Minnesota Lynx players wear t-shirts in support of police shooting victims (Twitter)The WNBA reversed the fines imposed on three teams this weekend after fans of the Minnesota Lynx chanted “Black lives matter” at Friday night’s game. The uproar began after players for the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever continued their support of police and Black shooting victims last week.Atlanta Black Star reported the league had been criticized for the double standard of punishing members of the majority Black league for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement but praising the support for Orlando shooting victims.According to the Associated Press, the WNBA decided to rescind the $5,000 fine against each team and $500 for all players involved for violating the league’s uniform code.BREAKING: WNBA withdraws fines for teams that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings— AP Sports (@AP_Sports) July 23, 2016Players donned black warm-up shirts that read #BlackLivesMatter and #Dallas5. The athletes purposely wore Adidas shirts to comply with dress guidelines, but the issue was with the unapproved messages on the shirts. League president Lisa Borders commended the move but did not condone noncompliance.“We are proud of WNBA players’ engagement and passionate advocacy for non-violent solutions to difficult social issues but expect them to comply with the league’s uniform guidelines,” she said in a statement.On Saturday, Borders continued to voice support and said removing the fines show the teams “even more support.”Appreciate our players expressing themselves on matters important to them. Rescinding imposed fines to show them even more support.— WNBAPrez (@WNBAPrez) July 23, 2016One day earlier, the Lynx faced off against the Seattle Storm at Minneapolis’ Target Center, where fans backed the home team’s support of Black Lives Matter by chanting the movement’s namesake. Unlike the Liberty, Fever and Mercury teams, the Lynx were not fined for their t-shirt protest because they got approval for the messages, according to Fusion.Crowds chanted #blacklivesmatter while @bre_stewart30 Stewie is doing her free throw. #BlackOutLynx pic.twitter.com/Vihr7EzrPH— Yi-Chin Lee (@_yichinlee) July 23, 2016Post game, the Storm joined the Liberty and Fever media blackout according to The Seattle Times, refusing to discuss the game and only talk about racial injustice.“We all have fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, everybody who can be in this situation. Race is a very uncomfortable topic to talk about in the United States,” Storm forward Alysha Clark told the paper. “A lot of people don’t want to have it. But as the events have been unfolding here and in the last couple of years, there is a problem that needs to be addressed. It needs to be talked about.”
Month: September 2019
Roma4717663217+16+4+1 How the draw affected Champions League oddsTeams’ chances of making each round, before and after the draw Shakhtar30823792+7+10 TEAMQTRSSEMISFINALQTRSSEMISFINALQTRSSEMISFINAL BEFORE DRAWAFTER DRAWDIFFERENCE Liverpool51239592611+8+3+2 Juventus562913562913000 Man City633619874925+24+13+6 Besiktas244<171<1-17-30 Chelsea4118724115-17-7-2 Man United4518764249+19+6+2 Tottenham57241044208-13-4-2 PSG714425452817-26-16-8 Real Madrid745031553823-19-12-8 Porto3714541155+4+10 Sevilla33923692+300 Barcelona795636765536-3-10 Basel2351133<1-10-2-1 Bayern69%45%26%93%61%36%+24%+16%+10% The draw for the Champions League round of 16 is set, and even though the first games will not be played for two months, we already know that at least one true European power will be eliminated before the quarterfinals kick off, and a couple more elite clubs could be in trouble. This is because the Champions League draw pitted some of the best teams in the world against each other in early clashes. According to Soccer Power Index, six of the nine best teams to make the knockouts have been drawn against each other. These three matchups — each of which consists of two games, one at each club’s home grounds — should give the Round of 16 a new level of drama.Tottenham Hotspur vs. JuventusJuventus has made the Champions League finals twice in the last three seasons, while Tottenham’s last semifinals appearance in a major tournament came in the 1984 UEFA Cup. SPI nonetheless projects this as a close match, giving Juventus a small 56 to 44 percent advantage in chance to advance. By the underlying numbers, not too much separates these two teams. Spurs may be sixth in the Premier League standings, but the clubs are bunched tightly together, and just four points separate Tottenham from third-place Chelsea. By expected goals, a statistical measure of the quality of chances created and conceded, Tottenham fares even better. The North London side’s plus-17.5 expected goal difference is second-best in the league behind Manchester City.Meanwhile Juventus, despite a 12-2-2 record in Italy, looks somewhat more vulnerable than it has in the past. Through 16 matches in Serie A, Juve has conceded 19 clear scoring chances, which are defined as opportunities in which a player is expected to score, like when a shooter is one-on-one with the goalie. That works out to a little over one clear chance conceded per match, which isn’t bad, but over the last three seasons, Juventus has averaged 20 clear chances conceded per full season — or roughly 0.5 per match. The defense, shorn of superstar Leonardo Bonucci, has not yet fully come together. Tottenham will be hoping that the defense does not cohere before this February clash.Chelsea vs. BarcelonaSPI ranks Barcelona as the best team in the world, and the Blaugranes had the misfortune to draw Chelsea, the world’s ninth-best team. Despite the big names here, SPI projects this matchup to go chalk. Chelsea’s chance of making the quarterfinals dropped from 41 to 24 percent after the draw was announced, while Barcelona’s moved only slightly, from 79 to 76 percent.These two sides’ statistical profiles offer a study in the importance of generating quality chances. This year, Barcelona has outshot its opponents 230 to 162. Chelsea’s shot difference is nearly identical: 240 to 170. However, Barca has outscored its opponents by 31 goals, easily surpassing Chelsea’s plus-15 goal difference. The reason is chance quality, as measured by expected goals. Barcelona has created so many good scoring chances that the club averages 0.16 expected goals per shot. This is not to say Chelsea is just wildly firing everything at net — its 0.1 expected goals per shot attempt is about average but inferior to the otherworldly Barca number. All this is to say that Barcelona deserves its large edge in goals, and this is a big part of the reason that SPI projects Barcelona as big favorites.The hope that Chelsea fans will be clinging to is that the last time the Blues were huge underdogs against Barcelona, they pulled off an all-time upset in the 2012 Champions League semifinals, en route to an unlikely trophy. This year, Chelsea would need another dose of that good fortune in the round of 16.Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-GermainSpurs-Juve and Chelsea-Barca are fun, but this is the clear marquee matchup of the first round. Real vs. PSG is a matchup you might expect in the semifinals, and it wouldn’t have been half bad as a final. How rough a draw was this for PSG and Madrid? Before the draw, the two teams combined for a 30 percent chance of winning the Champions League, according to Soccer Power Index. Now the teams’ combined chance is only 22 percent. Real Madrid fell from 17 to 13 percent, and PSG dropped from 13 to 9 percent. Manchester City, which was fortunate to draw FC Basel, has moved up to third in the SPI projections for eventual champion, tied with Real Madrid and ahead of PSG.Here’s how the draw affected each team remaining in the tournament based on its projected chance of reaching the semifinals, reaching the finals and winning it all: Madrid and PSG both have oodles of world-class talent, but even with over 40 percent of the season done, both clubs are difficult to evaluate. Real Madrid stands a disappointing fourth in La Liga. Its struggles appear to be mostly with finishing, as Real has scored 27 non-penalty goals but created 35.5 expected goals. If the finishing improves, Real should be fine, and SPI continues to view this side among the world’s best. But any vulnerability in a team that should be as dominant as Real Madrid is a little worrying.PSG pose a harder question still. The Parisian side has dominated Ligue 1 and holds a nine-point lead over second-place Lyon. But Ligue 1 is just not that good. There are no other Ligue 1 sides in the SPI top 20, while Italy has five clubs among the world’s best, Spain has four, and England has its big six. The test will come in the Champions League, which is the only competition where PSG matches up against clubs of similar strength. This showdown with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Real, these 180 minutes across two tilts, is why PSG spent untold millions on Neymar last summer and is scheduled to deliver another dump truck worth of cash next summer to turn the loan of Monaco’s Kylian Mbappe into a permanent addition. The duo’s combined 15 goals and 11 assists in Ligue 1 are nice, but given the money the team has spent and the weakness of its league, Neymar and Mbappe can only truly pay off in the Champions League. An opportunity to prove their worth comes early in the round of 16.Whoever emerges from this matchup will be one of the favorites for the trophy, having demonstrated their strength and eliminated a top contender.
