The U.S. and Germany are the only teams to have won the Women’s World Cup twice. So the United States’ 2-0 win over Germany in the World Cup semifinal on Tuesday night wasn’t only the most important game of this year’s tournament. It also helps to settle a score about which country has the greatest overall run of Women’s World Cup success.The U.S. women now have a chance to win a third title in Sunday’s final game in Vancouver, British Columbia. But even if they should lose, they’ll have appeared in the World Cup final four times to Germany’s three. The Americans have also reached the semifinals in all seven Women’s World Cups, including this year’s, while Germany failed to do so in 1999 and 2011.In fact, the seven-tournament run for the U.S. women looks a lot like the best such streaks from the men’s World Cup, which belong to Brazil and West Germany. And if the U.S. women win in Vancouver, they’ll be able to argue that their streak has been slightly more impressive.We can be somewhat more precise about this, building a simple statistical system that places a lot of emphasis on winning it all. We’ll award a country four “dynasty points” if it wins the World Cup, two points if it’s the runner-up, and one point if it loses in the semifinal. (FIFA plays a third-place playoff between the two semifinal losers, but since many soccer fans ignore it, our system will too.) Then we’ll see which men’s and women’s teams accumulated the most dynasty points over consecutive tournaments.1The men’s World Cup was not played in 1942 or 1946, so I consider the 1950 tournament to be consecutive with 1938. Here’s how the numbers shake out:The best you can do over two consecutive World Cups, of course, is to win the tournaments back to back, which would give you eight dynasty points. Germany (in 2003 and 2007) is the only women’s team to have done that, although defending champs Japan will join them if they win this year’s tournament. The only men’s teams with back-to-back titles are Italy (in 1934 and 1938) and Brazil (in 1958 and 1962).No men’s or women’s team has won three consecutive World Cups. The next-best accomplishment (worth 10 dynasty points) comes from winning two titles over the course of three tournaments and finishing as the runner-up in the third one. The Brazilian men did that, with championships in 1994 and 2002 bookending a second-place finish in 1998. The U.S. came closest on the women’s side, with wins in 1991 and 1999 and a third-place finish in 1995.Brazil is the only country, men’s or women’s, to have won three World Cups in four tries, as its men’s team did from 1958 through 1970. The German women could have equaled that feat with a title this year, but Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Kelley O’Hara prevented that.So if you’re looking at the best three- or four-tournament streaks, the Brazilian men are a bit ahead of what any women’s team has done.The Women’s World Cup has been played only seven times, however. And the U.S. women have accumulated 15 dynasty points over those seven tournaments, matching the best total for men’s teams over seven-tournament periods, a record shared by three teams. Here’s each team’s record in slightly more detail:Brazilian men (1938-1970): Five semifinals appearances, four finals appearances, three championships.Brazilian men (1950-1974): Same as above.West German2Most soccer historians consider West Germany’s statistics from 1950 to 1990 to be part of the unified German national team’s record. This turns out not to matter for our purposes, since Germany did not reach the World Cup semifinals in the first two tournaments (1994 and 1998) after German reunification, meaning that including those tournaments would not have added to their dynasty points total. men (1966-1990): Six semifinals appearances, five finals appearances, two championships.U.S. women (1991-2015): Seven semifinals appearances, four finals appearances, two championships (with an opportunity to win a third championship).As you can see, those are pretty similar résumés. Which streak you like best depends on how you weigh semifinals appearances, finals appearances and championships. Our dynasty points system happens to like each streak equally well.If the U.S. women win on Sunday, however, bringing home their third World Cup in seven tries, they’ll pull narrowly ahead with 17 dynasty points. Brazil is the only men’s team with three titles over a seven-tournament stretch, and the U.S. women would rank slightly ahead of them by virtue of having appeared in seven semifinals to Brazil’s five. The U.S. women would have more championships and more semifinals appearances than the West German men from 1966 to 1990, meanwhile, outweighing West Germany’s higher number of finals appearances.The argument is a little more complicated than this, of course. Since the men’s World Cup was staged 14 times before the women played their first one, the guys have had a lot more opportunities to pull successful streaks together, whether by virtue of luck or talent. On the other hand, women’s soccer is not as deep as the men’s game is, with the best teams tending to be more dominant in all competitions. But the U.S. women have been great however you cut the numbers.
