It’s official: Amar’e Stoudemire is a New York Knickerbocker no more. The team waived the veteran forward Monday, ending his Knicks tenure midway through his fifth season with the club (one in which he’s due $23.4 million in salary).ESPN’s sources reported that the Dallas Mavericks are waiting in the wings to pick up Stoudemire for the stretch run, provided he clears waivers Wednesday evening. But before he signs with Dallas, it’s worth stopping for a moment and asking: Where does Stoudemire’s ill-fated Knicks contract — he was doomed by bad knees — rank among the NBA’s worst (if not ever, at least in recent memory)?It’s not particularly simple to assess the value of NBA contracts for a number of reasons, many data-related, so consider this a very approximate effort. Stoudemire has produced 8.1 wins above replacement (WAR) over the previous five seasons, during which he’s been paid a total of $99,743,996 (both numbers include the 2014-15 season). About $95.4 million of that was paid above what the Knicks could have delivered to a replacement-level (zero-WAR) player making the NBA’s minimum salary,1Using the minimum salaries listed here for players with at least two seasons of NBA service. so effectively New York paid about $11.8 million for each of Stoudemire’s wins above replacement during his stay in the Big Apple.Needless to say, that wasn’t a bargain. Using Basketball-Reference.com’s transaction database, it’s difficult to discern actual trades from free-agent signings that utilized the sign-and-trade mechanic of the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement. But all players who were either traded or signed as free agents between May and October 2010 (a group that includes Stoudemire and any other blockbuster free agent) were paid $1.4 billion to produce 509.4 WAR. At the going rate, that means it would have been reasonable to expect Stoudemire’s $95.4 million to turn into 33.7 WAR. By this accounting, Stoudemire’s production since the 2010-11 season fell short of his expectations by 25.6 WAR.As a comparison, LeBron James, the biggest-name free agent signed the same summer, was paid $83.4 million above the minimum over the ensuing five seasons (granted, not all of it by the same team under the same contract), which would seem to portend 29.5 WAR; instead, James posted 82.8 WAR for a surplus of 53.3 WAR.The bargaining agreement contains various arcane provisions that often result in tragicomic salary leaderboards.2Between Stoudemire, Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Carmelo Anthony and Dwight Howard, the league’s five highest-paid players have produced fewer WAR together (9.5) than either James Harden or Stephen Curry have by themselves this season. But Stoudemire’s disappointing play stands out as particularly egregious. And it isn’t like there aren’t other contenders for the “worst contract” crown. For example, the Detroit Pistons in 2009 signed Ben Gordon to a five-year, $55 million deal that saw him deliver a below-replacement level -3.5 WAR — yet even Gordon’s 23.8-WAR shortfall was not as bad as Stoudemire’s.According to this method of comparing actual five-year WAR to expected WAR from salary, Stoudemire’s signing ranks as the worst offseason acquisition3Lumping in trades and free-agent signings out of necessity since the summer of 1996, when Basketball Reference’s transactions begin to be relatively complete. Here are the particulars of his badness, along with the next 29 worst offseason prizes of the same span:
Louisville and South Florida play Monday night in the second-round women’s NCAA tournament game that our March Madness predictions have the least certainty about. We’re giving Louisville, the No. 3 seed in the Albany region, a 52 percent chance to beat South Florida and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. It might as well be a coin flip. No other favorite in a second-round game had less than a 66 percent chance of winning.Why is the game so tough to call? It has more to do with the unusual structure of the women’s tournament’s first two rounds than with the teams involved. Typically, the top four seeds in each region get to host the first two rounds. This year, that happened for 15 of 16 top-four seeds. Louisville was the exception, because its arena is busy hosting men’s tournament games. Rather than head to a neutral site, the Cardinals had to travel to the arena of the next highest-seeded team in its quartet: South Florida’s Sun Dome in Tampa.Home court advantage typically is worth 3.5 points in women’s college hoops. So this scheduling conflict adds up to a 7-point swing in the Bulls’ favor as they look to make a dent in the Cardinals’ 26-4 record against them and avenge a loss last year that effectively knocked them out of the tournament.