91958New York YankeesMilwaukee Braves79.1 11986New York MetsBoston Red Sox70.6% A Chicago Cubs world championship used to be the stuff of fiction and fantasy.No more. The Cubs won the World Series early Thursday morning, ending 108 years of championship futility and setting off a Chicago celebration that might last another 108 years.Despite dominating the regular season, the Cubs won their long-awaited title in the most drawn-out way possible. Chicago needed the full seven games to eliminate a talented, resilient Cleveland Indians team that made it further than any predictions said they would. The Cubs also had to overcome a 3-1 series deficit, becoming only the sixth team in World Series history to pull off that feat. At one point, Chicago’s chances of a comeback were just 7.5 percent; only six teams ever came back from longer World Series odds. 61979Pittsburgh PiratesBaltimore Orioles77.0 32011St. Louis CardinalsTexas Rangers72.1 41968Detroit TigersSt. Louis Cardinals72.7 51960Pittsburgh PiratesNew York Yankees75.9 Functionally, the Cubs also won by outlasting the Indians’ brilliant-but-shallow pitching staff. Cleveland starter Corey Kluber had been largely untouchable in his previous two World Series starts, but in Game 7 the fatigue finally seemed to set in: He allowed four runs, two by way of the long ball, and struck out none in four innings Wednesday. Then Andrew Miller, Cleveland’s other unhittable ace — the bullpen edition — succumbed to his own heavy workload, yielding two runs in two-and-a-third innings, the most he’d allowed in an appearance all postseason.The flip side of that was the Cubs’ bats finally roaring to life during the team’s furious comeback. After scoring 5.0 runs per game during the regular season (third-most in MLB), Chicago averaged a mere 1.8 per game during Games 1 through 4 as they slid into that 3-1 hole. Cleveland’s pitchers deserved a huge amount of credit for holding the Cubs’ hitters in check, but Chicago’s lineup eventually solved and — more to the point — wore down the Indian hurlers. The Cubs averaged 6.7 runs per game as they clawed their way out of the pit, including 8.5 in Games 6 and 7. By Game 7, both power hitting (they smashed three homers) and timely run manufacturing (the winning run scored on a clutch single after being intentionally walked) drove the Cubs’ scoring.Add it all up, and the Cubs are finally champions, if by the narrowest of margins. (In addition to coming down to extra innings of Game 7, both teams scored exactly 27 runs in the World Series.) Wire to wire, 2016 was baseball’s Year of the Cubs; it carried over into the playoffs as well, even if things weren’t always easy. And this might just be the beginning: Chicago is favored to repeat next season, too. Suddenly, a Cubs championship doesn’t feel as fanciful and far fetched. It might just be baseball’s reality for the next few seasons and beyond. 22002Anaheim AngelsSan Francisco Giants71.6 Hot Takedown Toasts The Cubs’ World Series Win 81985Kansas City RoyalsSt. Louis Cardinals79.1 And then there was the three-run lead the Cubs blew in the eighth inning of Game 7, when fireballing closer Aroldis Chapman — fresh off an inexplicable, unnecessary 20-pitch appearance in Game 6 — gave up a double and a home run to the first two batters he faced. Just like that, the game was tied, and any notion of momentum seemed to favor a Cleveland championship.And yet, Chicago continued to bounce back in a way that seemed antithetical to the franchise’s long history as lovable losers. Chapman followed his shaky eighth inning with a clean ninth; the heart of the Cubs lineup plated two runs in the top of the 10th; Carl Edwards Jr. and Mike Montgomery survived one final push from Cleveland in the bottom of the frame. Resiliency like that was one of the biggest reasons why the Chicago Cubs are your 2016 world champions. (And yep, that still feels funny to type.) Source: The Baseball Gauge 101925Pittsburgh PiratesWashington Senators710.3 Related: Hot Takedown Biggest World Series comebacks RKYEARWINNERLOSERGAMESWINNER’S LOWEST WS% 72016Chicago CubsCleveland Indians77.5
Salfino: Remember, Foles was LUCKY to beat the Falcons last year. He had a ball go off a Falcon’s knee, or they probably lose that game. Then he turned into Cinderella, and I have no idea how or why.sara.ziegler: He did get to face the Vikings last year — that undoubtedly helped.joshua.hermsmeyer: If Foles can be efficient and healthy, and the Eagles are patient, I can totally imagine a game where Biscuit implodes and the Eagles move on. I think the spread has some of that in it.Salfino: I do not believe in the Eagles defense at all. But I also don’t like how Nagy hasn’t given Tarik Cohen consistently more touches than Jordan Howard. And the Bears are all banged up now at WR.I agree with Josh on Trubisky, but the Bears and Nagy can’t put him in a position to lose that game. The Eagles have no playmakers. Dare them to score.sara.ziegler: Yeah, it could be closer than it seems. Of course, if Foles can’t play, then the Eagles will REALLY need a fairy tale.All right, let’s wrap this up with our Super Bowl predictions, so we can continue to look ridiculous when our picks all lose.Salfino: I’m going Saints-Chiefs, but that’s predicated on the Colts beating the Texans and giving the Patriots a nightmare matchup in the divisional round. It’s so public to fade the Chiefs that I’m fading the public. Offense!Mahomes wins MVP and Brees wins Super Bowl MVP. Seems fair.neil: I’ve been saying New Orleans over K.C. for these past few chats, and that’s still possible, so I’m sticking with it. (Despite the defensive concerns!)sara.ziegler: I took the Bears last time, and now having watched them flatten my own team, I probably need to keep them. Bears-Chiefs, Chiefs take it down.joshua.hermsmeyer: Chiefs-Rams rematch, Chiefs win. Because that would be the best ending to the best offensive season in the NFL probably ever.neil: What’s the score on that one, Josh? Is it the first Super Bowl whose score will be mistaken for an Arena Bowl?joshua.hermsmeyer: 36-35 with the game decided on a 2-point conversion.neil: Ooh, going low. I like it.Check out our latest NFL predictions. This will be the defining image of the season for me.Salfino: Cousins showing Thielen how to run routes was both hilarious and sad.joshua.hermsmeyer: One silver lining for the Vikings is that the situational football we typically use to judge Cousins as a disappointment is among the least predictive of future performance in all of football: throws under pressure, third-down conversions. Kirk deserves his share of the blame, but the entire offense looked out of sync yesterday and for a lot of the second half of the season.sara.ziegler: Cousins has his