The AliFrazier Battle Of Internet Chess Is Happening This Week

You’re reading Back of the Envelope, an experiment that aims to bring shorter, quicker content to FiveThirtyEight. Magnus Carlsen, the Norwegian chess grandmaster and No. 1-ranked chess player in the world, is just over two weeks away from defending his world championship in New York City. It’ll be a grueling test, with hours-long games spread out over 19 days, but Carlsen will be the heavy favorite. But rather than poring over potential opening moves or studying the intricacies of endgames, he’s heading to the internet to play some speed chess.Thursday, Carlsen will play Hikaru Nakamura, the four-time U.S. chess champion, in Chess.com’s online Grandmaster Blitz Battle final, which the site is billing as the Ali vs. Frazier of online chess. In the world championship for chess with “classical” time controls, each player gets at least 100 minutes for all his or her moves. But Thursday’s blitz battle will feature a series of games wherein the players get just 5 minutes, 3 minutes and, finally, 1 minute per side.According to the latest FIDE list, a ranking that uses Elo ratings and in-person results, Carlsen and Nakamura are the second- and third-best blitz players in the world, respectively. (China’s Liren Ding is No. 1.) But according to Chess.com’s newly developed Computer Accuracy & Precision Score (or CAPS), Nakamura may have a slight edge in speed games over the world champion. CAPS is based on a comparison between the humans’ actual moves and the moves deemed best by a computer.You can watch the match, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern, on Chess.com and Twitch. And if you can’t wait, here’s an appetizer — the two grandmasters playing a private speed game in a hotel room a few years ago: Share on Facebook read more

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When Did Sports Become So Political

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 28, 2017), we’re joined by New York magazine’s Reeves Wiedeman, who dropped by to discuss his article on recent political activism by athletes. Next, Michael Caley of ESPN FC and “The Double Pivot” podcast helps us break down Claudio Ranieri’s firing from Leicester City — not even a full year after the soccer team’s Premier League title win. Finally, ESPN baseball writer Sam Miller helps us imagine who the best baseball player would be in a world without stats. Plus, a significant digit on women’s basketball.Links to what we discussed this week:Reeves Wiedeman’s article on the rise of athlete activism.Firing Claudio Ranieri won’t fix Leicester City’s problems, writes Tim Wigmore for FiveThirtyEight.Catch more of Michael Caley’s soccer observations over on the “The Double Pivot” podcast.How do you determine baseball’s greatest player in a world without stats? Sam Miller lays out his theories.Significant Digit: 3,397, the number of career points that University of Washington senior Kelsey Plum has scored in her career for the Huskies. She broke the all-time NCAA women’s record on Saturday, with a 57-point game. read more

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The Dodgers Dominated Like Few Pennant Winners In Recent History

2017LADARI34.11CHC55.8789.98-1.98 Which pennant winners cruised through the fieldLeague winners who took the fewest games in the Division Series and Championship Series relative to expected, 1995-2017 42010Texas Rangers5932+27 72009New York Yankees4825+23 RUNS 42005Chicago White Sox4720+27 32017Los Angeles Dodgers4819+29 101995Atlanta Braves4624+22 YEARTEAMOPP.GMSEXP. GMSOPP.GMSEXP. GMSGMSEXP. GMSDIFF 12007Boston Red Sox7036+34 When the Los Angeles Dodgers open up the World Series next week against either the New York Yankees or Houston Astros, they’ll be in the midst of one of the hottest playoff runs by a league champion in recent memory. They smoked the Arizona Diamondbacks and the defending-champion Chicago Cubs by a combined 48-19 margin, giving them the third-best run differential in the division and championship series1So, excluding the wild card game. of any pennant winner since MLB expanded its playoff structure in 1995: 72002Anaheim Angels6037+23 Expected games is determined by how long it would take the average playoff team to eliminate the team’s LDS and LCS opponents.Source: Baseball-Reference.com Top pennant winners by run differential1995-2017 62009Philadelphia Phillies5531+24 2005CHWBOS34.15ANA55.89810.03-2.03 1999NYYTEX34.10BOS55.8889.98-1.98 Includes Division Series and League Championship Series; wild card games not included.Source: Retrosheet LDSLCSTOTAL And the way the Dodgers blew away the National League field was especially impressive. They swept Arizona in three games, then won the first three games of the NLCS over Chicago, ultimately finishing the Cubs off in five. In other words, they needed only eight games to reach the World Series — that’s nearly two fewer than we’d have expected from a typical pennant winner against LA’s opponents, based on their Elo ratings:2To compute this, I used Elo to generate the probability of the average pennant winner winning each game of a series against a team’s opponents. Using those numbers and a little math, we can calculate how often we’d expect those series to end in a given number of games. Between these two measures, the Dodgers’ 2017 postseason run has to be on the short list for most dominant in modern history. It’s no guarantee they’ll win the Fall Classic, of course — among the eight teams above them on either list, only the 2007 Red Sox, 2005 White Sox and 1999 Yankees ended up actually winning the World Series. But for now, the Dodgers can celebrate their National League pennant in style. 21996Atlanta Braves5423+31 2016CLEBOS34.16TOR55.88810.03-2.03 RKYEARTEAMSCOREDALLOWEDDIFFERENTIAL 2006DETNYY44.14OAK45.88810.01-2.01 2007COLPHI34.11ARI45.6679.77-2.77 2014KCRANA34.13BAL45.8379.95-2.95 101995Cleveland Indians4018+22 2009NYYMIN34.11ANA65.93910.03-1.03 2012DETOAK54.13NYY45.8399.96-0.96 1995ATLCOL44.07CIN45.8789.94-1.94 72008Tampa Bay Rays6441+23 read more