“Both teams know each other, are very familiar with both styles, with personnel, so it’s a shame we’re meeting this early in the tournament,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez told the Tampa Bay Times. “But I’m glad we’re home.”That bit of scheduling luck, and not South Florida’s strength, is what boosts the Bulls’ chances so much. South Florida is good for a 6 seed: Our mashup of power ratings and rankings says the Bulls are the 20th best team in the field, so they probably should have gotten a 5 seed. But Louisville might also have been underseeded. It’s the eighth-highest-rated team in the field, which usually is good enough for a 2 seed. The Cardinals won their first-round game by 33 points, compared to a 9-point win for South Florida. Texas, the fifth seed in the Albany region, and No. 4 California were rated much more closely than Louisville and South Florida are. In fact, Texas rated slightly higher than Cal, yet Cal, playing at home in Berkeley, had a two-in-three chance of winning. (Texas pulled off the upset, 73-70.)Monday night’s toss-up game is a good argument for changing the best-teams-host model in the early rounds, for two reasons. First, choosing neutral sites in advance would prevent the double-booking of arenas such as Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center. And second, the women’s tournament probably would have more competitive games if it didn’t boost its already-strong favorites with hosting privileges.Through Sunday, men’s favorites, playing in neutral arenas, have struggled more than women’s teams that get to host their competition. Two of 16 men’s teams seeded fourth or better lost in the round of 64, and five more went down in the next round. The teams averaged a winning margin of 12.3 points in the round of 64 and 4.4 points in the next round. By contrast, all of the 15 women’s teams that were seeded that high and got to host made it to the round of 32, and just three of the eight that played at home on Sunday lost there. The 15 teams averaged a 23.3-point win in the first round and a 9.5-point win in the second round. Some of the difference is due to a wider spread of talent in the women’s field.1The difference between the eighth- and 24th-best teams in our normalized pre-tournament team ratings gives a sense of how big the spread is, since teams of around those levels play typical round-of-32 games. In both the men’s and women’s fields this year, that spread is 5 points. So this year the men’s field is about as spread out as the women’s, thanks in part to the men’s field being unusually top-heavy.Until the women’s tournament removes favorites’ hosting rights, here’s a more modest proposal for schools that have women’s teams as strong as Louisville’s (Elite Eight last year, national runner-up the year before): Don’t host men’s tournament games on the opening weekend, lest you put your women’s team at a competitive disadvantage.Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.
In this Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, file photo, Former NFL football player Anquan Boldin, left, Philadelphia Eagles Malcolm Jenkins, center, and San Francisco 49ers Eric Reid, right, speak to the media outside the league’s headquarters after meetings in New York. San Francisco 49ers linebacker Eric Reid says he left AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)WASHINGTON (AP) — A day after scrubbing a White House visit by the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, President Donald Trump appeared to challenge a new NFL policy that requires players to stand if they’re on the field during the national anthem or stay in the locker room.Trump initially praised the policy after the NFL announced it last month.Seizing an opportunity to fan a culture war he has stoked, Trump tweeted Tuesday: “Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!”Instead of hailing Eagles players for their work on the field and in their community, the White House is staging a “Celebration of America” featuring music provided by U.S. military bands and choruses.“We will proudly be playing the National Anthem and other wonderful music celebrating our Country today at 3 P.M., The White House, with the United States Marine Band and the United States Army Chorus. Honoring America! NFL, no escaping to Locker Rooms!” Trump tweeted.In a separate tweet, he named the championship teams that have visited the White House during his presidency, including the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Penguins, New England Patriots and some college sports teams.Trump’s announcement was the latest signal that tensions remain high around the NFL protests that began in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began silently kneeling on the sidelines during the anthem. Kaepernick’s protest was intended to raise awareness around systemic racism and, specifically, the killing of black men by police.Trump said in a statement Monday that some Eagles players “disagree with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart, in honor of the great men and women of our military and the people of our country.”He said the team wanted to send a smaller delegation Tuesday, but “the 1,000 fans planning to attend the event deserve better.”None of the Eagles took a knee during the anthem in 2017.One person set to attend the ceremony told The Associated Press less than half of the team’s 53-man roster planned to go to the White House. The person spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the decision.Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney on Tuesday criticized Trump’s decision and questioned Trump’s patriotism.