Mississippi St.201917<1%3%<1% Are you ready for some football? Or at least, some vociferous arguing about football?Last season’s first-ever College Football Playoff taught us two things. First, going from a championship game to a four-team playoff won’t end the annual bickering over which teams belong. Second, the playoff selection committee seemingly takes a different approach than voters traditionally have in the coaches’ and media polls. In particular, they are more willing to scramble teams’ positions from week to week, even when everyone wins out.Florida State, for instance, despite never losing during the regular season, moved from No. 2 in the committee’s initial rankings to No. 4 on Dec. 2, before being upgraded to No. 3 in the committee’s final rankings on Dec. 7. More consequentially, TCU dropped from No. 3 to No. 6 — and out of the playoff — in the committee’s final rankings despite having won its final game over Iowa State 55-3. Historically, it’s unusual in the coaches’ and media polls for a team to lose ground after winning a game, and there’s almost no precedent for a team dropping three spots, as TCU did. Iowa9122925%7%<1% RankingProbability of … Ohio State31447%61%16% Notre Dame589—25%5% Memphis13143621%6%<1% TeamCFPEloFPIConf. TitlePlayoffsNat. Title Clemson17756%51%12% Stanford1161346%19%3% Oregon—2532<1%<1%<1% UPDATE (Nov. 1, 2016; 7:30 p.m.): Our 2016 College Football Predictions follow the same methodology as our predictions from last year did, except they will update more frequently. Check out the article below for more details. Baylor610132%31%13% Florida State16131513%5%<1% North Carolina—262323%<1%<1% Utah12152118%6%<1% USC—20530%4%1% Wisconsin—18245%<1%<1% TCU84237%31%11% Mississippi18171020%8%2% Oklahoma1516315%14%5% Temple22324541%<1%<1% Florida1091241%18%4% Michigan1722187%6%<1% Arkansas—3926<1%<1%<1% UCLA2321225%1%<1% Texas A&M193016<1%<1%<1% You can spin all of this as a good thing (“the committee starts with a blank slate every week and gives each team a fair shake!”) or a bad one (“the committee is inconsistent and indecisive!”). Either way, it has implications if you’re trying to anticipate the committee’s next move — as we, like so many other college football fans, are foolishly trying to do.Our way is pretty geeky and statistical, of course. Last season, we introduced a model that simulated the rest of the college football season and sought to forecast which four teams would make the playoff. We described the model as “speculative” since the committee was a new thing, giving us no historical data to measure its behavior; instead, we used the historical behavior of voters in the coaches’ poll as a substitute.For several weeks, the model seemed to be uncannily accurate! Then … a (mild?) disaster. Our final set of simulations gave TCU a 91 percent chance of making the playoff, Florida State a 68 percent chance, and Ohio State a 40 percent chance. But TCU, the safest bet according to the model1After sure-things Alabama and Oregon, to whom the model gave a 100 percent chance., was the one left out.While we could have sheepishly attributed this result to “bad luck” — a 91 percent chance isn’t a 100 percent chance — we don’t think that’s the right conclusion here. Instead, after a year’s worth of experience under our belts that let us see how the committee works, we’re making a couple of revisions to the model:First, we account for the committee’s potential to scramble the ratings slightly from week to week, even where the on-field action didn’t seem to warrant it, such as in its flip-flopping of Florida State and TCU last year. The mechanics of this are a little involved; I’ll describe them briefly down below.Second, we assign a small bonus2Because we don’t have a firm idea of how much the committee rewards conference champions, we treat the magnitude of the conference championship bonus as being uncertain, and it varies from simulation to simulation. In some simulations, winning the conference championship is associated with a fairly large bonus; in others, it’s associated with no bonus at all. (The bonus can never be negative, however.) On average, however, it’s fairly small, and it acts as the equivalent of a tiebreaker in otherwise close cases. to conference champions.3The program breaks all ties for conference championships based on head-to-head results among the tied teams, and then randomly if the tie remains unresolved. We may build in more complex tiebreaking rules later in the season to the extent they become relevant.Third, the model accounts for slightly more uncertainty than in last year’s version.These aren’t huge changes — the backbone of the model is the same as last year — but for what