INDIANAPOLIS — If there’s one thing that’s become almost painstakingly clear about the Indiana Pacers this season, it’s that they’re an acquired taste among basketball fans.Unless you’re from the state of Indiana, chances are you’re not going to find this club all that sexy. In a league flush with pace, dunks and threes, the Pacers rank near the bottom in all three. Their franchise player, high-flying All-Star Victor Oladipo, went down with a devastating, season-ending injury in January, supposedly ruining whatever chance the club had of making a deep playoff run — if it could even finish the job and reach the postseason to begin with.But focusing on what the Pacers don’t have, or won’t accomplish, might make you miss something important: Indiana possesses perhaps more grit than any NBA team.Of course there are two concerns with a statement like that. First, as numbers-heavy as we are at this site, we couldn’t quite come up with anything to measure the Pacers’ heart (although we pieced together a number of things to make a solid argument). Second, and perhaps more important for the time being: For all the heart Indiana possesses, looking at the team’s recent results might lead you to believe the struggling team is on life support.Before their home win here over the Pistons on Monday night, the Pacers had lost seven of their past eight and were coming off a dismal 4-10 record in March, by far their worst month of the campaign. They’ll head into Detroit on Wednesday in the midst of a 10-game road-losing streak — concerning for a team in danger of falling to the fifth seed and losing home-court advantage in the first round.Aside from a much tougher schedule lately (of those 10-straight road defeats, nine have come to teams that will make the playoffs),1This rationale might comfort Pacers fans. But if Indiana can’t beat playoff-caliber teams on the road anymore, that probably speaks volumes about the team’s prospects of making it out of a second-round series, if it even gets that far. Indiana has struggled to generate consistent offense in Oladipo’s absence. The team logged just 106.5 points per 100 possessions during the month of March, the league’s fourth-worst scoring attack during that span, according to NBA Advanced Stats.More and more, the Pacers’ hardscrabble offense has been putting too much pressure on the team’s third-ranked defense. Before Oladipo’s injury ended his season, Indiana was 16-12 when giving up 100 points or more. But since he left the lineup, and the team’s margin for error shrank immeasurably, the Pacers have gone just 6-17 when surrendering 100 or more.Understandably, the team was a mess immediately after Oladipo’s injury, which required him to be carried off on a stretcher before the home crowd. General manager Kevin Pritchard gave an emotional rallying cry in the locker room after the game, reminding the players that they’d gone 7-4 without Oladipo already this season (as opposed to 0-7 the season before) and were still 5 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents with him off the floor. But that didn’t stop Indiana from falling into a season-worst four-game skid. Adjustments were needed.“It’s a totally different thing to play those 11 games without him when you know in the back of your mind that you’re going to get him back healthy,” coach Nate McMillan said of Oladipo, who was also an All-NBA defender. “But after the injury, we knew he wasn’t coming back. So we had to change everything [in our offense] and hit the reset button.”That meant shifting from a relatively open system — one that often encouraged players (especially Oladipo) to take midrange shots if opponents sagged off — to one that’s more heavily synchronized. Indiana has tripled its number of ball screens for Bojan Bogdanovic,2Since February, Bogdanovic has gotten a ball screen 12.7 times per 100 possessions — up from just 4.2 per 100 possessions prior to Oladipo’s injury, according to data from Second Spectrum. giving him a downhill advantage to set up open teammates if and when defenses collapse into the paint.With more playmaking responsibilities, Bogdanovic has upped his scoring average from 16 points before the Oladipo injury to almost 22 per game since then. He and Wes Matthews, who signed with the Pacers after being bought out following the trade deadline, have replaced the vast majority of Oladipo’s shot attempts. Thaddeus Young’s play has been noteworthy, too, as he has basically doubled his assist average since Oladipo went down. All three players factored into Indiana turning things around in February, winning eight of nine — albeit against suspect competition.Effort has been one of Indiana’s defining traits, both this season and in previous years. After posting that 0-7 mark without Oladipo in 2017-18, the Pacers now stand 21-21 in games without their star this season. They’re highly physical, almost always preferring to fight through screens as opposed to switching on defense, like most teams do. They dive on the floor for extra possessions and rank near the top in recovering loose balls on D. And they’ve developed an attitude that suggests that no deficit is too big for them to overcome. In one of their best wins of the season, the Pacers rallied from 19 down last month to beat ex-Indiana star Paul George and the Thunder. It marked a league-high 19th time over the past three seasons that Indiana had come back to win a game it once trailed by 15 points or more, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.But the struggles over the past month and change have illustrated that effort, which these Pacers are built on, can take you only so far — especially now that Indiana’s foes are bona fide playoff clubs again.“When you’re struggling offensively, it’s hard to grind on these guys and yell, ‘C’mon guys: Keep guarding! Get your intensity up!’ when you can just see their confidence oozing out of them and slipping away with each missed shot,” Pacers assistant coach Dan Burke told me.Put another way: At a certain point, you can only get so much defense out of a team that isn’t producing anything on offense.That isn’t to suggest there isn’t talent on the roster, because there is. It just hasn’t been reliable from top to bottom. Take the two biggest acquisitions from last summer: Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott. Evans, who figured to be an enormous insurance policy as a ball-handler in case anything happened to Oladipo, has been the NBA’s worst finisher at the rim.3Literally the worst. Out of the 85 players who have taken at least 250 shots from the restricted area, Evans — at 45.7 percent — is the only one shooting worse than 50 percent. And while McDermott has been fine, he’s had unusually wild shooting swings, depending on whether he’s playing at home (just over 30 percent from 3-point range) or on the road (where he’s slightly better than 48 percent from 3-point range).Indiana uses cutters better than most teams. But the Pacers are often slow to identify the mismatches they have when opposing defenses counter their screen-and-roll action with a switch. In fact, no team generates less efficient offense than the Pacers (who score a minuscule 0.81 points per possession) do when getting a switch, according to data from Second Spectrum.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/SWITCHES.mp400:0000:0001:38Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.And as you might guess, crunch-time offense has often been a struggle for Indiana, one of a handful of teams to average less than 1 point per possession in those scenarios since Oladipo’s injury.There are obviously plenty of things the Pacers do well, and they still somehow have an outside chance of reaching the 50-win mark. Domantas Sabonis has become one of the NBA’s most efficient bench scorers. Indy shoots very well from three; they simply don’t take many (29th in attempt rate). Yet the team’s bread and butter is its defense, where players like Young and block machine Myles Turner (both of whom deserve All-Defensive Team consideration)4And in Turner’s case, Defensive Player of the Year consideration. frequently force opponents into mistakes. Indiana has occasional breakdowns, too, of course. But the fact remains that the Pacers usually keep themselves in games on that end of the floor.Whether their defense will keep them in the playoffs for long is a separate question. But even if it doesn’t, we can rest assured that the Pacers — warts and all — will leave whatever they’ve got on the court.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