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Frances Benchwarmers Are Worth More Than Most Starting Lineups

Sidibe0.099027 France manager Didier Deschamps was in an enviable position entering the World Cup — if things weren’t clicking going forward, he knew he could turn to Ousmane Dembélé, Nabil Fekir or Thomas Lemar to provide an offensive spark. The three attack-minded players are worth a combined $241 million on the open market. But that $241 million worth of soccer ability has gone mostly unused; the trio has combined for zero goals and zero assists and has added just 0.34 combined expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes. The rest of the French bench has been similarly unproductive. Despite its massive price tag, the bench of Les Bleus has been relatively invisible compared with the benches of the other semifinalists: It has added the fewest expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes, with just 0.6 for the entire tournament. Dembele0.12165$94m France enters today’s semifinal match against neighboring Belgium as the favorite to win the 2018 World Cup. At least on paper, though, France has been the least remarkable team of the four that remain: Les Bleus have scored fewer goals than each of the other semifinalists, they’ve possessed less of the ball than two of the other semifinalists, and they’ve taken the fewest shots.Advancing to the World Cup semifinals is no small feat — and, indeed, France’s impressive 4-3 win over Argentina in the round of 16 was the most thrilling match of the tournament so far — but the offensive numbers to this point don’t exactly suggest that France has done enough to enter the penultimate stage as favorites.But when you take a look at the French roster’s combined market value, it begins to make more sense.According to TransferMarkt.com, a website that lists the market value of each player in world soccer, the French roster is valued at more than $1.2 billion, which is significantly higher than the other semifinalists. France’s starting roster is the most valuable in the tournament,1We’re defining “starting roster” as a best estimate of each team’s starting field players — excluding goalkeepers, whose values don’t vary as widely — based on its round of 16 match. We looked at the most recent game played for each team and adjusted for likely roster changes. For example, Blaise Matuidi had to miss France’s quarterfinal matchup against Uruguay because of an accumulation of yellow cards. Corentin Tolisso started in Matuidi’s place, but we’ve counted Tolisso on France’s bench. And though Edinson Cavani missed Uruguay’s quarterfinal match against France due to injury, we included him in La Celeste’s starting lineup for these purposes. The same goes for James Rodríguez for Colombia. and France’s bench alone is more valuable than the starting rosters of 11 teams that made it through the group stage to the round of 16, including Uruguay, Portugal, Argentina and potential championship match opponents Croatia. And that’s not to mention some of the players France left home, such as Karim Benzema, Adrien Rabiot, Kingsley Coman and Alexandre Lacazette — all of whom are worth at least $45 million. N’Zonzi0.0210135 Lemar0.119076 A bleu bench, freighted with goldTransfer value and production at the 2018 World Cup for France’s reserves* Total0.60811499 Tolisso0.0517347 * Not including goalkeepers.Source: Transfermarkt, ESPN Stats & Information Kimpembe0.009035 Fekir0.116171 PlayerExpected goals plus assists per 90 min.Minutes playedTransfer value Thauvin0.00159 Mendy0.104047 Rami0.0008 Belgium’s bench — primarily on the back of Michy Batshuayi — has added a whole three more expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes than its rival semifinalists, while England’s has added 1.4 more. Croatia’s 0.9 expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes from the bench isn’t much better than France’s — but then again the Croatian bench is about 30 percent as valuable as the French.2To be clear, the transfer market is vulgar — for so many reasons — and national teams shouldn’t be judged by the feverish expenditures of the handful of billionaires who dictate all this buying and selling.Some of this difference in usage can be explained by injuries, yellow and red card troubles, and tactical shifts: The clash between Belgium and England in their third match of the group stage was relatively meaningless because each team had already punched its ticket to the knockouts, so players outside each team’s traditional starting 11 got to see more playing time than they might have in a game with more serious implications. France’s bench has provided the least help in terms of expected goals plus assists per 90 minutes, but France’s bench has also played the fewest minutes of the semifinalists. Part of this is a product of situation: Except for a brief window where the French fell behind Argentina, they haven’t reached a desperation point — either within a single game or going into a match — where more attacking help was needed off the bench.Aside from perhaps Germany, which flamed out of the tournament in historic fashion, France may have had the deepest pool of talent entering the 2018 World Cup. But so far, that pool hasn’t yielded much beyond what the starting 11 has provided. Les Bleus may be able to claim their second FIFA World Cup trophy without the help of their bench, but the task will be made easier if those players contribute as much as the handful of club owners who pull the transfer market strings believe they can.Check out our latest World Cup predictions.CORRECTION (July 10, 2018, 11:30 a.m.): An earlier version of this story said France didn’t qualify for the round of 16 as early as Belgium and England did. All three teams were guaranteed spots after the second game of the group stage. read more