“When he had the opportunity to serve his country for real, his father got him out of it, and I think it’s really disingenuous for him to talk about patriotism in any way shape or form,” Kenney told CNN, referring to military deferments Trump obtained that kept him from being sent to Vietnam during the war.Kenney earlier had called Trump “a fragile egomaniac obsessed with crowd size and afraid of the embarrassment of throwing a party to which no one wants to attend.”Last week, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said he would not attend the ceremony and participate in a group photo to “to avoid being used as any kind of pawn.” In addition to Jenkins, defensive end Chris Long was the most outspoken player against going. Quarterback Carson Wentz had planned to attend.The White House did not immediately respond to questions about what prompted the change of plans and why the circumstances were different from other events honoring winning teams, such as the NFL’s New England Patriots. Some Patriots players boycotted the visit.Trump wrote on Twitter late Monday that “Unfortunately, only a small number of players decided to come, and we canceled the event.”Several players asked about Trump’s decision declined to respond. A statement from the Eagles did not directly addressing the White House cancellation.“Watching the entire Eagles community come together has been an inspiration,” the team statement read. “We are truly grateful for all of the support we have received and we are looking forward to continuing our preparations for the 2018 season.”Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who said previously that he planned to skip the visit, responded with a series of tweets.“So many lies,” he wrote, adding, “Not many people were going to go.”Smith, who played with the Eagles before being traded to the Carolina Panthers in March, added: “No one refused to go simply because Trump ‘insists’ folks stand for the anthem. … The President continues to spread the false narrative that players are anti-military.”He went on: “There are a lot of people on the team that have plenty of different views. The men and women that wanted to go should’ve been able to go. It’s a cowardly act to cancel the celebration because the majority of the people don’t want to see you. To make it about the anthem is foolish.”Trump praised the NFL’s new anthem policy after the league announced it last month. The policy forbids players from sitting or taking a knee on the field during the anthem but allows them to stay in the locker room. Violations would result in fines against the teams.“I think that’s good,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in an interview last month. “I don’t think people should be staying in the locker rooms, but still I think it’s good. You have to stand proudly for the national anthem. Or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., invited the Eagles to visit Capitol Hill instead.“I’m proud of what the @Eagles accomplished this year. I’m skipping this political stunt at the White House and just invited the Eagles to Congress. @Eagles How about a tour of the Capitol?” he wrote.White House legislative director Marc Short told CNN he didn’t know who had canceled on whom, but said, “It’s unfortunate when politics gets in the middle of this.”
87654321abcdefgh Back to Monday’s chess: On his 13th move, Carlsen pushed his black pawn forward to a5. Pieces were exchanged on that square over the next few moves, and the queenside became wide open — a vast Wild West of squares marauded by rooks and queens. Game 3 of the World Chess Championship in London, like the two games that came before it, ended in a draw — 49 moves and a touch more than four hours. The best-of-12 championship is currently level at 1.5 points apiece in a race to 6.5 points and the game’s most important prize.1Wins are worth 1 point, draws 0.5 points and losses 0 points.Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the three-time defending world champ and world No. 1, is looking for a fourth crown. Fabiano Caruana, the U.S. challenger and world No. 2, is trying to become the first American to claim the world title since Bobby Fischer in 1972. It’s the first time since 1990 that the world’s two top-rated grandmasters have met in this match — but it’s been a bloodless battle thus far.On Monday, Caruana controlled the white pieces and Carlsen the black. The pair began Game 3 with an opening called the Sicilian Defence, specifically its Rossolimo Variation. It was the same opening they played in Game 1 — which ended in an epic seven-hour draw — and the first five moves exactly matched those from that earlier game. But they deviated dramatically from this familiar ground on move 6, when Carlsen moved his queen to the c7 square. Caruana glanced around the soundproof glass room in which they played, looking slightly befuddled.But Caruana responded quickly, and after his move (rook to e1), the position on the world championship board had cropped up only once before in a high-level game, according to ChessBase — an otherwise forgotten game played in Hanoi in 1995. That rare position looked like this: A quick word on this opening’s eponymous Rossolimo himself seems warranted, given that Monday’s game was lacking in fireworks and Rossolimo’s name has figured more prominently thus far in this world championship than any but Caruana and Carlsen. He was Nicolas Rossolimo, Renaissance man: one of the U.S.’s 12 grandmasters at the time, fluent in Russian, Greek, French and English, and the “proprietor of a chess studio,” which became a second home to some players. He was also a judo master and a New York City cab driver and recorded an album of Russian folk songs, according to The New York Times. He died in 1975 after a fall near the storied Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan. Magnus Carlsen ponders his next move against Fabiano Caruana during Game 3 of the 2018 World Chess Championship. World Chess
