowski and Zach Collins. But the Bulldogs’ size might meet its match (or at least close to it) in the Tar Heels, who boast 6-foot-9 Isaiah Hicks and 6-foot-10 Kennedy Meeks down low, plus 6-foot-8 Justin Jackson on the wing and 6-foot-11 Tony Bradley coming off the bench. The Zags won’t easily be able to push around a UNC squad that leads the tournament in rebound margin (see the last 6 seconds of the Oregon game for more evidence there), nor will they likely be able to get the ball down low as frequently as they did against South Carolina, whom Gonzaga out-posted 20-8 in the national semifinals.No matter what criteria you use, North Carolina is the best team Gonzaga has faced all season long. According to Pomeroy’s rankings, before Monday’s tip-off, you’d have to go all the way back to Nov. 25, a game against No. 5-ranked Florida, to find Gonzaga facing a similar class of opponent — North Carolina is ranked No. 3. The Bulldogs also barely beat the only top-10 team they had to face during the tournament (West Virginia). Making the national title game is never easy, but the Zags haven’t exactly navigated the toughest path. So although the uncertainty about Gonzaga’s true quality has been reduced significantly over the past three weeks, it’s easy to see how UNC’s talent edge could lead to a comfortable Tar Heel victory.The stats say Gonzaga is the nation’s best team; the bookmakers disagree. As I mentioned above, Vegas quickly installed North Carolina as the favorites in the national title game, numbers be damned. Some of it might be due to residual skepticism over the Bulldogs’ rise. However, some of it might also be owed to North Carolina’s pedigree — the Tar Heels have the higher preseason ranking, the superior recruiting classes, the legendary coaching of Williams, and the benefit of experience as the team plays in its second straight title game and enjoys a huge lead in all-time Final Four appearances over Gonzaga. There’s evidence from other sports that factors like experience and pedigree matter in addition to a team’s statistical resume, so it may be that pure numbers are underestimating Carolina’s chances Monday night. After a couple of nail-biters in Phoenix on Saturday, we’re down to one game remaining in the 2016-17 NCAA men’s basketball season. So trust your gut and be sure to box out under the basket — here’s your cheat sheet of what to watch for in Monday night’s championship game.No. 1 Gonzaga vs. No. 1 North CarolinaWhere to watch: CBS, 9:20 PM EDTWho’s favored: According to the FiveThirtyEight model, Gonzaga has a 62 percent probability of winning the national championship. If that surprises you, you’re not alone — in a break with the stats, Vegas has the Tar Heels favored by 2 points. (More on that later.)Why Gonzaga can win:Simply put, the Zags are the statistical darlings of this championship game. They rank ahead of UNC not only in the FiveThirtyEight statistical power ratings, but also in those of college-hoops stats guru Ken Pomeroy, USA Today’s Jeff Sagarin, and plenty of other analysts. Going into the tournament, Gonzaga faced questions about whether its weak strength of schedule was properly accounted for in these systems’ various adjustments, but by now, even the most hardened Bulldogs skeptic has to admit that the Zags are for real. By the numbers, at least, Gonzaga deserves to have the edge.Gonzaga’s defense is the best in the country according to Pomeroy’s ratings. It specializes in forcing teams into poor shots in the half court by using a good transition D that takes away quick buckets — the Zags are allowing the 14th-fewest transition chances per play of any team in the tourney — and an impenetrable interior defense of preposterous size. That formula might be custom-made to defeat a North Carolina squad that is efficient in transition but hasn’t been very effective in the half court during the tournament thus far. I’d thought the Heels’ recent poor shooting might reverse itself against Oregon, but instead UNC had one of its worst nights of the season from the field. (Using a twice-injured Joel Berry II didn’t help — he went 2-for-14 from the floor, while teammate Isaiah Hicks went 1-for-12.) With one game left, against a team whose defensive strengths match up particularly well against North Carolina’s offensive tendencies, the Tar Heels might not be able to avoid another disappointing shooting night.Gonzaga’s coach is real good. So good that Mark Few deserves to be in the same conversation as great coaches such as, say, UNC’s Roy Williams. Few’s winning percentage speaks for itself; he also gets bonus points for showing a willingness to think outside the coaching box. At the end of the Zags’ win over South Carolina Saturday night, he elected to foul while up 3 — a logical risk that’s rarely taken in the ultra-conservative world of college coaching. Yes, the numbers are split on whether it’s always the right call in a generic sense, but by taking the chance at a game-tying shot away from SC’s best player and setting Gonzaga up to use its size advantage on the boards in the event of an intentionally missed free throw, Few eked out those last few points of win probability that the Bulldogs may have needed to advance. read more