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Ja Morant Would Like Your Attention

Morant’s scoring acumen often manifests in transition, where he spends more time (6.8 possessions per game) and pours in more points (8.4) than any player in the country. With the dexterity to finish with either hand, around or over defenders, he doesn’t lack efficiency, scoring 1.24 points per possession on the break with an adjusted field-goal percentage of 74.7, according to data provided by Synergy Sports.Morant lives at the rim, where he attempts more than half of his shots, according to Hoop-Math.com. Every player this season7With at least 40 percent of a team’s minutes. with a better field-goal percentage at the rim than Morant’s 61.6 percent is at least 4 inches taller than he is.Defensively, Morant has work to do. But his long arms make him a nuisance for opposing ball handlers, and he’s tied for second in the OVC in steals per contest (2.0). Despite his thin frame, Morant has been particularly efficient in isolation and against screens, where he’s allowed a combined 19 points on 29 possessions, according to data provided by Synergy Sports. Total Win Shares 201010P. GeorgeFresno St.WAC33.663.1+29.5 201310C.J. McCollumLehighPatriot33.626.3-7.3 It seems that a stat line can only stay quiet for so long.Morant is putting up unprecedented numbers: 23.9 points, 10.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. Nobody at the college level has come close to hitting those benchmarks,4Since the 1992-93 season, the earliest for which Sports-Reference.com has data. and only James Harden has done it in the pros. Morant is vying to become the first player since assist leaders were recognized to average 20 points and 10 assists over a season. Only 10 players in the past 25 years have even averaged 16 and 8.Morant’s high-flying heroics give off the impression of a trapeze artist. But he’s more of a tactician, capable of diagnosing a defense in a split second and shredding it.There has perhaps never been a better facilitating season than the one Morant is producing, which includes, but isn’t limited to, half-court lobs, off-handed flicks and peek-a-boo bullets to the baseline. “I’ve never seen anyone, ever, able to pass like him,” Bradley said. “He’s stunning and seems to be a couple steps ahead of everybody.”Morant’s 53.3 percent assist rate is projected to be the top mark ever measured5Since 2009-10. and is 6.1 percentage points higher than this year’s second-place mark.6From Sam Houston State’s Xavier Bryant. In total, Morant is projected to finish the regular season with 296 dimes, which would be the sixth most over the past 25 years in a single season.As his talent suggests, Morant is heavily relied upon. Only five players have logged a higher percentage of minutes played than Morant’s 93.1, and coach Matt McMahon is using his star on 35.8 percent of possessions, the fifth-highest rate in the country. Turnovers have come easily for Morant, but it would tough to blame the kid for coughing it up when he’s tasked with operating the offense each time down the court. With fewer than 15 seconds to go in a November game, Ja Morant received an inbounds pass, dribbled the length of the court with his left hand, slipped past a would-be double team, skied over two defenders, pulled the ball back as far as his right shoulder would allow and threw down a ferocious tomahawk dunk. Moments later, the Murray State guard corralled an errant 3-pointer by a teammate in midair and jammed in his 37th and 38th points of the night.The Racers ultimately lost on the road to Alabama, but Morant earned a standing ovation at Coleman Coliseum.Afterward, Alabama coach Avery Johnson compared the skill set of the 6-foot-3 sophomore, who scored more points against Alabama than all but two players had since 2010, to that of Isaiah Thomas, John Stockton and Russell Westbrook.“I saw flashbacks of a lot of guys I played against,” Johnson said.Morant is months away from possibly making mid-major history in the NBA draft. While plenty of players have been drafted out of mid-major programs, few have been lottery picks — and fewer still came from conferences that have made fewer than 100 tournament appearances.1This excludes the Power Five conferences, the Big East, the American, the Atlantic 10, the Mountain West, the West Coast and Conference USA. Morant will likely become the first player this century from such a school to be selected in the top 5 of the NBA draft. Some mocks have him going as high as second. As the chart below demonstrates, there haven’t been many NBA lottery picks from mid-major conferences lately. But some of these picks have gone on to dominate: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Paul