it’s worth, the revised version of the model would have correctly predicted the top four seeds last season, and in the right order. (Both Florida State and Ohio State would have been projected to leapfrog ahead of TCU in the committee’s final standings.) I say “for what it’s worth” because it’s not very much of an accomplishment to “predict” something after it’s already happened. But having one year’s worth of data on the committee’s behavior is a lot better than none.The model works by simulating out the rest of the season thousands of times. It’s iterative, meaning that it does this week by week. The process works like this:Start with Week 10 committee standings.Simulate Week 10 games.Forecast how Week 11 committee standings will change in response to simulated Week 10 games.Simulate Week 11 games.Rinse and repeat until you get to the final committee rankings on Dec. 6.The model also simulates conference championship games and the four-team playoff itself. Thus, it provides a probabilistic estimate of each team’s chances of winning its conference, making the playoff, and winning the national championship.We’ll be updating the numbers twice weekly: first, on Sunday morning (or very late Saturday evening) after the week’s games are complete; and second, on Tuesday evening after the new committee rankings come out. In addition to a probabilistic estimate of each team’s chances of winning its conference, making the playoff, and winning the national championship, we’ll also list three inputs to the model: their current committee ranking, FPI, and Elo. Let me explain the role that each of these play. Remember: the committee rankings are a starting point for the model and not the ending point. At this relatively early point in the season, the committee standings won’t matter very much; there are too many opportunities for the teams to be scrambled later on. (Consider, for instance, that eventual national champion Ohio State started out at No. 16 last year.) They’ll tend to matter more as the season goes along, although, as we saw with TCU last year, nothing except for the committee’s final rankings are all that definitive.FPI is ESPN’s Football Power Index. We consider it the best predictor of future college games so that’s the role it plays in the model: if we say Team A has a 72 percent chance of beating Team B, that prediction is derived from FPI. Technically speaking, we’re using a simplified version of FPI that accounts for only each team’s current rating and home field advantage; the FPI-based predictons you see on ESPN.com may differ slightly because they also account for travel distance and days of rest.But if FPI is good at predicting, it’s not very “politically correct,” meaning that it deliberately doesn’t care about how human beings might rank the teams. For instance, FPI currently has a USC with three losses as the fifth best team in the country — ahead of undefeated Clemson! Committee voters would never do that.Instead, that’s the role that our college football Elo ratings play. If you’re familiar with FiveThirtyEight, you’ll be familiar with Elo ratings. They’re a simple mathematical system that form the basis of our NFL forecasts, for instance. We’ve also applied Elo to soccer, the NBA, basketball and other sports.Our college football Elo ratings are a little different, however. Instead of being designed to maximize predictive accuracy — we have FPI for that — they’re designed to mimic how humans rank the teams instead.4As based on a historical analysis of the coaches’ poll and last year’s week-to-week committee standings. Their parameters are set so as to place a lot of emphasis on strength of schedule and especially on recent “big wins,” because that’s what human voters have historically done too. They aren’t very forgiving of losses, conversely, even if they came by a narrow margin under tough circumstances. And they assume that, instead of everyone starting with a truly blank slate, human beings look a little bit at how a team fared in previous seasons. Alabama is more likely to get the benefit of the doubt than Vanderbilt, for example, other factors held equal.How do Elo ratings help the model? As it plays out each week of the season, the model forecasts each team’s new projected ranking based on a combination of its committee ranking in the previous week, the game result (as simulated by FPI) and its Elo rating. In other words, Elo ratings form a counterbalance against the committee rankings, which as we’ve seen can be subject to change. Last year, for instance, Elo had Florida State ranked very highly: As an undefeated returning national champion, the Seminoles had the profile of a team that human voters typically