This view suggests the U.S. may have reached a new plateau. The performance of the 2002 team, for instance, is problematic from this vantage point. If the U.S. fails to beat Belgium on Tuesday, that means it will have gone three World Cups without equaling (much less improving upon) the 2002 team’s performance. Perhaps we’re left with the global soccer equivalent of the Atlanta Hawks: a team that will usually make the “playoffs” then lose in the first round.This might seem like a contrived reading of the evidence. But mapping the Americans’ trajectory from 1986 onward is also selective: It’s easy to make an upward pattern look more impressive by starting from what you know to be a low point.There’s a credible story behind each theory. Under the steady-improvement theory, the story is one of demographic and cultural trends abetted by some measure of self-perpetuating success (a positive feedback loop). Soccer has been a big youth-participation sport since the 1970s, but immigration from Latin America may be giving the U.S. even more young athletes who are interested in soccer. The occasional successes of the U.S. men’s national team, along with an increasingly popular domestic league (and improved television visibility for the English Premier League and Liga MX) may motivate some of these young athletes to play soccer professionally instead of transitioning into baseball, football or another sport.The punctuated-equilibrium theory suggests that the U.S. was badly underachieving its soccer potential for many years. Then it got its act together when it was chosen to host a World Cup: better facilities, more investment in the national team, a sustainable domestic league and so forth. But it was picking low-hanging fruit. It shouldn’t be that difficult for a super-wealthy country like the United States, which excels at so many other sports, to be half-decent at soccer if it tries.What’s more challenging is going from a country that sometimes makes the knockout phase to one that sometimes makes the World Cup semifinals — or beyond. It’s not clear that the U.S.’s wealth, or its athletic prowess, implies that it ought to be much more successful at soccer than it has been in recent years. For instance, we can compare each country’s GDP (taken as a natural logarithm) against its soccer team’s Elo rating as of June. There’s certainly some relationship, but it’s rough (soccer is a comparatively inexpensive sport). The trendline in the chart implies that a best guess for the United States is an Elo rating somewhere in mid-1,800s, almost exactly where it is today.The same story holds if we compare the number of medals each country has won at the Summer Olympics since 2000 (again taken as a natural logarithm5Because a number of countries have won no medals since 2000 — meaning that their natural logarithm would be undefined — I instead take the log of the number of medals won plus one.) against its soccer team’s Elo rating.There’s a high margin of error on these estimates. China’s GDP (and its Olympic medal count) is just a little less than the United States’ — but its soccer team has qualified for only one World Cup and has gotten worse in recent years. Germany also has a big economy and a big medal count — and its soccer team is great. The point is that the U.S. men’s national team is no longer underachieving reasonable expectations, as it was before the 1990s. Nor is it exceeding them. Perhaps what we’ve seen is about what we’re due to get in a populous, wealthy, athletic country — where interest in soccer is average, at best, by global standards.The success of the U.S. women’s national soccer team stands in contrast to that of the men’s. But soccer players are among the highest-profile female athletes in the U.S., suggesting that part of the problem for the men’s side is competition from other sports.The punctuated-equilibrium theory would imply that it may take some time for the U.S. men’s team to reach the next plateau. Perhaps an external catalyst would help: another American World Cup, a run to the World Cup semifinals, the emergence of an American soccer player who is recognized as among the best in the world. (Personally, I’d hope for him to be as brash as Cristiano Ronaldo, the better to spark headlines and stoke rivalries with other countries.) But it could be a long while before any of those things happen, and there could be some further delay before their feedback effects kick in.Or it could be that the steady-improvement theory is right. It also reflects a reasonable interpretation of the evidence. The data on youth interest in soccer is very encouraging, for instance.Tuesday’s game against Belgium will provide us with one data point — but just one. Unlike in the past, however, we