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Defense weather dampen Ohio State offenses performance during Saturday scrimmage

When it rains, it pours, and Saturday’s dreary scrimmage proved true figuratively and literally for the Ohio State offense, which failed to score a single touchdown. The defense won the scrimmage, 74-62, (unofficially), before heavy rain and lightning caused an abrupt finish. With no completions and only two first downs in the first seven possessions, the offense could never get going against an inspired Buckeyes defense. The offense gave the ball away four times and mustered only 171 yards on 17 possessions. Leading the way for the defense was sophomore defensive tackle Jonathan Hankins, who had a tackle for loss, a sack and numerous stops on third-and-short, which the offense failed to convert four times. The scrimmage began with kick returns. Sophomore running back Jaamal Berry electrified the crowd with a 95-yard return for a touchdown up the right sideline. Jordan Hall also took a kick back to the 40 and Chris Fields had a return to the 47-yard line. When the offense took the field, it began backed up against its own goal line. It went three-and-out under senior quarterback Joe Bauserman, thanks in part to great pass defense from junior cornerback Travis Howard, who turned in yet another stellar performance. The next offensive set, Jaamal Berry rumbled for nine yards and had a huge collision with sophomore safety Jamie Wood. Wood left the game shortly after and did not return, saying his shoulder “popped out.” Redshirt freshman Taylor Graham continued to put the ball on the money, but numerous drops (five, unofficially, on Graham throws) bogged his stats down to 3-for-10 for 27 yards. Braxton Miller, the highly touted freshman quarterback, was 2-for-4 for 22 yards. The other quarterbacks fared no better, with sophomore Kenny Guiton going 3-for-7 for 31 yards with one interception, and Joe Bauserman hitting 1-for-4 for 11 yards, with one interception. Both interceptions were recorded by redshirt freshman cornerback Bradley Roby, both going through the hands of Corey “Philly” Brown and Jaamal Berry to reach Roby. The offense did not find any more luck on the ground. The leading rusher was redshirt freshman Roderick Smith, with six carries for 30 of the offense’s 80 total yards rushing. The entire defense looked stout, but freshman safety Jeremy Cash might have had the most impressive day. The Florida product had a number of tackles, including a big hit that jarred the ball loose from Verlon Reed, and was recovered by Dorian Bell. Cash also looked impressive in pass coverage, breaking up several passes. There were many hits that drew hoots and hollers from the crowd that braved the weather. Senior Florida State transfer Dionte Allen unloaded on Berry from his cornerback position, and sophomore defensive end Melvin Fellows drilled Guiton on a pass rush. Players out with injuries were Terrelle Pryor (he threw some in sweats), Donnie Evege (out for season), Zach Domicone (was seen icing his calf), Tyler Moeller (in full pads), Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown (in sweats) and CJ Barnett (in full pads). read more

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Sprinterhurdler Christina Manning wins OSUs Female Athlete of the Year