redemption narrative all set for next season, LOL.Salfino: The Eagles benefit from the Vikings’ struggles. I can’t believe that the Bears are only 6-point favorites.neil: Particularly with Nick Foles not necessarily 100 percent.sara.ziegler: The Eagles don’t even need Foles, Neil!neil: Carson Wentz? Nick Foles? Nate Sudfeld? No problem.sara.ziegler: Well … Wentz? Some problems.Everyone else? Fine.neil: Philly was always a backup QB’s dream city during the McNabb era. Some of that has carried over, I guess.Salfino: Foles has got to be the most volatile QB in NFL history. We should quantify that. He’s below average for his career and is treated like a franchise QB based on about 16 games, if we include all of 2013.neil: Yeah, the gap between his best 16 and worst 16 starts has to be one of the biggest ever.Salfino: I can’t even imagine the Bears losing to the Eagles. They are just going to chew Philly up. The Eagles’ best playmaker is still 100-year-old Darren Sproles, who is amazing, but come on.joshua.hermsmeyer: I can’t think of Foles without wincing that he lost $1 million because of four snaps.This is just brutal.sara.ziegler: Ooof.Salfino: Foles is going to get $100 million in about three months, so I will not feel sorry for him.joshua.hermsmeyer: hahsara.ziegler: LOLThe one other meaningful game yesterday — aside from the games that cost coaches their jobs — was Colts-Titans. Anyone surprised that the Colts dominated that one?neil: I mean, Blaine Gabbert was starting for Tennessee, Sarasara.ziegler: FairSalfino: Titans-Colts is QB wins to me. Luck vs. Gabbert. Come on. Murder. She. Wrote.joshua.hermsmeyer: Oh gawd not QB WinzSalfino: YES!!!Give me the better QB, and I’ll take my chances.joshua.hermsmeyer: smhMarlon Mack outrushed Derrick Henry, so why not RB winz?Salfino: No RB winz because winning yards per carry gets you nothing in win probability.Josh, you and I agree broadly but just quibble about how much credit quarterbacks get in the passing game.joshua.hermsmeyer: This is true.neil: Either way, it’s been great to see Andrew Luck bounce back from the injury and lost season to play well and lead a playoff push.sara.ziegler: I’m still amazed by the Colts’ turnaround.They were at 4 percent to make the playoffs on Oct. 15.Salfino: Luck should be in the MVP conversation. I understand it’s Patrick Mahomes. But Luck has done a lot with a lot less than Mahomes. Luck does seemingly have great coaching now though. Frank Reich, who the Colts backed into, was the hire of the offseason. I think better than Matt Nagy even.joshua.hermsmeyer: Luck truly played himself back into game shape. Early on, his throws were routinely Derek Carr short, and by the end of the season he was mostly back to the old Luck.sara.ziegler: So let’s turn to this weekend’s games.Colts-Texans and Seahawks-Cowboys on Saturday, Chargers-Ravens and Eagles-Bears on Sunday.Which underdog has the best chance?neil: Three of the 4 underdogs are +2.5 per Vegas.Salfino: Colts-Texans is the game of the week to me in terms of having no idea who will win. The Texans are a strange team with great strengths (QB, pass rush) and crippling weaknesses (offensive line, pass coverage).On paper, the Colts are a terrible matchup for the Texans because Luck led the league in lowest sack rate as he completely transformed his game to protect his health. So smart.neil: Indy also also beat Houston in Houston less than a month ago.Salfino: I am going to fade the Seahawks: 25th in yards allowed per play and 31st in sack rate allowed. That’s so bad. I can’t believe they even made the playoffs.neil: Ironically, our Elo gives Seattle the best chance of any wild card weekend team. 😉Elo has a tendency to react strongly to recent hot streaks, for better or worse.Seattle has won six of its past seven, including a win over Kansas City.Salfino: If you have Russell Wilson, anything is possible. I will stipulate.joshua.hermsmeyer: I like Seattle for my part. Turnovers are wildly unpredictable, and that drove their defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average for much of the season, but they are built to win close games like this one where both teams appear to want to “establish the run.”Salfino: The football story of the week when it comes to the chess aspect of the game and coaching is whether the Chargers having experienced the Ravens offense can now shut it down. But they don’t really do much on defense except play that Seattle, straight-up style. So do they even have a bag of tricks?sara.ziegler: Seems strange to me that the Ravens are favorites over the Chargers.Baltimore is hot right now, but L.A. has been solid all season.Salfino: Well, Baltimore has had the best home-field advantage in football when you factor in road vs. home record. So LAC are up against it.neil: Never underestimate the extra value of home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs, too.sara.ziegler: Yeah, that all makes sense.I still like the Chargers. I’m being obstinate, LOL.neil: Well, this is a little bit of a counter to the QB Winz debate from above. L.A. clearly has the better QB.joshua.hermsmeyer: I like Philip Rivers and the Chargers as well. Particularly if the Chargers keep Jackson in the pocket.Salfino: No Super Bowl team has won a road game since the 2012 season. But I’ll say that the most likely road winners this week in order are the Colts (they win), Chargers (I can see it but don’t think they adjust defensively), Seattle (Wilson gives them a chance) and Eagles (no chance unless Mitch Trubisky craps the bed).sara.ziegler: 🔥joshua.hermsmeyer: The Baltimore defense prevents completions, that’s their best skill. But Rivers has completed passes at 1.8 percent over expected this season.Salfino: New England really gets tested if the Colts win. (They would have to play the winner of Baltimore-LAC.) If the Texans win, Houston is just made for an easy Patriots victory in the divisional round.Little worried about how Rivers has looked of late. But probably just random variance. There’s not much data on QBs this old late in the season and into the postseason other than Brady.sara.ziegler: I’m worried about how Rivers looks, too — at least in this Mina Kimes drawing: sara.ziegler: 🤣Salfino: I think the Bears just crush the Eagles. This spread is all Foles-narrative-driven, and I don’t believe in fairy tales.sara.ziegler: Wow, Mike.LOLneil: Anybody picking the Eagles probably does have visions of this being yet another Bears team that got into the playoffs on defense with a weak QB performanceAnd promptly lost. But that’s not really this team. Trubisky has been progressing.