might not need to wait four years for the next one. Instead, in 2016, the United States will host the Copa América Centenario, a special one-off tournament that will feature the best teams from both North and South America. It could serve as a preview of our soccer future. Playing at home produces the equivalent of an 100 Elo-point bonus — equal to eight years of improvement for the U.S. based on its 1986 to 2014 trajectory. If the U.S. will be ready to compete with the Colombias and Argentinas and Brazils of the world on neutral turf by 2022 and 2026, it should be able to do so on home soil in 2016.CORRECTION (July 1, 4:54 p.m.): A chart in an earlier version of this post mislabeled the Elo ratings vs. Olympic medal counts for China and Russia. The chart has been updated. For the United States, almost every recent World Cup match has been billed as the most important game in the history of the men’s national team. Its knockout-stage match against Belgium on Tuesday isn’t receiving quite as much hype.1The New Republic does describe the U.S.-Belgium game as the “most important sporting event in American history.” That’s apparently a joke, however. But a win would advance the U.S. to the World Cup quarterfinals for a Saturday afternoon match against Argentina or Switzerland. That would probably be the most-watched game in U.S. soccer history — the first World Cup quarterfinal that many American fans would ever see their men play live.2The U.S. advanced to the quarterfinals in 2002, but its game against Germany was played in South Korea at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time on a Saturday morning — not ideal viewing hours. The U.S. also advanced from its group to the semifinals in the inaugural World Cup in 1930, but that was when just four teams made the knockout stage.It’s tempting to say that these matches are the soccer equivalent of political “game changers” — much-ballyhooed events that seem exciting at the time but which rarely have as much lasting impact as the pundits claim. But it’s not unreasonable to feel as though every World Cup game is more important than the last. It’s a consequence of the long-term state of U.S. soccer.On the one hand, expectations are getting higher. The U.S. advanced from the group stage in 1994, 2002, 2010 and now 2014. Matches against England or Portugal or Germany are now thought of as opportunities rather than sure losses. On the other hand, the men’s national team has never quite had its breakthrough moment.When might the bar be raised? When might U.S. fans view a Round of 16 exit as a travesty and not a triumph?If you’re in your mid-30s, like me, the advance of the U.S. men’s national team might seem as inevitable as that of gay marriage. You’ll be just old enough to remember that the U.S. was once a soccer backwater. But you might not remember how long it took the Americans to get where they are today. The trajectory since the 1980s has always been upward:This chart shows the Elo rating for the U.S. in each World Cup year3Specifically, it shows the U.S.’s Elo rating as of the date of the World Cup final — whether or not the U.S. actually qualified for the tournament. For 2014, I’ve used the U.S.’s Elo rating at the end of the group stage. since 1986 — the last World Cup where the Americans failed to qualify, and the last one before 1988, when FIFA declared the 1994 World Cup would be played in the U.S.From this perspective, the upward trend has been extremely steady. In fact, other than the 2002 team arriving in the quarterfinals a little ahead of schedule, it’s been almost perfectly linear. Since 1986, the U.S.’s Elo rating has improved by almost exactly 50 points every four years.Imagine that the trend continues. Right now, the U.S. team’s Elo rating is nearly 1,850, which places it 15th in the world. Add another 50 points, and by 2018 it would be at 1,900 — somewhere around eighth or 10th in the world and near where Belgium and Uruguay and France are today. That’s a team that could be a dark-horse World Cup contender. By 2026, its Elo rating would be 2,000 — not far from where Argentina, Germany and the Netherlands began this year’s tournament. So in just 12 more years — in a World Cup that could possibly be held in the United States — the U.S. will be a global soccer powerhouse.Or perhaps not. Consider another look at the evidence, one where we run the numbers back further. For much of the 1970s, there was a lot of hope surrounding the growth of U.S. soccer, but the men’s national team repeatedly failed to qualify for the World Cup. In one year, the U.S. failed to win a single qualifying match. But let’s go back ever further, to 1950. This tells a different story. The men’s national team got worse from 1950 to 1958, bottomed out for almost 30 years with no sign of life, improved rather sharply in a concentrated period from 1986 through 2002, and has been fairly steady since.Yes, the U.S. has still gotten better by this reckoning — but it looks more like a case of punctuated equilibrium — a sudden change after years of stasis.4The so-called punctuated trend in the chart is drawn by fitting a regression with a dummy variable that is taken as zero between 1950 and 1986 and one between 2002 and 2014 and allowed to vary at a linear rate only in the intervening years.