After winning a number of awards and honors throughout her career, 2012 graduate and sprinter and hurdler Christina Manning claimed another Tuesday when she was named the Ohio State 2011-12 Female Athlete of the Year.The announcement, which made Manning the first women’s track and field athlete to win the award since Donica Merriman in 2001, came three days after Manning won the national title in Saturday’s 100-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships.Manning completed the race in 12.89 seconds, holding off Clemson redshirt junior Brianna Rollins by just .02 seconds to win the NCAA title. With her victory, Manning became only the second outdoor national champion in OSU women’s track and field history, joining Merriman, whose national championship also came in 100-meter hurdles in 2001.Manning said winning a national title was meaningful for her.“It feels amazing,” Manning said in a press release. “I had to leave it all on the track.”Head coach Karen Dennis praised Manning.“Manning has been dominant in the 100-meter hurdles all year long, and she has again proven she’s the best collegiate hurdler in the country,” Dennis said in a press release. “She’s excited to have won and to move on to the next phase in her career … This championship will never be forgotten.”The OSU women scored 14 points in the championship meet, which began last Wednesday and concluded Saturday at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Manning’s individual victory scored 10 points for the team, and she was also part of the 4×100-meter relay team which scored four points. Manning, senior Christienne Linton, sophomore Aisha Cavin and junior Chesna Sykes combined to complete the relay in 43.88 seconds, which was good for a fifth-place finish.Manning, who is currently ranked ninth among all athletes worldwide in the 100-meter hurdles, plans to compete in the United States Olympic Trials, which will be held from June 21-July 1 in Eugene, Ore. Manning must finish in the top three at the trials to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.OSU’s point total earned them a 21st-place finish in the meet, their highest overall finish since 2001. Dennis said she was proud of her team’s effort.“(Saturday) was a very good day for our women’s track and field team,” Dennis said. “Our year has had many memorable moments.”OSU men’s track and field also ended up with a top-25 team finish by scoring 12 points in the meet, a result of three Buckeyes scoring points by finishing among the top eight in their events. The Buckeyes finished 23rd, their highest overall finish since 2000, while scoring their highest point total since 1993.OSU’s highest scorer was redshirt senior Cory Leslie, who finished third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in a time of 8 minutes, 40.98 seconds.Men’s track and field interim head coach Ed Beathea correctly predicted prior to the NCAA East Prelims that Leslie would be among the top finishers at the national championship meet.“Cory Leslie is probably in a great spot to really make an impact on the national championship meet,” Beathea told The Lantern on May 22.2012 graduate and thrower Matt DeChant and sophomore sprinter/hurdler Antonio Blanks also scored points for the Buckeyes. DeChant placed fifth in shot put with a throw of 19.57 meters, his best throw of the season. Blanks finished seventh in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.49 seconds.Manning, the women’s 4x100m relay team, Leslie, DeChant and Blanks each earned First-Team All-American recognition for their finishes in the top eight places. read more

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Ohio State quarterback situation daytoday playerbyplayer as spring practice begins

The OSU football team returned to the practice field on March 10 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, less than 2 months after the Buckeyes beat Oregon in the 1st-ever College Football Playoff National Championship. Credit: Tim Moody / Sports editorThe defending national champion Ohio State football team took the field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for the first time since walking off it in Arlington, Texas, less than two months ago.And for the first time since August, a familiar face emerged onto the field donning the No. 5.And no, it wasn’t Jeff Heuerman.Redshirt-senior quarterback Braxton Miller participated in spring drills in a limited role Tuesday, as he is still rehabbing the torn labrum in his throwing shoulder that held him out for the 2014 season. However, senior offensive lineman Taylor Decker said Miller’s presence was encouraging to see.“It’s good because people know his face around here. Even the young guys coming in, everybody knows Braxton,” Decker said. “It’s been awhile since he has been able to be out there with us.”Coach Urban Meyer said Miller has made multiple trips to Birmingham, Ala., to rehab the shoulder injury and added he is happy with Miller’s honesty concerning the injury.“Our day today was all about Braxton continuing along his journey to get healthy, which he has done an excellent job (with),” Meyer said. “I ask him everyday, ‘How’s it going?’ And he is man enough to tell me.”Not only was Miller on the field, but redshirt-sophomore quarterback and the 2014 Big Ten Freshman of the Year J.T. Barrett entered the practice facility as well.Barrett, though, is also coming back from a significant injury: a fractured ankle suffered against Michigan in the regular season finale.Meyer said the Wichita Falls, Texas, native is ahead of schedule on his rehab.“He was doing more than I thought he could,” Meyer said after practice. “We want to keep pushing him and get him healthy.”Barrett didn’t participate in the Buckeyes’ team stretches or light running drills before practice, but he joined the other quarterbacks for passing drills shortly after.Finally, redshirt-junior Cardale Jones was also back on the practice field for the first time since he led OSU to a 42-20 win against Oregon in the College Football Playoff National Championship. Jones was one of just two healthy scholarship quarterbacks on the practice field for the Buckeyes Tuesday, earning almost all the first-team reps.Even with the success of Barrett and Jones in Miller’s absence last season, Meyer said he has not discussed moving Miller to another position.“Our conversations are about health. I just want to see him get healthy,” Meyer said. “I think he can do whatever. He is athletic enough. But I still think he is a quarterback.”With three viable options at the quarterback position, Meyer said he isn’t worried about the production on the field with any of the three, but rather having to tell two of his quarterbacks no.“At some point there will be some (stress) because of the respect I have for those three guys. There is no stress at all as far as the functionality of the position,” Meyer said. “It’s the personalities, families and people involved. I have a lot of respect for those guys and everyone around here has seen what they have done.”For the other players, Decker said he doesn’t worry about the quarterback battle because of the confidence he has in all three.“I am going to let the coaches figure that out,” Decker said. “I know we have three great quarterbacks that can all play, and whoever they throw in there will be fine.”So with three stars at the position, only one of whom is healthy, how is Meyer approaching the competition with months until kickoff?“Day-to-day, player-by-player and that’s the focus,” he said. “How does it play out? I don’t know.”The Buckeyes are set to take the field at Ohio Stadium on April 18 for their annual Spring Game before starting the 2015 campaign on the road against Virginia Tech on Sept. 7. read more