(The defense is still amazing, of course)joshua.hermsmeyer: You can dink and dunk on Chicago. joshua.hermsmeyer: looolneil: That’s still accurate.I loved that segment on NFL Countdown Sunday, where they talked about Rivers’ trash talk. Which somehow never includes swearing.sara.ziegler: I’ve always really liked him. A perfect fantasy football QB.Salfino: Philip Rivers is great. A Hall-of-Famer IMO. But unbelievably he has as many career playoff wins as Mark Sanchez. He needs more pelts on the wall.sara.ziegler: Very fair.Is anyone taking the Eagles over the Bears?neil: I recuse myself.LOLsara.ziegler: Wait, we can’t make predictions about our favorite teams?I’ve literally been picking the Vikings to lose all season.neil: I gotta hand it to you, those were accurate predictions.sara.ziegler: LOLneil: As opposed to this one: sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): The NFL’s 2018 regular season is finally in the books. Before the playoffs get rolling, let’s look back on an interesting Week 17 and preview next weekend’s wild-card round. We’ll end with giving our Super Bowl predictions again, just to keep us honest.Salfino (Michael Salfino, contributor): I will have to revise my Saints-Steelers Super Bowl pick.sara.ziegler: LOLThe AFC had all the drama yesterday, so let’s start with the Ravens/Steelers/Colts/Titans business.neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): I was very much hoping for that Colts-Titans tie. But alas.sara.ziegler: If the NFL were scripted, we would have ended the regular season on a tie.neil: Particularly this of all regular seasons.Salfino: What’s interesting to me about the Ravens is that teams are not punishing Lamar Jackson for running.joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): I’m unclear on why teams don’t force Jackson to beat them with his arm as well. It’s worked in the past against other highly mobile QBs, and there seems to be no great reason why it won’t work again.neil: That’s part of what makes the Ravens so interesting, that their second-half playoff push basically coincided with the QB change and this rush-heavy identity that seems so different in a league that set new records for passing in 2018.Salfino: Yes, the Ravens and the Chiefs are the offenses you really can’t prepare for in a week, IMO. I have no idea how a team can prepare for Jackson in one week. But LAC at least just faced him. Is that advantage Chargers? To me this is the most interesting game of the wild-card round.sara.ziegler: The Ravens nearly let Sunday’s game slip away, though.Salfino: The problem is that it’s so hard to stay disciplined and not chase him. Defenses are taught to be aggressive.Jackson allows the offense to play 11 on 11, and all of defense is predicated on the defense playing 11 on 10.joshua.hermsmeyer: Also strange is that we can make legit comps between Jackson and Josh Allen. Bill Belichick kept Allen in the pocket during Week 16 knowing the main danger he poses is from his legs. And New England won.Salfino: Yes, the Patriots are just taught to be super disciplined so they can counter that probably better than most teams.sara.ziegler: Did the Browns figure that out a little bit too against Jackson? The Ravens rushed for 8.5 yards per carry in the first half and just 4.5 in the second.Salfino: Maybe as the game wore on, but by then the damage was done. The Browns were just getting gashed. The Ravens were running on 3rd-and-long and converting. It was like a college game — old-school college before the passing explosion.joshua.hermsmeyer: Credit as well to the play-calling, I think. It’s a very creative scheme the Ravens are rolling out.Salfino: Is the Ravens defense overrated? Where are the blue chip players? They are just coached so well. Wink Martindale should get interviews.neil: And Jackson’s own speed is really something to behold. On that first TD Jackson scored, it looked like he was shot out of a cannon.Salfino: Jackson also looked like he was playing at video game speed even on the shorter second TD run. He just darted into the end zone like everyone was standing still.I think the Ravens offense is underrated and their defense is overrated.sara.ziegler: In the other afternoon AFC game of note, the Steelers came out incredibly flat before rallying for the win, which wasn’t quite enough.neil: Pittsburgh’s season will go down as one of the all-time collapses, I think?Salfino: The Steelers have to be the most disappointing team in recent memory. They were top 10 in all the key defensive stats except interception percentage — which is fluky, but man that killed them. They have Ben Roethlisberger throwing for 5,000 yards, two All-Pro WRs, and the running game was fine. Yet they just blew one game after the other.joshua.hermsmeyer: Antonio Brown has been inefficient this year, but he was missed.Salfino: The Steelers were sixth in yards per play and sixth in yards allowed per play and didn’t make the playoffs. This is almost impossible. I thought it was impossible.neil: After Week 11, we gave them a 97 percent chance of making the playoffs.sara.ziegler: I was surprised all season that they were as high in Elo as they were.Salfino: Being third in sack rate and 28th in interception rate defies conventional wisdom that pressure creates turnovers. Maybe PIT was super unlucky, too.sara.ziegler: They reeled off six wins in a row, but they never looked dominant.neil: Some of that was probably residual, Sara, from last year, when they had Le’Veon Bell, etc. But the narrative all first half was how they didn’t need Bell.sara.ziegler: Yeah, and James Conner filled in well for them!Salfino: Is MIN more disappointing than PIT? This is going to be a brutal offseason for Kirk Cousins. No player in memory is going to be under more pressure than he will be next year.neil: This is a fraught question for Sara ….sara.ziegler: I can’t even talk about it.neil: Yep.sara.ziegler: Well, Mike, we all know how well Cousins does with pressure.neil: 😬Salfino: I really thought Cousins was a franchise QB. He did pretty well with just garbage offensive talent in 2017 in WAS, and this year he just never really could get it going. He played so tight.neil: Sunday was sort of symbolic of the whole 2018 Vikings.They controlled their destiny at home (granted against the Bears).Cousins goes 4-for-11 for 2.1 yards per attempt and two sacks on third and fourth down.Terrible overall performance.Salfino: It seemed like Cousins averaged about a yard per attempt. If I were the coach of the Vikings, I’d tell him to take chances and not care about INTs. They’re overrated.neil: The Minnesota defense was uncharacteristically bad on third down, too. Allowed 57 percent conversions after giving up only 28 percent all season before Sunday.sara.ziegler:
Table tennisMen’s doubles51 VolleyballMen’s34 BadmintonMen’s singles52 In five Olympic sports, with medals in 18 events up for grabs, a net separates players from their opponents. In each case, before a point can get underway, someone has to serve. On a crucial point, as you watch the medal rounds of badminton and volleyball this weekend, would you rather see your team start with the ball or shuttlecock in its court or in its opponent’s?I tried to find out. It turns out the data isn’t readily available.1A word on the data. Ideally the table that follows would show complete data for every sport. But the Olympics website doesn’t publish comprehensive stats for any of these sports. And press contacts for each of the sport’s international federations either didn’t respond to inquiries or said they couldn’t help with the data. So for each sport, I dug through box scores — in badminton’s case, liberating serve stats from PDFs, and for volleyball, by parsing play-by-plays. I grabbed data for just two or three days of competition in each sport, generally including preliminary stages and knockout stages in which each discipline (singles, doubles, mixed) was competing. Even that wasn’t easy. Alan Reifman, the Texas Tech University professor known for his hot-hand sports analysis who is also a volleyball analyst, tried parsing two games of one volleyball match at my request, and sent me his worksheet. It’s below. But after digging through PDFs and doing a lot of data entry and copy and pasting, I got data for hundreds of matches and thousands of points across 18 variations on the theme of serving. I was looking for how often the player or team that serves ends up winning the point. The conclusion: In tennis, the serve is a weapon. In badminton and table tennis, it’s just a way to get the point started. And in volleyball, it’s a vulnerability. Table tennisMen’s singles53 TennisWomen’s singles57 SPORTEVENTSERVE SUCCESS RATE TennisMen’s doubles65% Table tennisWomen’s singles53 Table tennisWomen’s doubles50 BadmintonWomen’s singles55 Tennis servers have an advantage at the 2016 Olympics; volleyball servers don’t TennisWomen’s doubles56 2016 Olympics data for matches from 2-3 days of preliminary and knockout play for each eventSources: rio2016.com, itftennis.com BadmintonMixed doubles46 Beach volleyballWomen’s35 BadmintonMen’s doubles46 BadmintonWomen’s doubles45 Beach volleyballMen’s32 TennisMen’s singles63 TennisMixed doubles64 VolleyballWomen’s38 The sports divide into a few tiers of serving advantages.Tennis is at the top. Within tennis, the serve is a bigger weapon for men than for women, in part because men are taller than women, on average, and so they can hit down on the ball with less risk. And the serve is more valuable in doubles than in singles, because the returner is trying to avoid the server’s partner and so has to aim for a narrower window than in singles. So at the very top of the server pyramid is men’s doubles, followed by mixed doubles — a man is serving in at least half of the games — and men’s singles. Then come women’s singles and doubles, where the server’s advantage is slightly smaller because of returners’ comparative advantage in the women’s game.In badminton and table tennis, it doesn’t matter all that much who’s serving. But there are some nuances. In both sports, servers do better in singles than in doubles. This is different from tennis because the serve functions differently in these sports. In table tennis, when playing singles you can serve to either side — left or right — on each point, which is not true in tennis. So if your goal is to hit it where the returner isn’t, singles provides a big advantage. And in neither sport is the server’s partner as likely to smash away an errant return as in tennis. (Table tennis doubles rules also restrict where the server can hit it.)In volleyball, a point when you serve is considered one on which you’re playing defense. That’s especially true for men. Most serves don’t win the point outright, and when they don’t, the receiving team has three hits to control the ball, set it and smash it, and the sport has developed highly complex plays designed to win the point outright with its first possession. But as tough as it looks for servers in volleyball, the numbers in the table slightly understate the challenge a typical volleyball server faces. That’s because the numbers are aggregated over all teams. But in volleyball, the team that won the prior point gets to serve. So the stronger teams get to serve more, which weighs their serving success more heavily than that of weaker teams. Some of what looks like the limited serving success for volleyball players in the table is really strong teams’ overcoming the serving liability to withstand their opponents’ attacks and get the point.2In badminton — for which we have the data, unlike volleyball — averaging across teams instead of points, which gives you a fairer sense of the typical server’s chance of winning the point, lowers servers’ success rates by about two percentage points.The stats are pretty consistent at other levels of the game. Todd Dagenais, coach of the University of Central Florida women’s volleyball team, said teams in his team’s league, the American Athletic Conference, win on the serve between 38 percent and 45 percent of the time. Alan Reifman, a Texas Tech University professor who is also a volleyball analyst, said 40 percent is typical in the women’s college game. Top men’s World League Volleyball teams score on 31 percent to 38 percent of their serves.In a way, volleyball servers have it easy. They’re not expected to win the point anyway, so success is a pleasant surprise. And they get to take more risks. When you’re probably going to lose the point if the ball goes in anyway, you lose less by missing, so why not aim a little closer to the top of the net or toward the sidelines or back line? In beach volleyball at the Olympics, men have lost the point by missing their serve about 13 percent of the time, and women 11 percent, according to data provided by Giuseppe Vinci, founder of the analysis site VolleyMetrics. That compares to 3 percent to 4 percent in tennis and less than 1 percent in some of the badminton events. Not all the sports record aces, and some define them differently than others, but tennis players also hit more of those than some of their peers — in part because they get two chances to serve, so they can take big risks on the first serve.“A ‘just keep it in, let them make mistakes’ philosophy used to be more common,” Joe Trinsey, assistant coach of the U.S. women’s indoor team, said by email. “But with the speed and power of the attacks (as well as the tactical complexity and deception of the offenses) increasing each generation, it is becoming more common to see coaches pushing their teams to attack more from the service line, even if it means more errors.”