6/2/85Celtics@Lakers3NBA Finals-254.3 5/30/14Pacers@Heat6East final-255.6 5/22/00Lakersvs.Blazers2West final-290.1✓ 25+ point blowouts of conference No. 1 seeds in the NBA playoffs, 1984-2016 6/2/95Magic@Pacers6East final-272.2✓ 5/27/01Spurs@Lakers4West final-292.5 5/3/07Mavericks@Warriors6West Rd. 1-252.2 5/27/85Lakers@Celtics1NBA Finals-340.3✓ 5/26/15Hawks@Cavaliers4East final-302.8 5/25/01Spurs@Lakers3West final-390.2 In the NBA playoffs, No. 1 seeds have a special air of authority about them. Since the league expanded to a 16-team playoff format in 1984, top-seeded teams have won their conference about 55 percent of the time; unlike in sports that feature heavy randomness, it’s a surprise when the best team doesn’t win out in the NBA.But that doesn’t mean top seeds are invincible, as the Golden State Warriors found out Sunday night in Oklahoma when they lost 133-105. With the series tied 1-1, the Warriors were facing the most crucial game of their season — and the Oklahoma City Thunder absolutely shellacked them. Going back again to ’84, it tied for the 14th-worst defeat of a conference No. 1 seed in the playoffs: 6/7/98Jazz@Bulls3NBA Finals-420.1% 5/11/10Cavaliersvs.Celtics5East Rd. 2-32<0.1 6/16/00Lakers@Pacers5NBA Finals-330.3✓ 6/3/84Celtics@Lakers3NBA Finals-330.4✓ 6/14/88Lakers@Pistons4NBA Finals-253.5✓ 6/11/13Heat@Spurs3NBA Finals-360.2✓ Half of those 14 losses came in the NBA Finals, and six featured a No. 1 seed from one conference crushing its counterpart from the the other — not exactly comparable to Dubs-Thunder. So if you toss those out, Golden State’s loss is tied for the seventh-most-lopsided defeat by a No. 1 in the past 33 postseasons of conference play. (It’s also tied for ninth-worst among playoff losses by No. 1 overall seeds during that span.)The Thunder are a high-quality basketball team, perhaps far better than they appeared to be at various points during the regular season. But the degree to which they dominated the Warriors in Game 3 was stunning. According to the pregame Elo ratings (our pet metric for estimating each team’s strength at a given moment), there was a mere 1.1 percent probability that OKC would run up a victory margin of 28 or more points Sunday.1Based on a process similar to the NFL version I used here. We’ve hardly ever seen this incarnation of the Warriors destroyed so thoroughly, and never in a game that meant so much.Putting aside why it happened — yes, the Warriors had one of their worst (unluckiest?) shot-making nights of the season, but they also played some of their most porous defense of the year and looked out of sorts for long stretches of the game — Golden State’s Game 3 drubbing has left the team in trouble. Both opponents being equal, the team that wins at home in a 1-1 series goes on to win the series more than 69 percent of the time. And although we wouldn’t have considered the Warriors and Thunder to be equals before the West final tipped off, OKC has closed the gap considerably since then. (Plus, Draymond Green is at risk of being suspended for Game 4 after kicking Steven Adams in the crotch for the second time this series.) Now, our model considers the Thunder 64 percent favorites to make the NBA Finals.Plenty of historical teams who suffered similarly huge routs bounced back and won the series anyway, so all is not lost in Oakland. But the Warriors will have to regroup after a Game 3 performance that put them in an exclusive, unenviable club of vulnerable No. 1 seeds.Check out our latest NBA predictions. 5/24/87Celtics@Pistons4East final-262.2✓ 5/22/16Warriors@Thunder3West final-281.1— DATETEAMOPPONENTGAMEROUNDMARGINELO PROB.WON SERIES 5/19/88Lakers@Jazz6West Rd. 2-281.2✓ Source: Basketball-Reference.com 6/17/08Lakers@Celtics6NBA Finals-390.1 6/4/05Heat@Pistons6East final-252.3 5/21/92Bullsvs.Cavaliers2East final-260.2✓ 5/30/96Sonics@Jazz6West final-350.3✓ 6/3/92Blazers@Bulls1NBA Finals-330.8
All newsletters See more college football predictions Oh, and don’t forgetKasparov with the jokes We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe Things That Caught My EyeOhtani narrows it to sevenJapanese pitcher Shohei Ohtani has narrowed his search for a MLB team down to seven, with New York and Boston notably absent from the list. Right now Ohtani looks to be 20 percent higher than the league average in ERA and on-base-plus-slugging, which is nuts. Only a few dozen players each year beat the 20 percent above average benchmark in either stat, it’d be crazy to hit both. [FiveThirtyEight]Russia’s bannedRussia was banned from competing in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in