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Best hospitals could buckle without emergency care funding boost

first_imgThe system was set up in a bid to encourage healthcare planners focus resources into help treating patients in the community, and reducing unnecessary admissions.However, NHS Providers says the tariff is not realistic, and ignores the fact that once patients are in hospital, their treatment needs to be paid for.In their submission they say: “Our central message is that there is a fundamental mismatch between the demand for emergency services and the resources made available for these services. Blurred hospital  Hospitals are struggling to cope with rising pressures, performance data shows Credit:PA “We do acknowledge there are opportunities for all providers to improve the services they deliver to patients. However, unless this national imbalance between demand for services and resources is redressed, even the most efficient and forward-looking organisations will be unable to cope with the increasing pressure on emergency care.”The organisation is calling for increased funding for key frontline services, such as A&E, and an end to a system which pays hospitals reduced rates for seeing more patients than was planned, and to penalty fines for those who readmit too many patients.Sivakumar Anandaciva, NHS Providers head of analysis said:  “A&E departments up and down the country are being placed under increasing pressure each year. Demands for their services are increasing but hundreds of millions of pounds in funding continues to be withheld from them.”Highlighting performance problems across the NHS, he said even the best hospitals were struggling.Latest figures show the number of elderly people needlessly stuck in hospital has reached record levels, with an 80 per cent rise in bed days lost to delayed discharges in five years. The monthly figures also show just 90.5 per cent of A&E patients were seen within four hours, against a target of 95 per cent – the worst June figures on record.Mr Andandaciva said: “Ultimately, you get what you pay for and it is hard to see how we can maintain high levels of A&E performance for patients within the funding we have available.”In May the NHS declared a deficit of £2.45bn. Since then investigations have revealed that NHS trusts are paying temporary managers rates of as much as £60,000 a month.The payment was revealed in a  Telegraph investigation which found soaring numbers of health service bureaucrats are being paid “off payroll” – despite repeated Government pledges to clamp down on the practice.A spokesman for NHS England said: “Fewer hospitals reported serious operational issues this winter than last and there was a significant reduction in trolley waits. Lobbying about the emergency tariff set by NHS Improvement completely misses the point that this year an extra £1.8 billion of funding is being allocated to hospitals providing emergency care, over and above their tariff payments.”Sucking more money out of GP services into hospitals as has happened over the last decade will only perpetuate these rising pressures and is at best a sticking plaster solution to a more fundamental set of challenges that requires stronger primary care and social care working in a joined up way with A&E departments.” Britain’s most efficient hospitals will collapse unless they are awarded more funding for emergency care, NHS trusts have claimed.Health service providers say funding systems for Accident & Emergency (A&E) departments are “fundamentally broken” and leaving hospitals unable to cover their bills.In evidence to a Commons Health Select Committee on winter pressures, they claim that a “national imbalance” between patient demand for services, and the funding received, means even the best hospitals will soon become unable to cope.The evidence comes amid growing concern about pressures on hospitals, which are already in the grip of the worst levels of bed-blocking on record.Yesterday plans emerged for hospitals to cancel thousands of operations and appointments in a desperate bid to stop the NHS “buckling” this winter. 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 Health officials are drawing up plans to help hospitals cope this winter Credit:Dominic Lipkinski/PA  Health officials are drawing up contingency measures to attempt to safeguard emergency care by diverting senior doctors from operating theatres into wards and A&E departments as winter sets in.The planning emerged in evidence to the select committee, which will next month open hearings examining the ability of the NHS to cope this winter.But in separate evidence to the committee, NHS Providers – which represents almost all NHS hospitals – said radical reform of the funding system was needed to prevent services failing.Under NHS funding systems, money is allocated to hospitals via more than 200 clinical commissioning groups.But under a national tariff which sets the rates for treatment, hospitals recoup less for their emergency admissions if they have more than was planned. NHS logo ‘Our central message is that there is a fundamental mismatch between the demand for emergency services and the resources made available for these services’NHS Providers, evidence to the Commons health select committeelast_img read more