For everything Derrick Rose has accomplished in his decorated NBA career — No. 1 overall draft pick, three-time All-Star, youngest player to ever win league MVP — no one would ever accuse him of being a good 3-point shooter. After shooting 28 percent from deep two years ago and 29 percent last year, Rose is hitting just 22 percent1The league-average mark this season is 36 percent. of his shots from 3-point range this season, the third-worst mark in the league among the 267 players who’ve attempted at least 50 3-pointers so far.But for all his struggles from three, something extraordinary happens when Rose steps just inside the arc: The New York Knicks guard somehow manages to hit midrange jumpers at an above-average clip despite shooting line-drive bullets that barely make it over the rim. Sometimes the ends excuse the means.When an average NBA player shoots from 15 feet or more, his shot arc peaks at 15.1 feet. Rose is not average. His shots from that distance peak at just 14 feet, the lowest average shot arc of any NBA guard or small forward, according to a query run by SportVU data analyst Brittni Donaldson at FiveThirtyEight’s request.This shouldn’t work out for him. Research shows that loftier arcs improve a shot’s chances of finding the bottom of the net. “I’ve always felt you had to be even more accurate than normal to be able to make a shot when you’re using a low arc like that,” says Jeff Hornacek, Rose’s coach with the Knicks, and one of the league’s best shooters during his playing days.Yet Rose, with almost no arc whatsoever, hits better than 45 percent of his 2-pointers from outside 15 feet, according to NBA.com. For context, the rest of the NBA has shot 40.5 percent from that range this year, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/rosemake.mp4https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roseagain.mp4“I’ve tried practicing [my shot] with more arc. But this is just more comfortable. I really can’t describe [why],” Rose told me after shooting 6-for-6 on long 2-pointers in a loss to Milwaukee Wednesday night. “I’ve been a midrange player my entire life. [I] have never really been a 3-point shooter.” The emergence of a solid midrange jumper, combined with his lengthy injury history, will make the 28-year-old an intriguing free agent this coming summer.Still, none of this is meant to suggest that Rose — who, for a long time, was talented and athletic enough to get by without being able to shoot jumpers — is on the cusp of morphing into Steph Curry.2Rose himself seems to accept this fact. Threes have accounted for just 7 percent of his shots this season, down from 14 percent last season and almost 33 percent in 2014-15. His shooting form can occasionally go awry as he lunges with his upper half instead of connecting his entire body through one fluid motion. And Rose sometimes doesn’t let go of the ball until he’s on the way back down,3NBA 2K players likely know this problem all too well thanks to the game’s shot meter. limiting the arc he can get on a given shot. “With Derrick, I always emphasize finishing at 11 o’clock instead of 9 o’clock, which means releasing at the peak of his jump instead of doing it on the way down,” says trainer Rob McClanaghan, who has worked with Rose since he was 18.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselaterelease1.mp4To compensate for his lower delivery, Rose goes for bank shots more often than his peers do. Rose began using bank shots far more often last season, saying they helped him deal with the blurred vision and lack of depth perception he experienced after breaking his orbital bone during training camp. He ranked second in in the league in bank-shot frequency last season,4Among players with at least 30 such attempts. when he took 76 shots off the glass. And while that number is down this season (24 attempts), banked shots still account for almost 6 percent of his jumpers.https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselinedriveshot3.mp4https://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/roselinedrive1.mp4Using the glass allows players to aim a bit lower than they otherwise would for a jumper. And it’s likely not a coincidence that Rose’s shot-arc numbers (14 feet this season and 14.2 last season) are nearly identical to those of ex-Spurs great Tim Duncan (13.9 feet in 2015-16 and 14.2 in 2014-15, per SportVU), who perennially took a greater share of bank shots than any other player during his time in the league, according to NBA Savant, a site tracks and compiles the specific types of shots each player takes.So while Rose may not be a good perimeter shooter in a traditional sense, he’s actually become pretty solid in another regard. We simply don’t notice because his technique doesn’t look like it should work.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
Former Buckeye and Carolina Panthers wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (19) during practice on Jan. 21, in preparation for the NFC Championship Game against the Arizona Cardinals. Credit: Courtesy of TNSOhio State’s football season might be over, but a handful of Buckeyes are preparing for the biggest sporting event of the year. On Sunday, five former standouts from OSU will be competing in Super Bowl 50 between the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos.Wide receivers Corey “Philly” Brown and Ted Ginn Jr., safety Kurt Coleman and left guard Andrew Norwell are suiting up for the Panthers, while cornerback Bradley Roby plays for the Broncos. All are key contributors and could very well be deciding factors in Sunday’s highly anticipated showdown.Looking at the former Buckeyes, each have played integral roles in helping their conference champion squads to this point. The Panthers had big questions surrounding their offense before the season began, but those have since been answered in large part thanks to Brown, Ginn and Norwell.Former Buckeye and Broncos cornerback Bradley Roby (29) sprints out of the end zone after an interception in the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 24 in Denver. Credit: Courtesy of TNSIn an offensive system that likes to spread the ball around, Brown and Ginn served as two much-needed playmakers, combining for 75 receptions, 1,186 yards and 14 touchdowns. In the NFC Championship Game, Brown reeled in a career-long 86-yard touchdown catch, while the nine-year veteran Ginn provided an electrifying 22-yard run in Carolina’s 49-15 rout of the Arizona Cardinals. Both Buckeye wideouts will try to take the top off the Broncos defense, something the former OSU receivers have been able to do throughout the season.Down in the trenches, Norwell helps anchor an offensive line that was supposed to be the weakest link on the team. Thanks in part to the much-improved second-year guard, the Panthers have one of the strongest rushing attacks in the league, and it has kept quarterback Cam Newton upright (hit only 61 times, third-fewest in the NFL) and “dabbing” on the way to what should be his first MVP award.Former Buckeye and Carolina Panthers receiver Corey Brown (10) goes up for a catch during the NFC Championship Game against Arizona on Jan. 3 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit: Courtesy of TNSColeman, in his first year with the Panthers, was signed in the offseason with the goal of reigniting a career that many thought was nearing its end after just six years. Not only did he silence that talk, but the Clayton, Ohio, native led the team with seven interceptions and recorded two more picks in Carolina’s victory over Arizona.Joining Coleman in the defensive ranks is Roby, who was Brown’s college roommate. Roby has been fantastic for the Broncos since arriving in 2014, collecting three interceptions with 23 passes defended, including a game-winning scoop-and-score in Week 2 this season against the Kansas City Chiefs. Although he’s officially Denver’s third cornerback, he is rarely ever not on the field. Roby will likely line up across from Brown at times on Sunday, a matchup that’s worth keeping an eye on.From the look of it, this Super Bowl has all the makings of a classic, especially in the eyes of the OSU faithful. It’s a rare occurrence to have five starters from one school competing for a championship, and it’s not something that should be taken for granted.The Scarlet and Gray’s football season might have ended back on Jan. 1, but their season comes back to life on Sunday beginning at 6:30 p.m. thanks to their former star players.