light of the complex doping regime the nation operated throughout the Sochi games. So far 11 medals have been stripped from Russians. But with the nation out of the 2018 games, it’s worth looking at which nations may stand to gain. Had Russia not competed in Sochi, and its 33 medals been reallocated, China would have left with five more, Norway four, Germany, Canada, France, Italy and the U.S. three. [FiveThirtyEight]African players making gains in the NFLNative-born and first-generation African players are all over the NFL, with 30 teams having at least one African on their roster. Cleveland has the league high, with B.J. Bello, David Njoku, Emmanuel Ogbah, Larry Ogunjobi, and Victor Salako. African players have been making steady gains in the NFL since Howard Simon Mwikuta played for the Cowboys in a 1970 preseason game, and players who have returned home to start development programs have accelerated that progress. [The Undefeated]A Jonas testifies in soccer corruption trialKevin Jonas, one of the Jonas Brothers, testified in Brooklyn that yes, he had gone to a Paul McCartney concert in Buenos Aires in 2010. The circumstances surrounding the testimony have to do with the trial of Juan Angel Napout for money laundering, racketeering and wire fraud. Napout allegedly used his FIFA influence to score tickets to that concert. His lawyers refused to concede there even was a Paul McCartney concert, so prosecutors called on a celeb to solve the problem. Soccer is weird. [Vice Sports]Try out our fun new interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?LeBron remains the bestLeBron James remains as good as ever, notching career highs in true shooting percentage, three point percentage, assist percentage, block percentage, and the second highest free throw percentage of his career. While his defense is slightly off his peak performance, James hasn’t really missed much of a step. [FiveThirtyEight]They did it!The New York Giants are cleaning house, firing GM Jerry Reese and coach Ben McAdoo after a disastrous season. The team is in the capable hands of defensive coordinator, a man who is 10-38 as a head coach. [NorthJersey.com]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number284 kgCongratulations to Sarah Robles, who won the 2017 IWF World Weightlifting Championships, becoming the first U.S. woman to take gold since 1994. Robles lifted 126 kg in the snatch and 158 kg in the clean and jerk (three kilograms shy of the record) for a total of 284 kilograms. [Team USA]Leaks from Slack: emily : See more NBA predictions College Football emily :!! that means the two biggest buildings at nike HQ will be named after Serena Williams and Mia Hamm. hell yeah !!(also cause I guess the new big WHQ buildings are getting athlete names.. so the whole “She’s the only one!!!” isn’t exactly true)Predictions NFL NBA See more NFL predictions
INDIANAPOLIS — The Purdue Boilermakers upset top-seeded Ohio State in the 2017 Big Ten women’s basketball tournament. Ohio State junior guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) facilitates the offense against Purdue during the Boilermakers’ 71-60 win against the Buckeyes at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 4. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Sports Director
When the Buckeyes step into Gentile Arena in Chicago on Saturday and senior outside hitter Mik Berzins looks at the opposing team’s bench, he will see two people he knows quite well. “I’ve grown accustomed to playing my brothers over at Loyola,” he said. “It’s a good rivalry.” Berzins’ brothers, Kris and Dainis, have made the family name synonymous with volleyball at Loyola University Chicago, just as their father paved the way for Mik at Ohio State. The tradition begins with OSU Hall of Famer, Aldis Berzins. The Olympic gold medalist and former outside hitter led the Buckeyes to four Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championships and four NCAA Final Four appearances between 1975 and 1978. Like father, like sons. Kris, Mik and Dainis have played at the outside hitter position and have made strides within their respective programs. Even the youngest Berzins, sophomore Dainis, started in 21 sets last year and tallied 113 kills, according to Loyola’s athletic website. “We all really support each other and want to have the other one do well,” Mik said. “I’m not going to cheer whenever Dainis gets a kill, but I wish him the best.” Former all-American Kris Berzins amassed more than 1,000 kills and 500 digs in his career with the Ramblers, one of only seven players in school history to do so. After a year on