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Decline of the twoweek break as holidaymakers opt for 10 days away

first_imgOne-day holidays across the Channel, often used to pick up alcohol and cigarettes, have collapsed because of the weaker pound and the end of duty-free sales within the EU, the ONS report added.  Elevated view over Stari Grad (Old Town) illuminated at sunrise, Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, Croatia For many a fortnight in the south of France used to be the staple family summer holiday. But the traditional two-week break is in decline as holidaymakers opt for 10-day trips and travel further afield, new figures show. Younger travellers are making the most of their holiday allowance by taking lots of small trips throughout the year – meaning their long summer break has become shorter. Short holidays are becoming more common as travellers take advantage of cheap flights and more flexible package trips. While 14-day holidays abroad have fallen from 5.27m to 3.76m, the number of 10-day breaks increased from 629,241 in 1996 to 2.4m in 2016. Young people do their best to break up the depressing winter months by booking short holidays in January and February – leaving less time for their summer break.Fergal McGivney, technology and travel analyst at Mintel, said: “The trend now is for younger consumers in particular to try and fit in as many holidays as possible, so they have their main holiday in the summer which they supplement with multiple trips throughout the year”. Travel companies say cheap flights mean customers are now less reluctant to go away for short periods. “Ryanair played a big part in this, with their basic model – so instead of offering a BA-type service, they operated a high-volume, no-frills model.  Destinations such as Dubrovnik are accessible thanks to cheap flightsCredit:Doug Pearson/Getty Images Contributor “What they also did was expand the route network to places like Krakow in Poland, so short trips became more affordable,” added Mr McGivney. A ferry of the trans-Channel ferry company SeaFrance is seen berthed in the harbour in Calais, northern France.center_img “Many of these visits were “booze cruises” – journeys across the English Channel to stock up on alcohol and cigarettes – which are no longer as cost-efficient as they used to be. Duty-free sales within the EU ended in 1999, France has been ratcheting up the price of cigarettes since 2000, and in recent years the pound has fallen in value against the euro,” it said. Sean Tipton, of the Association of British Travel Agents, said much of the shift was also down to the expansion of possible destinations and holiday lengths as package providers offered more options. “There’s a much greater spread of options now than there was in the 1990s. Then, when you took a package holiday, you had to opt for 14 or seven days, whereas now there’s much more flexibility,” he said.  This model is now being expanded to long-haul by firms such as Norwegian Air – allowing travellers to go for short hops to the Gulf and USA. Rachel O’Reilly, of travel firm Kuoni, said that direct flights to destinations such as Las Vegas and Dubai meant holidaymakers were going there for as little as five days. “People’s confidence in travel has grown in a generation,” she said. “It’s about people being smarter with the 24 or 25 days of holiday they have.”There are also more weekend breaks. People even do ‘mini-moons’ – where they take one short honeymoon in somewhere like Italy right after they marry, and another, longer trip further afield later in the year.”The ONS data shows that travel to the United Arab Emirates has expanded rapidly, increasing from just 30,000 visits in 1996 to 565,000 in 2016. Meanwhile British visits to France – once the destination of default because of the ease of reaching it by ferry – have fallen from 6.08m in 1996 to 5.56m in 2016.  A trip across the Channel in a ferry is no longer the default optionCredit:PASCAL ROSSIGNOL Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