OSU coach Urban Meyer leads the Buckeyes onto the field before their game against Michigan State on Nov. 19. The Buckeyes won 17-16. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorTen years ago, Ohio State and Michigan met in Ohio Stadium in a showdown of No. 1 and No. 2. The capacity crowd inside the walls of the ‘Shoe witnessed the nail-biting conclusion to a season-long buildup, and helped propel the Buckeyes into the national championship.In those days, Lloyd Carr was the man directing the Wolverines’ attack, while Jim Tressel picked the plays for the Buckeyes. Now, a decade later, OSU has Urban Meyer, the only other Buckeyes coach since The Game of the Century. Michigan, on the other hand, is on Carr’s third replacement with Jim Harbaugh.Meyer and Harbaugh are two names with a history of winning behind them. While both men went through different paths to coaching stardom, each has the ability to push their respective teams to a potential playoff spot. While both Michigan and OSU are ranked in playoff spots with just one week left this season, each team’s lone loss for the year has come in varied fashions. The Buckeyes dropped a tough one on a cold, blustery night in State College, Pennsylvania, to Penn State. Meyer was scrutinized for not getting the ball to junior H-back Curtis Samuel, and blamed for conservative play-calling.For Michigan, the Wolverines’ offense sputtered against Iowa on a cold, windy night in Iowa City. Michigan redshirt sophomore quarterback Wilton Speight struggled to produce anything through the air while senior running back De’Veon Smith was a non-factor.“Every little thing doesn’t always go our way, and to win, you’ve got to make it that way,” Harbaugh said following the loss.Meyer and Harbaugh met for the first time in 2015, when the Buckeyes embarrassed Michigan at home, 42-13. The dominant performance against the Wolverines gave the Buckeyes momentum for a playoff run, but OSU’s season was ruined by a loss to Michigan State.This time, the implications rival that of the 2006 edition of The Game, which saw both the Buckeyes and the Wolverines as the top spots in the nation. Even though many of the players on the team might remember this game as their first OSU football experience versus Michigan, Meyer has a different time in mind.“In the ’70s, Bo, Woody,” he said, referencing past OSU eras. “My mother, for some reason, I still to this day don’t know why, grabbed me and said we have to go run an errand. What the hell you talking about? You don’t leave that game. In Ashtabula, Ohio, outdoor mall walking down, and over the loud speakers, I just kept stopping and listening to the game. In the ’70s, the Ten-Year War. I remember that.”Harbaugh’s experience comes from playing in the biggest rivalry game in the nation back in 1986. At the time, Meyer was a graduate assistant with OSU, while his counterpart on Saturday was slingin passes downfield. Most Buckeyes fans from the 1980s might remember Harbaugh for a different reason.Famously, Harbaugh guaranteed a victory in the 1986 edition of The Game. It was a bold statement from a quarterback then-Michigan coach Bo Schembechler called one of the cockiest quarterbacks he had ever met. The statement still strikes a nerve with many OSU faithful.For Meyer, he still remembers the promise by Harbaugh that he kept. More surprisingly, he remembers something that came after the 26-24 loss that most fans forget today.“Vince Workman had a touchdown, and we missed a field goal right at the end and went to the Cotton Bowl and won that,” he said. “So I remember it very well.”Now, the matchup between the two college football icons has come full circle. With so much riding on this game, it would be easy to buy into the hype of the dynamic ability of Michigan junior linebacker Jabrill Peppers or the cool poise of OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett. But it’s Meyer vs. Harbaugh round two, with playoff implications in the minds of both teams. With such an important game coming Saturday, players could resort to bashing their opponents and downplay the accomplishments of the coaches.Instead, players like redshirt junior guard Billy Price has nothing but respect for the opposition’s leader. He had one word to describe Harbaugh.“Iconic,” Price said. The entire premise of The Game is a bitter rivalry, filled with hatred for a team from a state that shares a border. The tradition of the game — from OSU players tearing down the “M” banner in 1973 at Michigan Stadium to Wolverines’ safety Charles Woodson fighting OSU wide receiver David Boston on the field — is drenched in bad attitudes and feelings of disdain for the other side.However, from the coaching side, Meyer has different feelings about the man he is facing off against on Saturday, and it comes from two coaching icons.“I didn’t say like, but there’s a mutual respect,” Meyer said. “And I learned it from (Woody Hayes and Bo Schembechler), two of the greatest coaches of all time.”While it’s No. 2 OSU vs No. 3 Michigan in the final week of the regular season, the chess match between coaches is the more compelling matchup.