180067-15All-time great 150041-41Average You can sort the teams in several ways: by their season-ending Elo rating, by their peak rating or by their average rating throughout the season.5Peak ratings and average ratings exclude the first 20 games of each team’s season, when they reflect a substantial amount of carry-over from the prior year. A team’s composite Elo rating is a simple average of these three.For the very best teams — and I already mentioned some of Elo’s favorites, like the Jordan-era Bulls and the 1985-86 Celtics — the ratings are high across the board. The ’82-83 Sixers are another of these, ranking as the 10th-best team all-time.But in other cases, there’s a pretty big difference between peak, year-end and average ratings. The 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers achieved the 11th-highest peak rating ever (1779). But their year-end rating is a pedestrian 1690 because they coasted down the stretch and then struggled (relatively speaking) in the playoffs, getting outscored by both the Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers despite winning those series. Conversely, the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons got better and better as the season went on, going 35-6 in the second half of the regular season and then 15-2 in the playoffs against opponents that included the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls.The list might seem to be biased toward relatively recent teams: Among the top 50 seasons all-time, only six from before 1980 make the list. This is mostly a consequence of there being more teams than there once were. Simply put, it’s much more impressive to be the best team in a 30-team league than in a 10-team league.But it’s also hard to say the NBA is watered down, at least right now. In fact, it’s barely expanded in recent years, adding just one franchise since 1995. That makes recent teams’ performances more impressive than those from, for example, the early 1970s, when the NBA almost doubled in size over a few seasons. When Elo ranks a team higher or lower than you might expect intuitively, it’s usually because it perceives the team’s competition to be especially strong or especially weak.Some teams, meanwhile, do their damage over the long run instead of having any one standout season. The best team from the Celtics dynasty of the 1960s ranks only 47th all-time. But the Celtics of that era were incredibly consistent, with a composite Elo rating falling somewhere between 1627 and 1704 over 11 consecutive seasons. The San Antonio Spurs, meanwhile, have placed 13 teams in the all-time top 100 since 1994-95, but their highest-ranked individual season (2013-14) is only 12th.And what about this season’s Warriors ranking as the fourth-best team of all time? Obviously, that’s a provisional score: They may rise or fall a couple of slots depending on how the rest of the playoffs go (although they almost certainly won’t pull ahead of the 1995-96 Bulls). But even though the conventional wisdom has been skeptical about the Warriors at times, we think Elo’s case is pretty easy to defend.Here’s how it goes. As we’ve said, Elo is all about accounting for the strength of a team’s competition, and the Western Conference over the past dozen or so years has featured about the toughest basketball competition imaginable. The Warriors’ 67-15 regular-season record is as good as any other Western Conference team from this era, and their regular-season point differential (+10.2 points per game) is better than anyone else’s. If they follow that up with a title, there really won’t be much to find fault with. Whether they’re a one-year wonder or will prove to be a perennial contender is another question, of course. We hope you’ll enjoy exploring the interactive and tracking their progress. 130022-60LOL The stakes in the NBA are incredibly high. Superstar players so dominate the league that decisions on trades, draft picks and free-agent signings could gut a franchise for years or make it a perennial contender. But unlike in sports like baseball and hockey, where luck plays a larger role, in the NBA, the best team usually wins. There’s little forgiveness when a star player gets hurt, and when a team misses its first chance at a title, it may not get another.We wanted a way to visualize each team’s ups and downs. You can find that in the form of our new interactive graphic, “The Complete History Of The NBA,” which tracks each franchise through all 63,145 games (and counting) in NBA and ABA history.1The principal source for game-by-game scores is the always-amazing Basketball-Reference.com.Elo ratings, the basis for the interactive, should be familiar to regular readers of FiveThirtyEight. We introduced them for the NFL last year, and they proved to be a popular feature.2In part, perhaps, because of a flukishly good performance against Las Vegas point spreads. But we didn’t invent the idea: Elo ratings were originally developed to rate chess players and have also been used in soccer, baseball and other sports.Elo is like the iPad of sports power ratings: Their design is quite simple, and they do a lot with a little, depending only on the final score of each game and where it was played. Teams always gain Elo points after winning games — although more for upset wins and for winning by wider margins — and lose ground after losing them. They account for both regular-season and playoff games. If you want (much, much) more detail, see here. For the rest of you, here’s a quick guide on how to interpret different Elo ratings and about how many wins they’d translate into over the course of an 82-game regular season. 140031-51In the lottery ELOEQUIVALENT RECORDTEAM DESCRIPTION 120015-67Historically awful 160051-31Playoff bound 170060-22Title contender Elo ratings above 1800, which imply a team would be able to sustain at least a 67-15 record over the long term, are extremely rare. Only three teams have achieved them: the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (whose 1853 Elo rating from June 9, 1996, is the all-time record), the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls and the 1985-86 Boston Celtics. This year’s Golden State Warriors have a chance at an 1800-plus rating, depending on how the rest of the playoffs go.A 1700 rating is more typical for a title contender. The Cleveland Cavaliers, with a 1689, are currently somewhere near that mark, for example. A 1600 rating represents a playoff team that’s likely to lose in the first or second round. And Elo ratings can go way lower, of course. The all-time NBA low, 1111, belongs to the Dallas Mavericks after they went 4-57 to open the 1992-93 NBA season.3The ABA’s Oakland Oaks achieved an even lower rating, 1086, at the nadir of their 1967-68 season, but that’s partly because it was the ABA’s inaugural year, which Elo treats very skeptically.So where do, say, the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers rank? Here are Elo’s ratings of all seasons in NBA and ABA history:4The table excludes teams that played fewer than 21 games in a season (for reasons such as being disbanded midway through the season).