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Students warned not to rely on dangerous sexual consent apps which risk

first_img“People can change their mind at any stage of a sex encounter. Even if you are part way through intercourse, if someone decides they do not want to carry on they are perfectly entitled to say stop and if the person doesn’t stop it becomes a sexual offence.“How are they going to prove that it was the person who ticked the box? What is to stop them going on to someone else’s phone?” Digitally savvy young men and women risk being lured into a false sense of security Ms Adamson said that the app can give a false impression by reducing a complex area of law to a simple swipe. She warned that apps such as this present a “real danger” for young people, particularly at universities.“That is when people have left home, and they fall into the trap of being a little naive about what is allowed and socially acceptable,” she said.“You can get lured into a sense of what is right and what is wrong. You could end up criminalising someone who isn’t really a sexual predator, but who believed they had consent.”LegalFling requires both individuals to agree to a “legally-binding contract”, which can include elements such as whether or not they will use a condom and that neither has any sexually-transmitted infections. Students have been warned not to rely on “dangerous” sexual consent apps, as experts say that they could leave “naive” youngsters criminalised.Apps such as the recently launched LegalFling – whose creators boasts that it can “verify explicit consent before having sex” and “create a legally binding agreement” – would not hold up in court, according to an expert in criminal law.It is the latest in a series of smartphone apps which promise users that they can be used to demonstrate both parties have consented to sex. Rick Schmitz, CEO of the Ditch company LegalThings and creator of LegalFling, has said with the new app “a simple swipe to consent is enough to legally justify the fling”.But Rachel Adamson, a criminal lawyer at Slater and Gordon, said any such claims are simply “not true”, and risk luring digitally savvy young men and women into a false sense of security.“What they are trying to do is say that they have a defence [against a claim of sexual assault] and that is consent,” she said.“What it doesn’t take into account is someone may say yes on an app, but that doesn’t mean to say that you are obliged to go through with it. Digitally savvy young men and women risk being lured into a false sense of securityCredit:Chris Radburn Earlier this week, a judge criticised police and prosecutors after the case against Oliver Mears, 19, was dropped just days before his trial. Mr Mears, of Horley, Surrey, spent two years on bail accused of raping and assaulting a woman in July 2015 when he was only 17. The app logs the contract and records it on blockchain technology – the same encrypted technology that forms the basis for bitcoin and other secure cryptocurrencies.It is designed to run on both iPhones and Android devices, but it is yet to be accepted onto the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. LegalFling requires both individuals to agree to a "legally-binding contract" On the Frequently Asked Questions section of LegalFling’s website, “Is it legally binding?” is among the questions.“The application generates a Live Contract, which is a legally binding agreement,” it says. “Just remember, the app is about setting clear rules and boundaries, not breaking them. To which extent the contract holds up in court depends on your country of residence.”Sir Anthony Seldon, vice-Chancellor of Buckingham University, said students who use sexual consent apps “could be opening themselves up to risk”, adding that they present moral as well as legal problems.“Those things that make sex into a commodity are really unhelpful for fulfillment in life,” he said. “It sounds like a terrible idea, the purveyors will make money but will bring misery.“Legally it seems high risky, it is going to always be open to interpretation.  It will make people vulnerable to allegations.”The warnings come after it emerged that a series of blunders led to the collapse of the prosecution of an Oxford University student for rape. 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. LegalFling requires both individuals to agree to a “legally-binding contract”Credit: DIETER NAGLlast_img read more

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