The Ohio State women’s soccer team seems to have a flair for the dramatic.For the second time in as many home games, the Buckeyes earned a 1-0 win with a goal in either the last minute of regulation or in overtime. The most recent thriller came Sunday when OSU came away with an overtime victory against Purdue. The Boilermakers came into the game with a seven-game winning streak against the Buckeyes, and coach Lori Walker understood the importance of breaking that streak.“Since 2004, Purdue has really manhandled us,” Walker said. “For us to finally steal a win back from Purdue is huge on a day like today.”The first 20 minutes provided several chances for OSU, including two corner kicks. However, Jenny Bradfisch, the Boilermaker goalkeeper, continually turned the Buckeyes away.Neither team could muster up much offensively for the remainder of the half, as the teams entered the locker rooms for halftime in a scoreless tie. The second half brought much of the same. OSU recorded six shots in the half, only one of which was on goal. As Purdue seemed content to sit back and play defense, the Buckeyes again failed to capitalize on a number of chances deep in Purdue’s zone. “It was a little frustrating,” sophomore defender Colleen Brady said. “We just kept our heads up, and we were dominating so we knew [a goal] was coming. We could feel it.”At the end of regulation, the score remained tied 0-0, but Walker said her team wasn’t upset about the missed opportunities.“What we’ve tried to work on this year, and something we’ve struggled with in the past, is we get frustrated when things don’t go our way,” Walker said. “Now we’ve learned to celebrate every opportunity, celebrate little things like earning a corner kick, because that can be the difference in the game.”The game-winning goal came when Brady headed in a corner kick just over a minute into the overtime period. “[Junior Lauren Steuer] took the kick from the left side,” Brady said. “We all lined up, and it just came right to my head. I headed it and watched it roll into the back of the net right past the keeper.”The win moves OSU to 13-2-2 for the season and 6-1-1 in the Big Ten, keeping them at the top of conference standings. With two games to go on the schedule, the Buckeyes are closing in on a conference championship, and Walker said it has everything to do with their effort on the field.“This team is meeting all of its expectations,” Walker said. “I’m just pleased that we are creating those opportunities, and they are making all the difference.”
As the U.S. economy continues on its rocky path, the job market remains unstable. It’s especially shaky for a third-year athlete facing a five-game suspension and questions about whether he can succeed as quarterback at the professional level. Terrelle Pryor, center of the Buckeye universe since he committed to Ohio State on March 19, 2008, must confront an intricate situation containing the key to unlocking his future. The Jeannette, Pa., native confirmed to the media Saturday that he will return for his senior season, even though he will first serve a five-game suspension for receiving improper benefits. “When bad things happen to you, that’s when you want your family around you,” Pryor said. “Going through all of this, that’s when you realize that Ohio State football is your family.” The NCAA suspended Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas for five games after learning the players had violated NCAA rules by selling gear, apparel and memorabilia to the owner of a Columbus tattoo parlor in 2009. Freshman linebacker Jordan Whiting must sit out one game. NCAA rules prohibit athletes from receiving benefits or discounts based on their persona. The suspensions, however, won’t take effect until next season, allowing the athletes to play in Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl. The NCAA concluded that the rules education provided by the OSU compliance department did not meet NCAA standards at the time the players sold the merchandise. Pryor came to OSU because he felt coach Jim Tressel’s system would better prepare him for the NFL than if he chose to run rampant in Michigan’s spread offense. Now, despite a 30-3 career mark as a starter in scarlet and gray, his legacy rests on thin ice. Fans have voiced displeasure toward the quarterback who, although proud of the Block ‘O’ tattoo on his right forearm, didn’t value the sentiment of his Big Ten championship ring or gold pants trinket as highly as Buckeye Nation preferred. “You shouldn’t worry about what other people say, but you do take a lot of what other people say into your mind,” Pryor said. “They’re saying it for some reason. That’s the hardest thing, is hearing people say some cruel things about you. You know what you did and you take the responsibility, but guys are still out there nailing you and talking about you.” Pryor said he tossed around the idea of turning pro after the Sugar Bowl to evade the lengthy suspension and lessen the hit on his draft stock. But then Tressel required all five players to pledge to return for their senior seasons before granting them permission to travel with the team to New Orleans. Although the promises are nonbinding, Pryor vowed to hold up his end of the bargain. “I think some guys pledged and some guys — we were just basically saying sorry,” he said. “I don’t want to say that if (someone) would choose to leave, that they’re breaking a pledge. I think some guys have different situations. (But) once you pledge something, I think you’ve got to keep your word for it.” Should the NCAA uphold its ruling — which OSU is appealing — Pryor wouldn’t be eligible until the Buckeyes’ contest at Nebraska on Oct. 8. That would leave him with seven games, plus a possible conference championship game and bowl game, to script the final chapter of his college career. But would he regain his starting job that easily? Tressel has had a penchant for rewarding veteran players. Quarterback Joe Bauserman, who has served as Pryor’s primary backup for two years, will be a redshirt senior next year. Ken Guiton, who has also seen action this year, will be a redshirt sophomore. Then there’s Braxton Miller, widely considered one of the top recruits in all of college football. The Huber Heights, Ohio, native enrolled early at OSU so he could take part in spring practices. Tressel said he expects a testy quarterback competition in the spring. “I’m sure in the spring and so forth … in the spring that would heat up,” Tressel said. Regardless of how he fits into next year’s plans, Pryor knows a memorable Sugar Bowl performance will go a long way for his legacy and NFL stock. For the quarterback who always seems to have the ball in his hands, he’ll have to learn to bide his time until it’s his turn. “I’ve never sat out a game in my life,” Pryor said. “I don’t know how it’s going to affect me next year.” Pryor acknowledged that he has work left to do at the college level, work that somehow must be completed in the minimal time he has remaining in Columbus if he’s to improve his job prospects. “We’ve just got to win,” he said. “I’ve got to come up with some type of plan with (Tressel) for next year, because that five-game suspension could really mess up things I really want to accomplish. As of right now, (I’ll) keep winning as much as possible and keep leading the team as best I can. “I guess I’ll need to leave the rest to everyone else.”