the professional circuit in Austria, Kris returned to Chicago as an assistant coach for the 2012 season. Ramblers’ coach Shane Davis said he tried to recruit Mik, too. “I thought we had him,” Davis said. “He took another look at Ohio State unfortunately, but we definitely wanted him.” Mik said he chose OSU over Loyola because he could see himself succeeding in the versatile program. “I came in as a libero, and I got the opportunity this year, and a little bit last year, to play some outside hitter,” he said. “Ohio State was the best place for me to go.” Mik has helped propel the Buckeyes to an 11-4 record with 120 kills, 10 service aces and a 0.928 serve percentage so far this season. He also has the most career digs in school history with 787. OSU’s coach Pete Hanson describes Mik as a passer, defender and server, but not one to be distracted by the family feud that awaits him this weekend. “Mik does a great job for us,” Hanson said. “He’ll be in a good frame of mind in terms of Ohio State volleyball.” The Buckeyes are 28-13 on the series against conference rival Loyola, and are on a five-match winning streak. The No. 14-ranked Ramblers have fared better at home, however, with a 9-7 record against OSU there. Davis, who shared the MIVA Coach of the Year award with Hanson in 2010, said that he is most looking forward to “all the hype” surrounding the match. “The two teams, we have a lot of history together,” he said. The trio from Brinklow, Md., will reunite Saturday after OSU makes a stop in Romeoville, Ill., to face No. 7-ranked Lewis on Thursday. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m.
Pucks take funky bounces, sticks break in crucial moments and ice surfaces can vary from location to location.Home ice advantage is visible in numerous buildings, but perhaps no other arena better demonstrates the buoyant lift of enthused supporters better than Wisconsin’s Kohl Center.After his team played in the acclaimed arena Saturday night, Ohio State men’s hockey coach Steve Rohlik had no doubt of its place within the game.“This is the best atmosphere, to me, in college hockey,” Rohlik said in an interview with U.S. College Hockey Online. “The student section doesn’t compare anywhere else.”That’s what makes the Buckeyes’ 3-1 win over the Badgers Saturday night so impressive. Faced with that atmosphere and a four-game winless streak, OSU (12-9-1, 2-5-1-0) managed to hand No. 9 Wisconsin (14-7-1, 5-3-0-0) only its second home loss of the season.In a place where it pays to have experience, it turned out to be some of the younger Buckeyes who played a significant part in the win.First there was freshman goalie Christian Frey who, in only his fourth career start, made 36 saves to hold a team tied for fifth in the nation in scoring to just one goal.Though his performance has drawn a lot of praise, Frey said he couldn’t have done it alone.“The guys in front of me made it easy,” Frey said. “We really pulled together as a team and played a great team game, and it was a big win.”With Frey holding down the defensive end of things, it was freshman forward Nick Schilkey who had a big hand in leading the Buckeyes’ attack. Schilkey skated nearly the length of the ice to score the game’s tying goal, then helped set up junior forward Nick Oddo to score the winning marker.Schilkey said he aims to be as consistent as possible while also helping out in the goal-scoring department whenever he can.“I try to play well defensively and make sure I’m not being a liability out there,” Schilkey said. “When I get a weekend like this past one, it’s nice to see things pay off.”Frey, who was added to the roster in December, said he experienced the togetherness of this OSU team from day one.“All the guys are unbelievable,” Frey said. “I think it’s been an awesome experience for me and I’m really glad I came here.”With freshmen like Frey and Schilkey combining with seasoned upperclassmen, OSU seems to have found a winning formula.Maybe that’s one of the reasons Rohlik had a smile on his face after Saturday’s game. It seemed as if he realized a performance like that — one where every player stood up to the challenge — could really shape the Buckeyes’ season.“I’m proud of the guys that stepped up in the lineup tonight,” Rohlik said in the interview with U.S. College Hockey Online. “I think the NFL says it now, ‘It’s the next man standing.’ That’s kind of been our attitude from goalies, to (defensemen), to forwards, whoever.”Next up the Buckeyes are scheduled to host a weekend series against Penn State (4-15-1, 0-6-0) Friday at 7:05 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m.