George. Jacksonville State2,2323,718+66.6 UT Martin1,2533,114+148.5 Total Includes only schools from conferences with fewer than 100 NCAA men’s tournament appearances; based on conference alignment at the time.Win shares through Feb. 13, 2019.Source: Sports-Reference.com 200812J. ThompsonRiderMAAC30.223.8-6.4 20069P. O’BryantBradleyMVC35.60.5-35.1 Home TeamNon-Murray State Avg.Vs. Murray% Change Eastern Illinois1,2112,410+99.0 Players who got their start at small schoolsExpected career win shares based on draft position and actual win shares to date for NBA draft lottery picks from mid-major and low-major schools, 2000-2018 It isn’t all that uncommon for NBA teams to take a flier on a mid-major player in the draft. But Morant hardly has the typical backstory of an under-the-radar prospect, nor the skill set. With abnormal athleticism and uncanny court vision, Morant will be playing on national television sooner rather than later.“It’s been a lot of fun,” Bradley said of Morant’s rise. “It’s the craziest stuff I’ve ever seen.” Compared with its other conference home games, Eastern Illinois brought in nearly twice as many fans when it played Murray State. Jacksonville State sold out Pete Mathews Coliseum for the first time since the program turned Division 1. Bradley said he’s seen a noticeable attendance bump wherever Morant goes. About 50 Tennessee Tech fans lined up after their game in the hopes of taking a photo with the soon-to-be pro, according to Bradley. Morant obliged. SIU Edwardsville1,1272,178+93.3 200013C. AlexanderFresno St.WAC28.74.1-24.6 20126D. LillardWeber St.Big Sky43.266.3+23.1 SE Missouri St.1,3913,143+126.0 20036C. KamanC. MichiganMAC43.224.6-18.6 Sources: Sports-Reference.com, ESPN YearPickPlayerSchoolConf.ExpActualDiff 20097S. CurryDavidsonSouthern40.3100.5+60.2 379.5327.7-51.8 201410E. PaytonLa. LafayetteSun Belt33.612.2-21.4 200212M. ElyFresno St.WAC30.24.0-26.2 When he’s inevitably drafted, Morant will be the third Murray State guard taken since 2013. Isaiah Canaan and Cameron Payne have struggled to secure a foothold in the league. But Neal Bradley, a Hall of Fame broadcaster who has spent nearly three decades covering the Racers, told me that he doesn’t think the upgraded competition will flatline Morant, pointing to his strong outings against Auburn and Alabama, two teams projected to appear in the NCAA Tournament. Morant earned a co-sign from Kevin Durant on The Bill Simmons Podcast. Missouri State coach Dana Ford, who coached against Morant and his Racer predecessors, didn’t mince words: “He is by far the best prospect of the three. … He’s a little bit of John Wall mixed with Chris Paul. He’s special.”Morant’s ascension is the stuff screenwriters dream up. He was a mostly overlooked kid from rural South Carolina who landed at an out-of-state university after a coach almost literally stumbled upon him. A year ago, he wasn’t even named the top freshman in the Ohio Valley Conference. Now, he’s a bona fide star and budding internet sensation.But those YouTube clips are the extent of Morant’s exposure. While Zion Williamson, who almost certainly will be the first name called by Adam Silver, effectively plays only on major networks, the Racers have yet to appear on ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FS1 or CBS. Murray State’s tilt Thursday against Austin Peay is slated to be televised on ESPN2, but that’s the only remaining game scheduled for the aforementioned networks.2Of course, this is because of conference broadcast agreements — or lack thereof — for the Ohio Valley Conference, which has a partnership with recently launched ESPN+. During an interview on the ESPN show “Get Up!,” one of Morant’s questions was even about Williamson.Morant’s second triple-double in less than a year — and the school’s third ever — came in front of a crowd of 2,701. When he became the first Division 1 player in 20 years to put up 40 points, 11 assists and five steals in a game,3As well as the first player in two decades to sink all 21 free-throw attempts in a game. fewer than 2,200 people were there. A viral leapfrog dunk over 6-foot-8 Quintin Dove was seen in person by 3,114.However, within the OVC, the interest bump created by Morant’s presence is evident. Each of the six conference teams that have hosted Murray State drew their largest home crowds of the conference season when Morant came to town. 201514C. PayneMurray St.OVC27.32.3-25.0 Morant is a hot ticketAttendance this season in the Ohio Valley Conference for teams hosting Murray State vs. their other home conference games Tennessee Tech2,0075,250+161.6 read more

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The Spurs Defense Against Corner Threes Is Stellar Its Also Invisible