Kenneth Faried has been a solid-but-not-amazing power forward since his rookie year. Any immediate Nuggets surge would likely require Faried to finally have a breakthrough year, but so far he has been extremely consistent. His true shooting percentage is high, but he doesn’t have a long-distance shot. Note that CARMELO hasn’t seen enough to consider Faried to even be on an upward trend. Again, the hopes of Nuggets fans are cast toward Mudiay. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of hard data about Mudiay to go on, so CARMELO‘s projections for him (and all rookies with only international experience) are based on a separate analysis of previous international players based on their draft position, age and height alone. Also our algorithm doesn’t watch the NBA summer league, where Mudiay impressed. So CARMELO isn’t high on the chances of an unknown 19-year-old point guard turning this team around. A quick glance through the history books suggests the same. Even if Mudiay were Rookie of the Year-quality (apparently he is a betting favorite), that rarely translates into team success. There hasn’t been a ROY winner for a winning team since Amar’e Stoudemire in 2002-03.Here’s what CARMELO has to say about the rest of the Nuggets squad: We’re inaugurating our NBA player projection system, CARMELO, with 2015-16 season previews for every team in the league. Check out the teams we’ve already previewed here. Learn more about CARMELO here. The oft-injured 6-foot-10 (i.e., big) small forward/guard is another unpredictable element for this team. It’s not so much that Danilo Gallinari has ever looked amazing or “due” for a breakout, but his career has been tumultuous enough that it’s hard to say for sure whether his true value is higher or lower than what we’ve seen so far. In other bad news for the Nuggets, his 35.5 percent 3-point shooting last year is the highest among the team’s projected starters. Jameer Nelson seems to be winding down his undistinguished career of burning up minutes for the Nuggets. Once an All-Star for the Orlando Magic (No, literally, once. In 2009.), he’s now good for 20 minutes of fill-in duty if called on. As with Chandler, a substantial role for Nelson would probably be bad news for the Nuggets, because if Mudiay can’t beat him out for minutes, the Nuggets are screwed. Randy Foye currently isn’t projected to start, but is the Nuggets’ most experienced shooting guard and ostensibly their best 3-point shooter (with a career 37.5 percent average from behind the arc). Yet overall he grades out as worse than a replacement player: CARMELO graded him as worth -0.4 wins last year, and ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus is even harsher — rating him 86th out of 95 shooting guards, and worth -1.4 wins. Wilson Chandler is a serviceable forward with some experience playing shooting guard from his time with the Knicks. But he played 85 percent of his minutes at small forward for the Nuggets last year. He will be competing with Gallinari for minutes and shots, so fans should probably be rooting for Chandler’s role to diminish. That is, if you’re hearing Chandler’s name called a lot over the next few years, it likely means things aren’t going well for the Nuggets. Jusuf Nurkic (“The Bosnian Beast”) could be limited by offseason knee surgery (CARMELO also doesn’t account for injuries), and he didn’t play all that much last year (averaged about 18 minutes per game when he wasn’t out for injury). He’s young, big and international — and thus more of an unknown. As I said, if the Nuggets are going to catch some breaks, his improvement may have to be one of them. But there’s not much else to go on. Between the Nuggets trading Timothy Mozgov in early January and Nurkic hurting his ankle in late February, he got a chance to start 22 games — of which the Nuggets lost 17. In 2012-13, the Denver Nuggets won 57 games — their highest win percentage since joining the NBA — and fired head coach George Karl in the ensuing offseason. It has not gone well since. They’ve had two disappointing losing seasons, including last year’s 30-52 campaign. The man they’ve hired to turn it all around: Mike Malone — most recently spotted being fired by the Sacramento Kings. Of course, that firing paved the way for the Kings to hire Karl, meaning the Kings and Nuggets are now coached by each other’s castoffs. (Worst. Trade. Ever?)Surely Carmelo has an opinion on George Karl and this coach swap, but CARMELO does not. It sees a team that hasn’t made many concrete changes since last year, and projects the exact same 30-52 record. The Nuggets’ major offseason move was switching point guards from serviceable but unspectacular Ty Lawson to complete wild card Emmanuel Mudiay. Which is not to say the team doesn’t have a chance: Its young core contributors Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and Jusuf Nurkic have all shown flashes of potential. So if the Nuggets get a couple of breaks (meaning one or more of these players start to break out), they could be improved. And if they get a lot of breaks, they could even be good.Here’s the team overview:1In the following chart, we assume that in addition to the listed players, some portion of Denver’s minutes will be filled by generic players of “replacement level” quality — that is, the type of players who would be freely available off the waiver wire during the season. Read more:All our NBA player projectionsAll our 2015-16 NBA Previews
Related ArticlesThe Complete History Of The NFLMay 1, 2018Introducing NFL Elo RatingsSept. 4, 2014The Best NFL Teams Of All Time, According To EloSept. 18, 2015Did The Packers Squander Aaron Rodgers?Dec. 5, 2018The Browns Are A Hot Super Bowl Pick For 2019. (Wait, What?)July 15, 2019 Multiply all of those factors together, and you have the total number of Elo points that should shift from the loser to the winner in a given game. (Elo is a closed system where every point gained by one team is a point lost by another.) Put another way: A team’s postgame Elo is simply its pregame Elo plus or minus the Elo shift implied by the game’s result — and in turn, that postgame Elo becomes the pregame Elo for a team’s next matchup. Circle of life.We also adjust each starting quarterback’s rating based on his performance in the game, adjusting for the quality of the opposing defense. (Read on for more details about how that process works.)Elo does have its limitations. Aside from changes at quarterback, it doesn’t know about trades or injuries that happen midseason, so it can’t adjust its ratings in real time for the absence of an important non-QB player. Over time, it will theoretically detect such a change when a team’s performance drops because of the injury, but Elo is always playing catch-up in that department. Normally, any time you see a major disparity between Elo’s predicted spread and the Vegas line for a game, it will be because Elo has no means of adjusting for key changes to a roster and the bookmakers do. (But this should be much less frequent after the addition of our QB adjustments, since oddsmakers don’t tend to shift lines much — or at all — in response to changes at non-QB positions.)The quarterback adjustmentNew for 2019, we added a way to account for changes in performance — and personnel — at quarterback, the game’s most important position. Here’s how it works:Both teams and individual quarterbacks have rolling ratings based on their recent performance.Performance is measured according to “VALUE,” a regression between ESPN’s Total QBR yards above replacement and basic box score numbers (including rushing stats) from a given game, adjusted for the quality of opposing defenses.The formula for VALUE is: -2.2 * Pass Attempts + 3.7 * Completions + (Passing Yards / 5) + 11.3 * Passing TDs – 14.1 * Interceptions – 8 * Times Sacked – 1.1 * Rush Attempts + 0.6 * Rushing Yards + 15.9 * Rushing TDs.3For seasons before game-level sack logs are complete (pre-1981), the sack term is zeroed out.This metric is also adjusted for opposing defensive quality by computing a rolling rating for team QB VALUE allowed, subtracting league average from the VALUE an opponent usually gives up per game, and using that to adjust a QB’s performance for the game in question. So for example, if a team usually gives up a VALUE 5 points higher than the average team, we would adjust an individual QB’s performance downward by 5 points of VALUE to account for the easier opposing defense. The DetailsFiveThirtyEight has an admitted fondness for the Elo rating — a simple system that judges teams or players based on head-to-head results — and we’ve used it to rate competitors in basketball, baseball, tennis and various other sports over the years. The sport we cut our teeth on, though, was professional football. Way back in 2014, we developed our NFL Elo ratings to forecast the outcome of every game. The nuts and bolts of that system are described below.Game predictionsIn essence, Elo assigns every team a power rating (the NFL