In their last meeting with Penn State, Ohio State freshmen Jared Sullinger and Aaron Craft shouldered the load in the Buckeyes’ win against the Nittany Lions, with both players leading No. 1 OSU in scoring with 19 points apiece. Tuesday night, with a share of the Big Ten title on the line, it was the upperclassmen’s turn to carry the Buckeyes past Penn State. OSU senior guard Jon Diebler made a school-record 10 3-point shots and scored 30 points, and junior guard William Buford scored 21 points for the Buckeyes, as they captured a share of their 19th Big Ten regular-season championship in program history with an 82-61 win at Penn State. At one point, Diebler connected on nine consecutive 3-point shots en route to breaking the single-game school record. “It seemed like the basket was an ocean,” Diebler said following the game. “The team did a great job of screening for me, and when someone feels good, that just shows you the unselfishness that we have.” Diebler’s efforts surpassed the last OSU single-game record for 3-pointers, previously shared by former OSU guard Jay Burson and Diebler, who made nine 3-pointers in the Buckeyes’ Dec. 15 win against Florida Gulf Coast. Diebler also dished out five assists in the game, including one between his ninth and 10th 3-pointers, which led to a dunk from freshman forward Deshaun Thomas. Five of Diebler’s 3-pointers came in the first half as he helped OSU jump out to a 33-18 lead into halftime. In the process, Diebler passed former Michigan guard Louis Bullock’s career mark of 340 3-pointers, a record that was later vacated by the NCAA when Bullock received improper benefits as an amateur. In the second half, the Buckeyes didn’t let up, extending their lead to as many as 26 points against a team that was celebrating its Senior Night. After scoring 15 points on 5-for-15 shooting in the Buckeyes’ and Nittany Lions’ first matchup, Penn State senior guard Talor Battle scored 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting Tuesday night. Battle’s effort wasn’t enough to close the gap on the Buckeyes, who have not lost to Penn State since Thad Matta took over the OSU program in 2004. This year’s Big Ten Championship is Matta’s fourth in his seven years as OSU’s coach. Matta also coached the Buckeyes to Big Ten titles in 2006, 2007 and 2010. With one game remaining in the regular season, OSU can win the conference title outright with either a Purdue loss to Iowa on Saturday, or by defeating Wisconsin at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Schottenstein Center.
Redshirt-junior Hunter Stieber (left) is set to make his return from injury for the Buckeyes at the Big Ten Championships, beginning March 7 in Columbus.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsSince Hunter Stieber and Nick Tavanello went down with injuries on Jan. 11, the Ohio State wrestling team hasn’t had its full starting lineup. But that trend is set to change.Both wrestlers are set to be back at 100 percent for the Big Ten Championships on March 7-8.Stieber (1-2) has wrestled just three matches this season, missing time with an elbow injury. His first attempt to come back was against Penn State and although he hung on to win the match, he reinjured himself and missed the next nine dual meets.Since then, Stieber has been working his way back to full strength and said he simply wants to get back doing what he loves.“The thing I’m looking forward to the most is competing again and doing the best that I can to help us win a team title,” the redshirt-junior said. “Practices have been a lot of cardio and strength exercises for me so now I’m excited to actually wrestle.”The No. 5 Buckeyes recently lost in the quarterfinals of the National Duals by three points. But that was with Stieber still out of the lineup, and Tavanello back at less than 100 percent.With a full lineup, Stieber said he believes the team has what it takes to win the Big Ten and national titles, but everyone must do their part.“To have a full lineup is very important and we are going to need all 10 guys doing their part,” the 149-pounder said. “It’s exciting that we are all back and even more so that it’s the most fun part of the season.”Stieber is a two-time All-American and has finished sixth and third in his first two seasons for the Buckeyes. He was a Big Ten Champion his sophomore year and entered the NCAA tournament as the top seed.Redshirt-senior Logan Stieber, a three-time national champion and Hunter’s older brother, said he and the team are looking forward to getting him back.“I’m excited for my brother’s return,” the older Stieber said. “We’ve all missed him and for him to return and for us to field a full lineup at Big Ten’s is encouraging.”In order for Hunter Stieber to qualify for nationals this year, he said he will have to earn it in the Big Ten Championships.“It looks like I will have to place in the top six at Big Tens to qualify for nationals, but I’m just glad to be able to get on the mat and wrestle again,” Stieber said.Even with being out for such a long period of time, coach Tom Ryan said he believes if anyone can make a run at a title after being injured, it’s Hunter Stieber.“Being out all year makes this extremely challenging for him,” Ryan said. “The good news is he is not your average competitor.”Redshirt-sophomore Nick Tavanello (left) made his return from injury in the National Duals for OSU and is expected to be 100 percent for the Big Ten Championships.Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsTavanello (13-8), a redshirt-sophomore, is also looking to be back to full health by the time the Big Ten Championships roll around. The heavyweight made his return last weekend in Iowa after missing more than a month of action with a knee injury — because the team needed a win to advance at the National Duals — but lost in sudden victory overtime.Tavanello, who is currently ranked No. 12 in the country, said he is happy to be back helping his teammates.“It wasn’t fun sitting out and missing all of the trips this season, but it’s good to be back and I’m hoping to contribute as much as I can for the team and to finish this season strong,” Tavanello said.As to how he has worked his way back, he said he followed a strict diet so he could come back the same as he left, despite not being able to move as well physically.“I’ve been working out, lifting and doing what I needed to do to get back and my recovery went pretty fast,” Tavanello said. “I also didn’t put on any extra weight as you see with a lot of guys going through injuries.”Before last weekend’s 21-18 loss to Lehigh, the Buckeyes won nine straight dual meets. Tavanello said the team’s success has motivated him to get better.“Everything this team has done has influenced me to work harder to get back so I can contribute to the season they’ve had,” he said. “We’re a close group of guys and we have each other’s backs and we’re going to keep pushing forward.”Ryan said having Tavanello back could be crucial to the team getting the necessary points to win the upcoming tournaments.“Nick played a critical role last season in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournament,” Ryan said. “Every point is going to matter. Nick’s points are capable of being the difference for the team.”The wrestling Bucks are set to host the Big Ten Championships from March 7-8 at St. John Arena.