Welcome to Four-Point Play, our weekly NBA column that pieces together four statistical trends from around the league and lays out what they tell us about where a team has been or where it’s heading. Find a stat you think should be included here? Email or tweet me at chris.herring@fivethirtyeight.com or @Herring_NBA.It’s nothing new to hear the San Antonio Spurs described as machinelike. But far too often that label seems to focus solely on the team’s offensive precision as opposed to the club’s perennially outstanding defense.No team over the past two decades has been better at getting stops than the Spurs, who not only stand as the NBA’s best defense this year, but have ranked among the top 10 in defensive efficiency in 17 of the past 20 seasons.In particular, dating back to last season, the Spurs have been fantastic at taking away corner 3-pointers, arguably the most valuable shot in basketball. But is some of that due to sheer luck?San Antonio, after holding opponents to 33 percent from the corners last season (second best, behind the Clippers), is limiting foes to an NBA-low 33 percent again this season. Seems simple enough! Yet those gaudy numbers are harder to explain when you look closely at another set of numbers: The Spurs are often nowhere to be found when opposing teams take corner 3’s. Last year, according to data compiled by SportVU client manager Matt Scott at FiveThirtyEight’s request, the Spurs contested 35 percent of corner 3’s, seventh-lowest in the league; this year, they’re third from the bottom with a similar rate. The Bulls’ spacing problems get even worseEven before the season, we knew the Chicago Bulls, for all the big names they’d tout in their backcourt, would struggle with outside shooting this season. That’s what happens when you sign Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade — neither of whom is a good perimeter jumpshooter — to play next to Jimmy Butler, one of the league’s best talents but not the greatest outside shooter himself.With both Wade and Butler having missed time this month because of illness and injury, coach Fred Hoiberg has turned to a duo that has things even more cramped than usual.Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams, likely the NBA’s worst-shooting tandem, have shared the court for 28 minutes this month. In that span, they’ve posted a horrendous -46.5 net rating, which measures a team’s point differential per 100 possessions. Even more noteworthy: For the season, Chicago’s lineups including those two this season have scored just 87.5 points per 100 plays, more than eight points worse per 100 possessions than any other Bulls two-man configuration with at least 50 minutes under its belt, per NBA.com.Opposing defenses, feeling unthreatened by Carter-Williams and Rondo — who’ve shot a combined 28 percent (25-of-88) from outside of 10 feet when given six feet or more of space to shoot — have camped in the paint, sealing off the team’s ability to get to the basket.As such, just 21 percent of Chicago’s shots have come from within three feet of the rim with the two of them playing side by side, per NBA Wowy2Numbers from this site are through Monday’s games., which tracks team statistics with different lineup combinations. By contrast, the Bulls get 27 percent of their shots near the basket with just Carter-Williams, and 31 percent of their attempts at the rim with just Rondo.So for the Bulls’ sake — and our eyesight’s — let’s hope this lineup is only playing out of necessity these past few games.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Who’s Going Where As The NBA Trade Deadline Approaches? Related: Hot Takedown Unlike when the Spurs played in the cavernous Alamodome, where players complained about struggling with depth perception, there isn’t a clear explanation as to how the Spurs defend corner 3’s so much better than other teams without actually defending them.But while the numbers may represent an aberration — there’s an intelligent argument to be made that 3-point defense is somewhat random — a couple of things could explain how San Antonio has avoided getting burned from the corners. Last season, for example, the Spurs played in a division where the majority of the teams were among the NBA’s worst at connecting on corner 3-point tries. That meant they got to play against Memphis (worst), New Orleans (third-worst) and Houston (ninth-worst) four times each, whereas the majority of clubs wouldn’t have had that same opportunity. (Still, that wouldn’t explain this season, given that the Rockets, Pelicans and Mavericks are all hitting corner 3s at about league-average rates, while the Grizzlies rank third best in the NBA in the category so far.)Beyond that, there’s also the fact that San Antonio’s players are tied for the league lead in terms of how fast they move on defense, according to SportVU’s tracking, perhaps forcing opposing players to pull the trigger a split-second sooner than they otherwise would. Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the team’s two best wing defenders, have been impactful when contesting shots, holding shooters to a combined 5-of-24 this season when closing out on corner three-point shooters.John Wall’s ability to change speedsIf you’re an NBA defender, you don’t want to see Wizards point guard John Wall approaching you at full speed. He’s lethal in the open court, and is just as comfortable finding a teammate in transition as he is dunking with his left hand. But for how speedy Wall can be in the open court, there are indications that the all-star floor general — in the midst of a career year — has a keen sense of precisely when to turn on the jets.When playing his hardest, according to an analysis run by SportVU data analyst Brittni Donaldson at FiveThirtyEight’s request, Wall is the NBA’s fastest player by far with the ball this season. His max speed is just over 19 miles per hour, per SportVU, a full 10 percent faster than Phoenix’s Eric Bledsoe, who ranked second in the database.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/wallsprint.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.In analyzing the data1SportVU compiled this research by tracking every time a guard or small forward covered 20 feet or more within three dribbles after a defensive rebound or turnover, with the first dribble occurring in the backcourt and the third dribble being in the frontcourt. more closely, though, there are key differences between someone like Wall and an aggressive player like Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook, who also ranks among the NBA’s top five players in max speed. Where Westbrook ranks eighth in the league average speed while dribbling the ball, Wall drops all the way to 61st (out of 132 wing players) on average.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/walljog.mp400:0000:0000:13Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.That highlights Wall’s ability to play at vastly different tempos — much like a power pitcher also having a reliable off-speed pitch — to keep the defense off balance. And it partially explains how Washington is able to maintain one of the league’s most efficient offenses, in both early and late shot-clock situations.Fast-paced Nuggets are not forcing turnoversGoing all the way back to the mid-1970s, before they were even part of the NBA, the Denver Nuggets have long played at a nauseatingly fast pace. Larry Brown, Doug Moe, Paul Westhead and George Karl were all Nuggets coaches who emphasized speed, making Denver perhaps more closely tied to the notion of uptempo basketball than any other NBA team over time.There was some strategy to it. Because the Nuggets play their home games at a high altitude, they figured it would benefit them to run their opponents — who may be feeling oxygen deprivation and fatigue — ragged during contests. As such, they often made teams pay for their mistakes; especially from 2003-04 to 2012-13, when they finished among the league’s top-five in points off turnovers nine times.But this year’s club hasn’t been able translate the frenetic tempo into turnovers. In fact, Nuggets’ opponents are turning the ball over just 10.9 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest rate since the NBA began tracking turnovers in 1977-78, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.The biggest reason for the shift: For how fast Denver plays, the club isn’t as small as the rest of the league. The Nuggets, boasting a roster loaded with big men, play a more conservative brand of defense and put less pressure on the ball than almost any other team. As NBA.com’s John Schuhmann pointed out, Denver generally doesn’t hound pick-and-roll ball handlers as they come off screens, allowing them to shoot more often than any team outside of Utah. Giving that much free space inherently limits the number of turnovers the Nuggets can create. (Also of note: They force the third-fewest deflections in the NBA and — unlike the aforementioned Spurs, who fly around defensively — are the league’s slowest defensive unit.)As such, you get an unusual result: Seeing a historically up-tempo team like the Nuggets ranking dead last in the NBA in points off turnovers. Should they stay in the basement, it’d mark the first time since 1996-97 that Denver finished last in that regard. read more