average is around 1500). Those ratings are then used to generate win probabilities for games, based on the difference in quality between the two teams involved, plus adjustments for changes at starting quarterback, the location of the matchup (including travel distance) and any extra rest days either team had coming into the contest. After the game, each team’s rating changes based on the result, in relation to how unexpected the outcome was and the winning margin. This process is repeated for every game, from kickoff in September until the Super Bowl.For any game between two teams (A and B) with certain pregame Elo ratings, the odds of Team A winning are:Pr(A)=110−EloDiff400+1Pr(A)=110−EloDiff400+1ELODIFF is Team A’s rating minus Team B’s rating, plus or minus the difference in several adjustments:A home-field adjustment of 55 points at base, depending on who was at home, plus 4 points of Elo for every 1,000 miles traveled. This means the Giants get a 55-point Elo bonus when “hosting” the Jets (despite both teams calling MetLife Stadium home), while the Patriots would get a 65-point Elo bonus when, say, the Chargers come to visit. There is no base home-field adjustment for neutral-site games such as the Super Bowl1Unless a team somehow makes the Super Bowl in its host year. or international games, although the travel-distance adjustment is included for the Super Bowl.A rest adjustment of 25 Elo points whenever a team is coming off of a bye week (including when top-seeded teams don’t play during the opening week of the playoffs). Our research shows that teams in these situations play better than would be expected from their standard Elo alone, even after controlling for home-field effects.A playoff adjustment that multiplies ELODIFF by 1.2 before computing the expected win probabilities and point spreads for playoff games. We found that, in the NFL playoffs, favorites tend to outplay underdogs by a wider margin than we’d expect from their regular-season ratings alone.A quarterback adjustment that assigns every team and each individual QB a rolling performance rating, which can be used to adjust a team’s “effective” Elo upward or downward in the event of a major injury or other QB change. (See below for more details about how this adjustment works.)We also tested effects for weather and coaches (including both head coaches and coordinators) but found that neither improved the predictive value of our model in backtesting by enough to warrant inclusion.Fun fact: If you want to compare Elo’s predictions with point spreads like the Vegas line, you can also divide ELODIFF by 25 to get the spread for the game. Just be sure to include all of the many adjustments above to get the most accurate predicted line.Once the game is over, the pregame ratings are adjusted up (for the winning team) and down (for the loser). We do this using a combination of factors:The K-factor. All Elo systems come with a special multiplier called K that regulates how quickly the ratings change in response to new information. A high K-factor tells Elo to be very sensitive to recent results, causing the ratings to jump around a lot based on each game’s outcome; a low K-factor makes Elo slow to change its opinion about teams, since every game carries comparatively little weight. In our NFL research, we found that the ideal K-factor for predicting future games is 20 — large enough that new results carry weight, but not so large that the ratings bounce around each week.The forecast delta. This is the difference between the binary result of the game (1 for a win, 0 for a loss, 0.5 for a tie) and the pregame win probability as predicted by Elo. Since Elo is fundamentally a system that adjusts its prior assumptions based on new information, the larger the gap between what actually happened and what it had predicted going into a game, the more it shifts each team’s pregame rating in response. Truly shocking outcomes are like a wake-up call for Elo: They indicate that its pregame expectations were probably quite wrong and thus in need of serious updating.The margin-of-victory multiplier. The two factors above would be sufficient if we were judging teams based only on wins and losses (and, yes, Donovan McNabb, sometimes ties). But we also want to be able to take into account how a team won — whether they dominated their opponents or simply squeaked past them. To that end, we created a multiplier that gives teams (ever-diminishing) credit for blowout wins by taking the natural logarithm of their point differential plus 1 point.MovMultiplier=ln(WinnerPointDiff+1)×2.2WinnerEloDiff×0.001+2.2MovMultiplier=ln(WinnerPointDiff+1)×2.2WinnerEloDiff×0.001+2.2This factor also carries an additional adjustment for autocorrelation, which is the bane of all Elo systems that try to adjust for scoring margin. Technically speaking, autocorrelation is the tendency of a time series to be correlated with its past and future values. In football terms, that means the Elo ratings of good teams run the risk of being inflated because favorites not only win more often, but they also tend to put up larger margins in their wins than underdogs do in theirs. Since Elo gives more credit for larger wins, this means that top-rated teams could see their ratings swell disproportionately over time without an adjustment. To combat this, we scale down the margin-of-victory multiplier for teams that were bigger favorites going into the game.2Special note: In the case of a tie, the multiplier becomes 1.525, or 2.2 times the natural log of 2 (which, based on the formula above, effectively assumes the absolute margin of victory in any game must be at least 1). The rolling rating represents the VALUE we’d expect a quarterback (whether at the individual or team level) to produce against a passing defense of average quality in the next start. To convert between VALUE and Elo, the rolling rating can be multiplied by 3.3 to get the number of Elo points a QB is expected to be worth compared with an undrafted rookie replacement. Preseason QB ratings are also assigned at the team level. These consist of one-third weight given to the team’s previous end-of-season rolling QB rating and two-thirds weight given to the preseason rolling rating of the team’s projected top starter.Pregame and preseason ratingsSo all of that is how Elo works at the game-by-game level and what goes into our quarterback adjustments. But where do teams’ preseason ratings come from, anyway?We use two sources to set teams’ initial ratings going into a season:At the start of each season, every existing team carries its Elo rating over from the end of the previous season, except that it is reverted one-third of the way toward a mean of 1505. That is our way of hedging for the offseason’s carousel of draft picks, free agency, trades and coaching changes. We don’t currently have any way to adjust for a team’s actual offseason moves, aside from changes at quarterback, but a heavy dose of regression to the mean is the next-best thing, since the NFL has built-in mechanisms (like the salary cap) that promote parity, dragging bad teams upward and knocking good ones down a peg or two.For seasons since 1990, we also use Vegas win totals to help set preseason Elo ratings, converting over-under expected wins to an Elo scale. (This addition to the model helped significantly improve predictive accuracy in backtesting, by a little more than half the improvement that adding the QB adjustment did.) As a side note, this is partly why we mix the projected startIng QB’s rolling rating into the preseason team QB rating — we assume that changes at quarterback are “baked into” Vegas over/unders and must be adjusted for to avoid double-counting the improvement added by an upgrade at QB.These two factors are combined, with one-third weight given to regressed Elo and two-thirds weight given to Vegas-wins Elo. This blend is what forms a team’s preseason Elo rating.Note that I mentioned “existing” teams when mentioning end-of-season ratings from the previous year. Expansion teams have their own set of rules. For newly founded clubs in the modern era, we assign them a rating of 1300 — which is effectively the Elo level at which NFL expansion teams have played since the 1970 AFL merger. We also assigned that number to new AFL teams in 1960, letting the ratings play out from scratch as the AFL operated in parallel with the NFL. When the AFL’s teams merged into the NFL, they retained the ratings they’d built up while playing separately.For new teams in the early days of the NFL, things are a little more complicated. When the NFL began in 1920 as the “American Professional Football Association” (they renamed it “National Football League” in 1922), it was a hodgepodge of independent pro teams from existing leagues and opponents that in some cases were not even APFA members. For teams that had not previously played in a pro league, we assigned them a 1300 rating; for existing teams, we mixed that 1300 mark with a rating that gave them