love. Elo also had Ohio State ranked highly, well ahead of TCU. Thus, the model wouldn’t have been so surprised that Florida State and Ohio State jumped ahead of TCU in the final standings.5I don’t want to overstate the importance of the Elo ratings, either. They make up about 20 percent of the weight in the model (the exact fraction varies slightly from simulation to simulation), and they’ll usually be pretty well correlated with the committee rankings. So while they might result in a team being projected to move up from fifth to fourth, they won’t usually imply wholesale changes.If the rankings still look a little off to you — if you can’t quite figure out how a team gets to where it does based on Elo, FPI and its current committee ranking — there’s one other likely culprit, which is a team’s future strength of schedule. LSU, for instance, is given only a 30 percent chance of making the playoff in part because they have a brutal schedule ahead, with games against Alabama (this weekend), Mississippi and Texas A&M — plus a potential SEC Championship game against Florida. If a team has already taken a loss or two and is currently out of the running, however, a tougher upcoming strength of schedule may help it, because it means that the team has more opportunities to impress the committee and get it to reconsider.Most importantly of all, there’s still a lot of football left to be played. It’s hard for any team to run the table, and even current front-runners like Ohio State and Baylor won’t be safe if they endure a loss. Thus, only two teams (Ohio State and Clemson), start with more than a 50 percent chance of making the playoff in our initial forecast. Michigan State731915%22%3% Alabama42614%41%11% Toledo24244328%<1%<1% Oklahoma St.14111415%6%1% Northwestern214257<1%<1%<1% Penn State—2741<1%<1%<1% Houston25233330%2%<1% LSU25822%30%8%
NBA star LeBron James has had the talk with his two young sons. No, not that talk; they’re not old enough for that yet. James said he had the other talk, the one Black men have to engage in with their sons in these times of racial profiling.The one about dealing with cops. That conversation very well could save their lives.That mega superstar, mega wealthy James has spoken to his sons — LeBron Jr., 10, and 7-year-old Bryce — about the dangers of an interaction with law enforcement is a disheartening statement about where we are in this country.But James, the Cleveland Cavaliers leader, knows all-too-well the case of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old from Cleveland who was gunned down in November by police as he held a toy gun.James said to the Hollywood Reporter that his kids cannot bring their neon green and orange toy guns out of the house.He’s afraid for his kids’ lives, as are all Black parents.“The talk,” James said, “is, ‘You be respectful; you do what’s asked, and you let them do their job, and we’ll take care of the rest after. You don’t have to boast and brag and automatically think it’s us against the police.’”The world’s best player added: “I’ve had one or two encounters with the police in my life that were nothing. But sometimes you just got to shut up. It’s that simple. Just be quiet and let them do their job and go on about your life and hopefully things go well.”That’s one way of looking at it, not the full way. The reality is that if LeBron James gets randomly stopped, police will likely ask for his autograph and if they could take a selfie with him. He lives in a different, isolated world from most Black men, even as he admirably tries to stay connected and, even more admirably, be a voice for justice for African-American males.But the talk with our young Black males has to include the importance of knowing the law and what rights they have when confronted by police. According to the American Civil Liberties Union– You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.– You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.– If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.– You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.– Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.Understanding those rights empowers and helps bridge the gap between the obedience James speaks of and pride that often is challenged by demeaning cops. Understanding those rights should minimize tension.But being nice to an officer does not guarantee he will do right by you. However, that’s not the reality for James. Unless James acts wild and crazy, the official will grin like a schoolgirl with a crush and brag to his colleagues about his encounter.With James’ boys and all other Black males who are not famous, there are no guarantees. We’ve found that out in too many sad cases.