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The Odds Youll Fill Out A Perfect Bracket

5621,245,078,766 2481,943,573 ROUNDCUMULATIVE GAMESCUMULATIVE ODDS (1 IN …) 6632,150,573,838 So the odds against a perfect first round — or even a flawless Sweet 16 — aren’t astronomical, as far as these kinds of things go. Still, a perfect bracket, the crown jewel of March Madness picking, will probably remain out of reach for another year, doomed behind a wall of probabilities that multiply themselves into oblivion.For those curious, here’s what our model says the cumulative odds are of making it through each round of the 2017 NCAA men’s tournament with a perfect bracket intact: Right now, at this very moment, your bracket is unblemished, and it seems so clear how it will stay that way: This upset is so obvious, and that top seed is definitely making it to the Final Four. You’ve done your research, and 2017 is the year it will all pay off. Forget winning the office pool — you’re destined for a perfect run of picks.If you’re really lucky, that feeling will last about halfway through the first day of games of the men’s tournament, on Thursday.Even one full day of perfection would be a big accomplishment. When we looked at actual results from ESPN’s Tournament Challenge back in 2015,1Excluding the play-in games, which take place before the contest’s picks are finalized. only 273 of the 11.6 million brackets that were filled out for the contest escaped the tourney’s first day unscathed. Making it through six rounds’ worth of picks without a miscue is all but impossible.Putting an exact number on the odds of a perfect bracket, though, is a fun exercise. The oft-quoted number — 1 in 9.2 quintillion — is derived from treating all 63 games like coin flips, which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because that’s not how most people make their selections. But even if you use a more sophisticated picking method — like, say, FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions — the chances of perfection are still in the neighborhood of 1 in 2 billion, depending on the year. Odds that the FiveThirtyEight model’s initial picks are perfect, by round 1323,426 No wonder Warren Buffett discontinued his $1 billion perfect-bracket contest back in 2015.Buffett did make things a bit easier in his follow-up contest, which pays $1 million a year for life to any Berkshire Hathaway employee who correctly picks the entire Sweet 16. According to the FiveThirtyEight model, the odds of doing that this year are only about 1 in 1.9 million. (Two years ago, they were about 1 in 3.4 million.) Buffett also promised a cool million to any worker who picked all 32 first-round games correctly. Our model sets the odds for that at about 1 in 3,500 this year, which is surprisingly reasonable. (For comparison’s sake, the odds were 1 in 10,000 two years ago.)VIDEO: A No. 16 seed will win, but don’t bet on it 460328,660,947 35647,043,011 read more