credit for the number of years they’d logged since first being founded as a pro team.InitRating=1300×23YrsSince1stSeason+1505×(1−23)YrsSince1stSeasonInitRating=1300×23YrsSince1stSeason+1505×(1−23)YrsSince1stSeasonThis adjustment applied to 28 franchises during the 1920s, plus the Detroit Lions (who joined the NFL in 1930 after being founded as a pro team in 1929) and the Cleveland Rams (who joined in 1937 after playing a season in the second AFL). No team has required this exact adjustment since, although we also use a version of it for historical teams that discontinued operations for a period of time.Not that there haven’t been plenty of other odd situations to account for. During World War II, the Chicago Cardinals and Pittsburgh Steelers briefly merged into a common team that was known as “Card-Pitt,” and before that, the Steelers had merged with the Philadelphia Eagles to create the delightfully monikered “Steagles.” In those cases, we took the average of the two teams’ ratings from the end of the previous season and performed our year-to-year mean reversion on that number to generate a preseason Elo rating. After the mash-up ended and the teams were re-divided, the Steelers and Cardinals (or Eagles) received the same mean-reverted preseason rating implied by their combined performance the season before.And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. Technically, the NFL considers the current Browns to be a continuation of the franchise that began under Paul Brown in the mid-1940s. But that team’s roster was essentially transferred to the Ravens for their inaugural season in 1996, while the “New Browns” were stocked through an expansion draft in 1999. Because of this, we decided the 1996 Ravens’ preseason Elo should be the 1995 Browns’ end-of-year Elo, with the cross-season mean-reversion technique applied, and that the 1999 Browns’ initial Elo should be 1300, the same as any other expansion team.Season simulationsNow that we know where a team and quarterback’s initial ratings for a season come from and how those ratings update as the schedule plays out, the final piece of our Elo puzzle is how all of that fits in with our NFL interactive graphic, which predicts the entire season.At any point in the season, the interactive lists each team’s up-to-date Elo rating (as well as how that rating has changed over the past week and how any changes at QB alter the team’s effective Elo), plus the team’s expected full-season record and its odds of winning its division, making the playoffs and even winning the Super Bowl. This is all based on a set of simulations that play out the rest of the schedule using Elo to predict each game.Specifically, we simulate the remainder of the season 100,000 times using the Monte Carlo method, tracking how often each simulated universe yields a given outcome for each team. It’s important to note that we run these simulations “hot” — that is, a team’s Elo rating is not set in stone throughout the simulation but changes after each simulated game based on its result, which is then used to simulate the next game, and so forth. This allows us to better capture the possible variation in how a team’s season can play out, realistically modeling the hot and cold streaks that a team can go on over the course of a season.Our simulations also project which quarterback will start each game by incorporating injuries, suspensions and starters being rested. For example, we might know that a quarterback is out for Weeks 1 and 2 but back for certain in Week 3. Or our forecast might have some uncertainty around a quarterback’s injury and project that he has only a 10 percent chance of playing next week but a 50 percent chance of playing the following week, and so on. In cases where we don’t know for sure which quarterback will start a game, the team’s quarterback adjustment is a weighted average of the possible starting quarterback adjustments.Late in the season, you will find that the interactive allows you to experiment with different postseason contingencies based on who you have selected to win a given game. This is done by drilling down to just the simulated universes in which the outcomes you chose happened and seeing how those universes ultimately played out. It’s a handy way of seeing exactly what your favorite team needs to get a favorable playoff scenario or just to study the ripple effects each game may have on the rest of the league.The complete history of the NFLIn conjunction with our Elo interactive, we also have a separate dashboard showing how every team’s Elo rating has risen or fallen throughout history. These charts will help you track when your team was at its best — or worst — along with its ebbs and flows in performance over time. The data in the charts goes back to 1920 (when applicable) and is updated with every game of the current season.An important disclaimer: The historical interactive ratings will differ from the ratings found in our current-season prediction interactive because the historical ratings do not contain our quarterback adjustments. (If you’re interested in looking at the historical QB adjustment data, it’s available on our data homepage.) The quarterback Elo adjustment is applied before each game by comparing the starting QB’s rolling VALUE rating with the team’s rolling rating and multiplying by 3.3.For example: when Aaron Rodgers was injured midway through the 2017 season, he had a rolling VALUE rating of 66. The Green Bay Packers’ team rolling VALUE rating was 68, and backup Brett Hundley had a personal rating of 14. So when adjusting the Packers’ Elo for their next game with Hundley starting instead of Rodgers, we would have applied an adjustment of 3.3 * (14 – 68) = -1764After rounding. to Green Bay’s base Elo rating of 1586 heading into its Week 7 game against the Saints. This effectively would have left the Packers as a 1409 Elo team with Hundley under center (before applying adjustments for home field, travel and rest), dropping Green Bay’s win probability from 63 percent to 39 percent for the game despite playing at home. In cases like these, the QB adjustment can have a massive effect! Version History2.0Quarterback adjustments are added, along with special adjustments for travel distance, bye weeks and playoff rating spreads.Sept. 4, 20191.1Ratings are extended back to 1920, with a new rating procedure for expansion teams and other special cases. Seasonal mean-reversion is set to 1505, not 1500.Sept. 10, 20151.0Elo ratings are introduced for the current season; underlying historical numbers go back to 1970.Sept. 4, 2014 ReferencesPro-Football-Reference.comAutocorrelation / Elo rating / Monte Carlo simulations / Regression to the mean / ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating You can track these quarterback ratings on a team-by-team and division-by-division basis using this interactive page, which shows the relative quality of every QB in the league. The average team QB VALUE rating going into the 2019 season was about 49.5 (or about 163 Elo points), a leaguewide number that has increased substantially over the history of the NFL as passing has become more prevalent and efficient. So a rolling rating that would have made a QB one of the best in football in the 1990s would rank as only average now, even though the zero-point in our ratings remains the replacement-level performance of an undrafted rookie starter.One last note on these ratings involves how they are set initially. We’ll explain preseason team Elo ratings below, but here is how preseason ratings are set for the quarterback adjustment:Before a season, each starting quarterback is assigned a preseason rating based on either his previous performance or his draft position (in the case of rookies making their debut start).For veterans with between 10 and 100 career starts, we take their final rating from the end of the previous season and revert it toward the rating of the average NFL QB start by one-fourth before the following season.For players with fewer than 10 or more than 100 starts, we don’t revert their ratings at all.For rookies making their starting debuts, we assign them initial ratings based on draft position. An undrafted rookie is always assigned a rating of zero for his first start. The first overall pick, by comparison, gets a rating of +113 Elo points before his first start. Model CreatorsNate Silver The founder and editor in chief of FiveThirtyEight. | @natesilver538Jay Boice A computational journalist for FiveThirtyEight. | @jayboiceNeil Paine A senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight. | @Neil_Paine For individual QBs, the rolling rating is updated every 10 games. (i.e., Rating_new = 0.9 * Rating_old + 0.1 * Game_VALUE ).For teams, the rolling rating is updated every 20 games.This implies that short-term “hot” and “cold” streaks by individual QBs have predictive value, which can trigger a nonzero pregame QB adjustment even when a team has had the same starter for each of its previous 20 games.