After a chaotic first day of NBA free agency, and a second day on which many of the solid remaining role players got scooped up, a couple of teams are left walking a fine line as they await a decision from this summer’s ultimate prize.With what we just saw in the playoffs, a stage he thoroughly dominated, no one can doubt the allure of Kawhi Leonard and how drastically he would improve a team. Leonard has the Lakers, Clippers and Raptors on hold for the moment, as executives from those teams nervously grind their teeth while hoping for the best.The process is even higher stakes for those teams because of how much of the best talent has already dried up in the fast-moving marketplace — especially for the cap-strapped Lakers.On Monday, useful guards like Seth Curry (a Lakers target) and Austin Rivers came off the board, agreeing to deals with Dallas and Houston, respectively. Similarly, big man Enes Kanter — whose name came up in conjunction with the Lakers — struck a two-year deal with the Celtics. All are players who fill particular roles and could be valuable to a contender.Yet because of the money needed to give to Leonard, the Clippers and Lakers can’t do all that much until the superstar makes up his mind about where he wants to play next season.This isn’t to say absolutely nothing can get done, of course. The Clippers entered free agency with enough space for two max-level free agents, but once it became clear that Leonard was the only one they still had a chance of landing, the team dipped into some of its cap space by making a good value deal with rugged stopper Pat Beverley. They also swooped in and dealt for forward Maurice Harkless, a starting-caliber forward, in Miami’s sprawling Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade. (The move eats about $11 million in cap space, but it also netted the Clips a future first-round pick.)The Lakers agreed to a veteran’s minimum deal with Troy Daniels, who’s known for his long-distance accuracy but not much else. This is the extent of what they can do for now, though. As a team that just barely has the space to afford Leonard’s max deal, the Lakers don’t have excess cap to throw at anyone else without knowing what the two-time NBA Finals MVP is doing. They’re rumored to have interest in fellow Raptors free agent Danny Green, but Green, a 3-and-D specialist, is reportedly waiting on Leonard, which would give him a better sense of whether he should return to Toronto for a possible title defense. (And unfortunately for the Lakers, even if Leonard were to sign with the Clippers, it sounds like Dallas will be the front-runner for Green’s services if Leonard ends up leaving the defending champions for one of the Los Angeles clubs.)This waiting game is an unintended consequence of the split-it-up strategy for handling the Lakers’ cap space. The notion of building a deeper roster, particularly after last season’s debacle with the injury to LeBron James, makes sense. But no team would pass up the chance to sign someone as talented as Leonard, especially with how wide open the title race is at this point.Still, even on Day 1 of free agency, we saw the value in a team getting its bad news early. Golden State learned as free agency was opening that Kevin Durant would be going elsewhere, an obvious blow to the team’s future but one that happened quickly enough so that the Warriors could orchestrate a sign-and-trade for D’Angelo Russell. Even if the move doesn’t make them a contender this coming season — and presents obvious questions from a fit standpoint — it likely will provide Golden State some flexibility down the line, given that other clubs may have interest in trading for him. And had Durant made his choice much later in the week, the Dubs may not have had that chance.In a way, that’s what makes this free-agency period so challenging for the Lakers. The pursuit for Leonard is tantamount to a spin on “Wheel of Fortune.” The team could very well end up hitting the jackpot and making themselves the clear title favorite. But it could also bankrupt their free agency and leave them with few role players of note next to James and Anthony Davis. Keep track of the chaotic NBA offseason with our Free Agency Diary.
A handful of weeks into the 2019 season, we still don’t know much about how the College Football Playoff race will eventually play out. Twenty-four major-conference teams (so, the Power Five plus Notre Dame — more on the Irish later) are currently undefeated, and 29 more have only one loss. Although we may be headed for yet another Clemson-versus-Alabama rematch in the national title game, that’s not set in stone … yet.To help make sense of the postseason picture from this early stage of the season onward, we built a model that predicts every team’s chance of making the playoff and winning the national championship. You can read more about how it works here — and we’ve made some tweaks this year — or scroll on to see the current rankings and how they might change going forward.The usual suspects are indeed at the top of this year’s projections as well, with Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Georgia forming the top 5 most likely playoff teams. And yes, the two most likely championship-game contestants are — you guessed it — Clemson (45 percent chance of making the title game) and Alabama (30 percent). Those odds imply that there is a 62 percent chance at least one of the Tigers and Crimson Tide make the playoff and a 14 percent chance we see yet another Clemson-Bama tilt in New Orleans next January.But that means there’s an 86 percent chance we don’t get Swinney-versus-Saban Part IV in the national title game. It’s still a wide-open battle. Our model currently gives 40 teams at least a 1 percent chance to make the playoff, 30 teams at least a 1 percent chance of making the title game and 21 teams at least a 1 percent chance of winning it all. Total† Chance to… * Difference in playoff odds is weighted by the chance of each outcome — win or lose — actually happening.