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Ohio State wrestling sets sights on second straight Big Ten championship

OSU redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan in a match against his cousin, Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan, on Feb. 13 at St. John Arena. Credit: Leah McClure | Lantern PhotographerAfter a strong follow-up season to its national championship, the Ohio State wrestling team is set to travel to Iowa City, Iowa, looking to repeat as Big Ten champions.Last year, the Buckeyes picked up 120.0 points on their way to a share of the Big Ten crown. The conference championship was their first in 64 years.In addition, two Buckeyes were able to capture individual titles, with then-redshirt freshman Nathan Tomasello at 125 pounds and then-senior Logan Stieber at 141 pounds. OSU does not have Stieber this year, but it has a group with impressive accolades from this season.The Scarlet and Gray will present nine ranked wrestlers this weekend. Leading the way for the Buckeyes are the top-seeded Tomasello and redshirt freshman Micah Jordan. Tomasello has not lost a match all season and is currently boasting a 36-match win streak, which is the longest winning stint at 125 pounds.Jordan is one of three freshmen to earn a top seed for the tournament, along with Penn State’s Jason Nolf and Bo Nickal.OSU has a ranked wrestler in every weight class except for 149 pounds, because of the recovery of two-time All-American Hunter Stieber, who is sidelined because of injuries sustained last season and surgeries this offseason. It is likely redshirt freshman Cody Burcher will replace the redshirt senior in the lineup after he was injured against Wisconsin early this year.The Buckeyes have a tough road ahead of them, as both Iowa and Penn State have not lost a dual meet against a conference opponent all season. Penn State topped OSU earlier this season, knocking off the Buckeyes 24-14. Iowa shared the Big Ten championship with OSU last year.Even with the top-ranked opponents ahead for the Buckeyes, the team and coaching staff believe they are primed to shock the wrestling world once more. “You know who you are, you know how you train, and you just go be you,” OSU coach Tom Ryan said. “We’ve just found that the guys who get so caught up on winning and losing, fear becomes more real than to those who think otherwise.”The environment is always hostile for the teams coming into a conference foe’s home arena, but things are expected to be even more intense for the Buckeyes after the victory last year. Even with a target on their backs, the Scarlet and Gray are not shying away from the test.“A lot of eyes are on us because of winning it last year,” redshirt senior Johnni DiJulius said. “The eyes on us I don’t think change how we are going to wrestle. We are still the same wrestlers, and we still have the same potential.”DiJulius finished fourth at the tournament last season, and the Buckeyes are hoping this is the year he finally claims the elusive individual title to add to his impressive career.OSU freshman Myles Martin during a match against Wisconsin on Feb. 13 at St. John Arena. Credit: Leah McClure | Lantern PhotographerIt would be easy for the team to lose focus on the task at hand and concern itself with the pressure that lies ahead. Ryan said he knows exactly how to keep his athletes ready and at the top of their game.“We just talk about loving it,” Ryan said.That love Ryan is talking about could very well lead to the Buckeyes needing a bigger trophy case after this weekend.The tournament is set for Saturday and Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Session I on the first day is set to begin at 11 a.m., while Session II is scheduled for 1 p.m.RematchesWith several wrestlers returning to the tournament from last season, there are a number of prospective rematches. The most notable of these is the potential match at 125 pounds, which would feature Tomasello versus Iowa’s Thomas Gilman. Last year, the two met in the tournament final.Another notable potential rematch features OSU redshirt sophomore Bo Jordan and Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan. The opponents are first cousins and already faced each other this season, with Isaac Jordan winning it 6-4.NCAA championships nextAfter the conclusion of the Big Ten tournament, the Buckeyes will prepare to travel to New York City for the national championships. OSU will be looking for a repeat after winning its first team title in the program’s history.The NCAA tournament lasts from March 17 to 19 at Madison Square Garden. read more

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Diebler Lighty showcase skills at NBA Combine prepare for draft

As the Ohio State basketball team prepares for life without Jon Diebler and David Lighty, they are both are preparing for success at the next level. Both players competed at the NBA Combine, which was broadcast live on ESPN U, Thursday in Chicago. ESPN draft analyst Chad Ford said it’s possible both Buckeyes will be selected in the second round of the NBA draft but he also sees situations in which neither player will be selected. The NBA draft consists of only two rounds. One thing Ford was certain of was which draft hopeful has the best shooting ability. “When you watch Jon Diebler, his misses look good. … I do think he’s the best shooter in this draft,” Ford said on the ESPN U broadcast. “You need shooters; you’ve got to spread the floor in the NBA.” Ford compared Diebler to Chicago Bulls guard Kyle Korver, who led the NBA this season in 3-point shots made during the fourth quarter. While Diebler was praised for his shooting ability, Lighty was acknowledged mostly for his defense. Len Elmore, an ESPN analyst and former NBA first-round, called Lighty “one of the best defenders in the Big Ten” last season. Lighty was referred to also as a player who doesn’t have just one elite quality, but who “does all the little things” and has “always played his role.” The 2011 NBA draft will be held June 23 in Newark, N.J. Diebler did not immediately return phone calls for comment. read more