North Carolina’s Brice Johnson (11) celebrates after blocking a shot during the second round of the NCAA tournament at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, on March 19.Credit: Courtesy of TNSAfter a crazy four days of basketball this past weekend, we have reached the Sweet 16. In this year’s men’s basketball tournament, we have already seen arguably the most shocking upset in tournament history, an improbable collapse, buzzer beaters and some questionable calls in the first two rounds. With a fresh slate, I am here to predict the results of the rest of the tournament.South RegionNo. 1 Kansas vs. No. 5 Maryland: Even with one of the most talented rosters in the country and a few NBA prospects, Maryland has disappointed throughout the season. Kansas has been rolling since the end of January, when it held off Kentucky in overtime. The Jayhawks’ Wayne Selden has solidified himself as an elite player, alongside his running mate Perry Ellis.Prediction: KansasNo. 2 Villanova vs. No. 3 Miami: I think this is one of the best matchups in the Sweet 16. I trust Miami’s guards Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan to produce points slightly more than Villanova’s Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono.Prediction: MiamiWest RegionNo. 1 Oregon vs. No. 4 Duke: The X-factor in this matchup will be Luke Kennard, the Duke freshman who has been inconsistent at times shooting the ball throughout the season. With Oregon switching defense and zeroing on slowing down Blue Devil stars Grayson Allen and Brandon Ingram, Kennard should get a lot of open looks.Prediction: DukeNo. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 3 Texas A&M: After pulling off a miracle against Northern Iowa on Sunday, Texas A&M was given a second life and should be ready to play on Thursday. Even so, I think Oklahoma’s guard play will prove to be too much for the Aggies.Prediction: OklahomaEast RegionNo. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Indiana: I think Indiana’s 3-point shooting can keep this game close for about 30 minutes. However, the last 10 minutes will be when Brice Johnson and the Tar Heels start to separate themselves.Prediction: North CarolinaNo. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 7 Wisconsin: Coach Greg Gard has really turned his Wisconsin team around from the beginning of the season after taking over part way through. Remarkably, Wisconsin has won its two games despite junior forward Nigel Hayes shooting a combined 5-of-27 from the field. Notre Dame will have to continue looking for ways to get junior forward V.J. Beachem some open shots in order to win this one, which might not happen often against the Badger defense.Prediction: WisconsinMidwest RegionNo. 1 Virginia vs. No. 4 Iowa State: This has the potential to be a great game, with an offensive-minded team versus a defensive one. I look forward to seeing the early matchups and if Virginia’s Malcolm Brogdon checks Iowa State’s Georges Niang early on in the game. If he does, Niang has to be in full attack mode to try to put Brogdon in foul trouble.Prediction: VirginiaNo. 10 Syracuse vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: It is always tough to predict a Syracuse game when you have an opponent not familiar with playing against the Orange’s zone. However, I think the trio of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Josh Perkins proves to be too much for Syracuse to handle.Prediction: GonzagaElite EightNo. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Miami: This will potentially be Kansas’s toughest matchup of the tournament so far against Miami’s veterans, athleticism and 3-point shooting. I just think Kansas is playing too well to fall to the Hurricanes and will punch its ticket to the Final Four.Prediction: KansasNo. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 4 Duke: What a thrilling game this could be. This game will go back and forth, not only with the pace of the game, but on the scoreboard. I like my vote for player of the year, Oklahoma senior guard Buddy Hield, to knock off the Blue Devils. Prediction: OklahomaNo. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 7 Wisconsin: I think if North Carolina throws the ball inside, Wisconsin will have trouble keeping up on the scoreboard in this one. If they match up, it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin redshirt freshman forward Ethan Happ tries to create on the offensive end with the Tar Heels’ Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks guarding him.Prediction: North CarolinaNo. 1 Virginia vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: Here we see Gonzaga back in the regional final after it fell last season to the Duke Blue Devils. With Virginia’s inconsistent interior defense, I like the Bulldogs to pull the upset and reach the Final Four.Prediction: GonzagaFinal FourNo. 1 Kansas vs. No. 2 Oklahoma: Kansas claimed both regular-season victories this season against the Sooners, including a triple-overtime thriller in January. I like Kansas to sneak by again with a big game from Ellis.Prediction: KansasNo. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 11 Gonzaga: North Carolina matches up pretty well against Gonzaga, especially with Johnson mobile enough to defend from the 3-point line against Wiltjer. I like the athleticism of the Tar Heels to force some turnovers and pull away late to face Kansas in the national championship.Prediction: North CarolinaNational championshipNo. 1 Kansas vs. No. 1 North Carolina: Before the tournament, I predicted that these two would face off in the championship game. I still believe that is going to happen. Both teams match up very well against one another, and momentum will be changing throughout the game. I think North Carolina will prevail in the end by hitting some late threes after running its halfcourt offense through the post. Prediction: North Carolina
It’s been a year of transition for the Ohio State men’s gymnastics team. Combine a young squad with an entirely new coaching staff led by former Oklahoma assistant, Rustam Sharipov, and it’s clear why some believed 2011-12 would be a rebuilding year for the Buckeyes. But for senior Ty Echard, that’s just not the case. “It’s gone better than I would have thought it ever would have gone,” Echard said. That’s not to say the changeover has been easy, though. “It’s a battle, the whole season’s a battle,” Echard said. In fact, Sharipov said the focus coming into the season was on molding the team internally, rather than to necessarily “accomplish a lot of stuff on the field.” “Our goal is more (to) accomplish (work) at the gym. In the practice, our goal is to unite the team, change their work ethics, how the guys interact with each other, with the coaches,” Sharipov said. “I think that’s going to affect how we look at the competition.” Sharipov said the way the team practices should dictate their performance against other teams. “(Our) outcome is going to come from how we act at the gym,” he said. Being ranked No. 7 nationally suggests the Buckeyes have done just that. Freshman Danny Steiner said he thinks the team has defied much of the expectations that surrounded them at the beginning of the season. “With the change in coaching with Rustam as our head coach now, I definitely think it’s gone a lot farther than anyone expected us to go,” he said. Steiner credits Sharipov and his staff as the reason the team has been able to get adjusted to the new coaching changes, and said he believes they’ve been able to “move forward and progress a lot faster than (they) would usually be doing.” Although OSU fell 355.500-347.200 to No. 2 Penn State Saturday, Sharipov said his team’s performance was an improvement from how they competed against Michigan more than two weeks ago. He said against the Wolverines, the Buckeyes’ hit percentage was too low, and it’s always tough traveling to a place where it isn’t a secret that they’re not liked. “They’re going to do everything to make you be uncomfortable,” Sharipov said. Against Penn State, though, he said he was pleased with OSU’s 77 percent hit percentage, despite the loss. Sharipov said consistently improving the Buckeyes’ hit percentage, which measures the frequency an athlete successfully lands his routine, is going to be a key to their success down the stretch, and he wants to see it improve to 80-85 percent by the end of the season. And with a contest at Illinois looming Friday, that mindset remains the same. “Our plan is to beat them on execution and the hit percentage,” Sharipov said. “I watched their routines against Penn State a couple weeks ago and they also messed up a couple events. Everybody’s a human being; there’s always room for error.” Steiner said he thinks this season has said a lot about what kind of team the Buckeyes have. “We’re a hardworking team who’s out to prove everyone else wrong — everyone’s assumptions about Ohio State and where the gymnastics has gone,” he said. “I think we’re just proving people wrong, just making our point saying, ‘We’re here, don’t count us out.’”