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Queen welcomes Colombias president Juan Manuel Santos and wife to UK on

first_imgThe Queen has welcomed Colombia’s president Juan Manuel Santos to the UK at the start of his official state visit.Mr Santos and his wife Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos are staying with the Queen at Buckingham Palace in London, and will be entertained at a lavish state banquet there on Tuesday evening.It is the first time a state visit to the UK has been carried out by a Colombian president and comes after Mr Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end one of the world’s longest-running civil wars.Following time-honoured tradition, Philip led the visiting head of state to inspect the Guard of Honour. The President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and First Lady of Colombia Maria Clemencia Rodriguez Moenera arrive at Stansted Airport on MondayCredit:HANNAH MCKAY/EPA The Queen grins as she speaks to the Colombian president's wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos Mr Johnson has previously spoken of how Britain is planning to further develop its links with Colombia in the wake of the peace efforts and the Brexit vote.”Colombia is on the verge of a historic peace agreement and through our ongoing support for the country the UK is well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that will follow,” he said.He added: “As we leave the EU, Britain remains a bold and outward-looking nation, and we are forging a new global role and taking advantage of economic and diplomatic opportunities in the wider world, beyond Europe.” The Queen grins as she speaks to the Colombian president’s wife, Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de SantosCredit:Gareth Fuller/PA The president and his wife last met the Queen at a private audience in 2011. They will later take tea with the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at Clarence House.Charles and Camilla already know the president and the First Lady after they travelled to Colombia for an official visit in 2014 – made possible due to the improved security situation there. The President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos and First Lady of Colombia Maria Clemencia Rodriguez Moenera arrive at Stansted Airport on Monday Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrive to take part in the ceremonial welcomeCredit:Stefan Wermuth/Getty The president and first lady will later attend a state banquet for 170 guests in the palace ballroom. The London Eye will be lit up in yellow, blue and red – the colours of the Colombian flag.Talks at Downing Street with Mrs May will be held on Wednesday in what is the first state visit since she became Prime Minister.The president will also travel to Northern Ireland on Thursday to meet community leaders in Belfast and discuss the challenges of community reconciliation post-conflict.Mr Santos, 65, is said to be a voracious reader, a film buff and an old friend of former PM Tony Blair. They co-authored a book in 1999 on the Third Way, the political philosophy followed by Mr Santos after its adoption by Mr Blair. Flags of the UK and Colombia flying on the MallCredit:Dominic Lipinski/PA The Colombian President and his wife arrive at Stansted for their state visitCredit:Neil Hall/REUTERS President Santos walks past the lines of Guardsmen at Horse Guards Parade, with the Duke of Edinburgh walking a few paces behind the foreign leadercenter_img Theresa May curtseys as she meets the Queen during a ceremonial welcome for Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrive to take part in a ceremonial welcome President Santos walked past the lines of Guardsmen, glancing at the soldiers who, when not performing ceremonial duties, are active servicemen.The Duke walked a few paces behind the foreign leader, who strode ahead past the lines of troops in their grey greatcoats and famous bearskins.Earlier, the Queen, who wore an ensemble by Angela Kelly – green cashmere coat, silk crepe dress in shades of apple green, grey and gold lame, and matching hat – introduced Mr Santos and his wife to Prime Minister Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Amber Rudd. President Santos walks past the lines of Guardsmen at Horse Guards Parade, with the Duke of Edinburgh walking a few paces behind the foreign leaderCredit:FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/EPA Theresa May curtseys as she meets the Queen during a ceremonial welcome for Colombia’s President Juan Manuel SantosCredit:Gareth Fuller/PA The Colombian President and his wife arrive at Stansted for their state visit After the welcome ceremony ended, the Queen and her visitors left in a carriage procession for Buckingham Palace.Mr Santos was hailed for his political courage over a peace deal with left-wing Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels, although the accord was narrowly rejected by Colombians in a vote.More than 220,000 people – mostly civilians – were killed in 52-year long hostilities and more than eight million people were driven from their homes. Flags of the UK and Colombia flying on the Mall The president has pledged to donate his Nobel Peace Prize money to the victims of the conflict, and to deliver a peace accord by Christmas.The first lady, known to her family as Tutina, is the mother of their three children Martin, Maria Antonia and Esteban.She studied as a graphic designer and leads the humanitarian initiative Colombia Humanitaria, a state strategy that deals with natural and environmental disasters. 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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