It’s a new season. That’s the attitude the Ohio State men’s ice hockey team has heading into the postseason. OSU (15-13-5, 11-12-5-1 CCHA) is the No. 9 seed in the upcoming CCHA tournament and will face No. 8-seed Notre Dame (17-16-3, 12-13-3-0 CCHA) in a best-of-three series in South Bend, Ind., starting Friday. “We talked about it right away at the beginning of the year. We talked about the only thing that really matters is the playoffs,” said OSU coach Mark Osiecki. The Buckeyes ended the regular season on a 1-9-4 skid after being in first place in the CCHA with a 14-4-1 record and No. 2 national ranking in early January. OSU, tied for the No. 18 ranking in the PairWise with the Fighting Irish, which helps select and seed schools for the 16-team NCAA Tournament, likely needs to beat Notre Dame and possibly their second-round opponent in the conference tournament, to have a chance to compete for a national championship. “It’s a new season now, what happened in the regular season doesn’t matter at all,” said OSU senior defenseman and co-captain Sean Duddy. “So we’re just kind of throwing the win-loss record out of there, and we’re 0-0 right now.” Along with wanting to start fresh, OSU has developed an “us-against-the-world mentality” with its postseason life on the line. “I think it’s great for our players,” Osiecki said. “Certainly you’re not going to get great bounces and probably not going to get the reffing to go on your side, especially when you’re on the road. I think our team likes that challenge. I think being the underdog, being as young as we are, I think they relish that.” Duddy said the key to success this weekend will be the team playing to its strengths. “The games where we tried to get too fancy are the game’s where we didn’t have success,” he said. “We’ve got to play the way that we can play, the way we need to play, which is being physical and keeping it simple.” Getting off to a fast start in the first period could help OSU as well. The Buckeyes have given up the first goal of the game in each of their past four losses, and have only led after the first 20 minutes in three of their past 14 games. Duddy said scoring early and being able to play with a lead would be a major emotional lift for the team. “Playing with a lead, especially in playoffs where the games are all so tight, it’s really defensive minded … if you can get that first goal, it’s huge for momentum. It’s huge playing with a lead. We’d definitely like to do that,” he said. Duddy himself and his fellow teammates are looking forward to giving everything they have on the ice this weekend. “It’s lose and you’re done basically. So everyone’s putting it all on the line,” he said. “There’s nothing to save it for.” The Buckeyes and Fighting Irish will drop the puck at 7:35 p.m. Friday in South Bend and play again Saturday at the same time. If necessary, game three of the series will be played Sunday at 7:05 p.m.
Ohio State sophomore forward Dakota Joshua’s initial reaction following his go-ahead goal in the third period against Minnesota at the Schottenstein Center on Feb. 11. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports EditorAfter concluding the regular season with a road sweep over No. 18 Wisconsin, the No. 13-ranked Ohio State men’s hockey team (20-10-6, 11-8-1 Big Ten) heads to legendary Joe Louis Arena on Thursday to compete for a Big Ten tournament championship and an automatic ticket to the NCAA Tournament.OSU will take on the Michigan State Spartans (7-23-4, 3-14-3 Big Ten) at 4:30 p.m. in the first round of the tournament on Thursday. Although the Buckeyes went 3-1 against MSU in the regular season, history has shown it’s a battle to the end between the two teams.“It’s just two good hockey teams,” OSU coach Steve Rohlik said. “It just seems it comes down to the wire. We’ve got a lot of respect obviously for Tom and his program and we’ve got to go up there and play our best hockey.”Michigan State comes into this game off of a loss and a tie at No. 5 Minnesota last weekend. The Spartans are 7-23-4 overall and 3-14-3 in conference this season. In spite of having just three conference wins, one was over the Buckeyes at Value City Arena in which the Spartans scored three goals in just eight minutes.“They’re a relentless team,” senior captain Nick Schilkey said. “They throw pucks at the net and they get to the net hard.”The Buckeyes are currently sitting at No. 14 in the PairWise rankings and likely need just one win this weekend to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Winning the conference tournament, however, would cement OSU’s tournament dreams with an automatic NCAA bid.“We’ve definitely talked about it and our goals are still in tact,” Schilkey said. “We win a couple games and everything is still right there for us. It’s just a matter of us going out and playing our game. We can’t think about Friday, Saturday. We have to focus on Thursday. There’s no tournament, there’s nothing else passed this Thursday if we don’t win.”Sophomore forward Mason Jobst was the lone Buckeye to earn All-Big Ten first team honors and was also named the Big Ten scoring co-Champion after his 33 points in conference play.“(Jobst is) a very talented hockey player but I say this all the time, it’s because of his his hard work that you continue to believe that he’s going to get better,” Rohlik said. “Monday through Thursday he continues to work hard. He does all of the little things right. He’s small in stature but big every night he plays.”In addition to leading OSU in points, Jobst is the first Buckeye since 2003 to reach the 50-point mark in one season, but according to him it could not have been accomplished without his teammates and coaches.“Obviously, you always believe in yourself,” Jobst said. “I’ve believed that I can be successful at this level. I’ve been surrounded by great players this entire year, great team, great coaching staff that has definitely led to my success.”Along with Jobst, three senior received Big Ten accolades. Seniors Schilkey, defenseman Josh Healey and goalie Christian Frey were each named to the All-Big Ten second team and sophomore Dakota Joshua received honorable mention. “I think it says a lot about the program,” Rohlik said. “I think it says a lot about my staff going out there and getting the right hockey players, the right student athletes here at Ohio State. It’s nice to see them getting recognized but I think every one of those guys would give all of those awards back for a team award at the end.”Michigan State only had one player who was named honorable mention in junior defenseman Carson Gatt, who was the Spartans second top-scoring defenseman with 11 points and a plus-two rating. The Buckeyes own the top powerplay in the country, which should boast well against a Spartans penalty kill that ranks 58th of 60 teams. As a defense, Michigan State allows nearly four goals per game while the OSU offense averages four goals each contest.OSU will be facing the Spartans in the final season of Joe Louis Arena, the home of the Detroit Red Wings, which is set to be torn down later this year. OSU sees the opportunity to play in “The Joe” in its farewell season as an honor.“It’s kind of a sad day to understand that it’s going to come down here soon but for us to be able to go there and play in one of the last games up there, I think it’s pretty special,” Rohlik said. “If only those walls could talk and our guys could really understand that history.”The Scarlet and Gray are comfortable playing in road atmospheres, with an 13-2-3 away record to prove it.“Our guys are confident going up and playing in different places and playing on the road,” Schilkey said. “We’ve been successful this year on the road and I think it’s going to be no different this weekend.”