† Total swing includes every game in the country — not just those listed here. TeamConf.RecordEloDanger week*Make PlayoffWin Title 8WisconsinBig Ten2-017079Ohio State153 39.4 17VirginiaACC3-017595Notre Dame51 Oklahoma36.7+0.6-1.00.7 Surveying the 2019 College Football Playoff raceChance of making the College Football Playoff and winning the national championship for teams with at least a 1 percent title probability 21Texas A&MSEC2-117867Alabama31 16IowaBig Ten3-0179911Wisconsin51 9Penn StateBig Ten3-0176313Ohio State112 15Oklahoma St.Big 123-0172814Oklahoma61 19TexasBig 122-117507Oklahoma41 18Wash. St.Pac-123-017529Oregon51 Naturally, both UGA and Notre Dame would see their playoff odds rise by quite a bit with victories (and fall with losses). But an Irish win would shake things up most of all — Notre Dame’s chance of making the playoff will improve by about 27 percentage points if it wins, and UGA’s will fall by about 16 points. That’s a pretty huge impact for a game this early in the season.But although UGA-Notre Dame is the biggest game of Week 4, most top contenders’ fates will potentially be sealed much later in the year. Among the top 5 teams in our championship odds, four of them (Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma) face their highest remaining chance of losing any given regular-season game in Week 14 — the final weekend before conference championships. (And even Georgia faces its most dangerous remaining regular-season opponent in Week 12 at Auburn, not this weekend against Notre Dame, in large part because UGA is at home against the Irish.)That means there will be plenty more drama to unfold as the season goes on. And you can use our playoff predictions to help follow it — and play with the implications of each game — every step along the way. 4Ohio StateBig Ten3-0192214Michigan338 Ohio State32.9+1.0-1.81.3 11OregonPac-122-116778Washington92 How Georgia-Notre Dame swings the playoff picturePotential changes in College Football Playoff probability for selected teams based on the outcome of the Sept. 21 Georgia-Notre Dame game 1ClemsonACC3-0204314S. Carolina75%25 6Notre DameInd.2-018614Georgia256 7LSUSEC3-0190211Alabama206 12AuburnSEC3-0183514Alabama82 TeamCurrent Playoff %WinsLosesWeighted Difference* Notre Dame24.9%-14.7+26.6+/-18.9 The big change we’ve added to the model this season involves one of those teams: Notre Dame. We believe we were systematically underrating the Fighting Irish’s chances of making the playoff in past seasons — as evidenced by the paltry 62 percent CFP probability we gave them heading into selection day last year. (They ended up making it, while a team we gave better odds to — Ohio State at 69 percent — missed out.)As an independent, Notre Dame was ineligible for the conference championship bonus in our model, which made its résumé look weaker in comparison with teams that had won their conferences. This year, however, we assign some fraction of the bonus to independents, based on their W-L record and how often the record tends to be enough to win a conference. That should help the Fighting Irish’s odds this year, provided they keep winning; if Notre Dame wins out, we give it a 97 percent chance of making the playoff.Of course, the biggest obstacle to that comes this weekend, when Georgia — an intriguing dark horse championship pick — hosts the Irish in a game that our model gives UGA a 65 percent chance of winning. This is by far the most important game of Week 4 in college football, with nearly 40 total points of playoff probability (across all FBS teams) riding on the outcome of the contest: Change in odds if Georgia… 3OklahomaBig 123-0185814Okla. St.378 Oregon9.1+0.5-0.90.7 Georgia26.7+8.9-16.111.4 Clemson74.8+1.1-1.91.4 13UtahPac-123-0171010Washington91 2AlabamaSEC3-0199614Auburn4618 5GeorgiaSEC3-0189412Auburn278 *A team’s most dangerous opponent is the team on its remaining schedule with the highest probability of beating it, according to the FiveThirtyEight model. 20WashingtonPac-122-117088Oregon41 10FloridaSEC3-019097LSU102 14MichiganBig Ten2-017694Wisconsin71
USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski on Friday made his final cuts before the 2014 FIBA World Cup, slicing the team’s roster to 12 players. So we now know who will represent the Stars and Stripes in Spain next week. But how does this year’s edition stack up to previous versions of Team USA?To measure this, I used Statistical Plus/Minus (SPM), a box-score-based metric that tries to estimate a player’s on-court influence per 100 possessions. (For current players, I’d normally use ESPN’s Real Plus/Minus, but for this exercise we also need numbers for players going back to the early 1990s.) By averaging together each player on a given team’s NBA performance in the seasons before and after a particular international tournament — both FIBA events and the Olympics — we can approximate how much talent each American roster had to work with. (The full rosters are in a table at the end of this post.)A few notes: For this year’s team, I used minutes from the 2014 Team USA exhibitions, excluding players who were cut. I also averaged the players’ 2013-14 performance with what we’d predict for 2014-15 using the rough SPM projection system we’ve employed over the summer. The 1998 team wasn’t included because few of its players were in the NBA. Finally, Magic Johnson didn’t play in 1991-92 or 1992-93, so I used his SPM from 1990-91 and deducted 0.4 rating points per an aging curve I computed.It comes as no surprise that the U.S. saves its best rosters for the Olympics. Including the fabled 1992 Dream Team at No. 1, each of the four most gifted American teams on our list were sent to the Summer Games, and the drop-off between No. 4 (the Redeem Team of the 2008 Olympics) and No. 5 (the 2006 FIBA World Cup squad) is substantial.You can also trace USA Basketball’s twisting path over the last two-plus decades by looking at these team ratings. The 1992 and 1996 Olympic teams were every bit the powerhouses their reputations would suggest, but the 2000 and 2004 versions were considerably weaker, culminating in an embarrassing performance in Athens. (That 2000’s team still won gold, however narrowly, while the 2004 squad fell to bronze probably speaks to how much teams in the rest of the world improved in the intervening four years.)The humiliation of 2004 would lead to a renewed commitment to American basketball dominance, headed up by the brain trust of former Phoenix Suns executive Jerry Colangelo and Krzyzewski, the Duke University coach. Unlike the U.S. teams sent to the 1994, 1998 and 2002 FIBA Worlds, the 2006 team (and the subsequent 2007 FIBA Americas team) was nearly Olympic-level in quality, and the 2008 Olympic squad was the best the U.S. had fielded since 1996 — the lessons of the weak 2004 selection were duly heeded.This year’s team is of roughly the same quality as the 2010 FIBA Worlds team (the U.S. tore through that tournament without losing). There is no LeBron James or Kevin Durant on the roster, but Stephen Curry, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins and company still make for a formidable group. (Our projection, based on last year’s numbers, also considers Derrick Rose to be a below-average player, which may be badly underrating him if Krzyzewski’s impressions from the exhibition season are correct.)This isn’t the best team the U.S. has ever had to offer, but it’s above the usual standards of FIBA World Cup fare, 2006’s vengeance-minded selection notwithstanding.CORRECTION (Aug. 27, 10:22 a.m.): A previous version of this article incorrectly said Mike Krzyzewski was Duke’s former men’s basketball coach. He is the current coach.
OSU then-sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Nebraska on Feb. 18 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File PhotoOhio State dominated Nebraska in a full team effort, beating the Cornhuskers 95-75 for its fifth straight win. Good ball movement allowed the Buckeyes to rack up 23 assists, leading to three different OSU players scoring in double digits. OSU coach Kevin McGuff mentioned how the Buckeyes ball movement has improved overall against man and zone defenses. He also gave praise to leading scorer and junior guard Kelsey Mitchell.“Kelsey did a good job moving the ball around,” he said. “She made others around her better today, and I think the way we shot the ball early on, there were a lot of great passes we just didn’t make those shots and it could’ve been higher.”Mitchell picked up 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds.Mitchell also passed an OSU milestone on Sunday, moving into third place on the program’s all-time scoring list. “To see people like Linnae (Harper) hit shots, Stephanie (Mavunga) hit shots, Sierra (Calhoun) hit shots, it’s good for our team,” Mitchell said. “I want to be one of those people giving them those assists.”In the first quarter, the Buckeyes were having trouble making shots. However, in the last two minutes, OSU put together a 10-0 run and capitalized on steals from its full-court press.In the second, the Buckeyes kept their steady lead. OSU kept the pressure up on the Huskers, forcing a total 14 first-half turnovers. Offensively, struggles pursued as the Buckeyes only hit 14-of-40 shots from the field and 3 of 16 from beyond the arc, but held a 40-29 score at halftime.“We came out and we had a lot of effort defensively, we just couldn’t make any shots in the first half,” McGuff said. In the third, the Scarlet and Gray found their shot to break away from the Huskers. The Buckeyes went on an 18-4 run, and shot 66.7 percent from the field. The Buckeyes were also perfect from the charity line and from the 3-point line, hitting 7 of 7 from the line and 2 for 2 from 3-point range.The Cornhuskers came out swinging in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to 13 with two minutes left to play. However, they couldn’t catch up to OSU’s high octane offense. OSU kept up its high second-half scoring percentage throughout the fourth, and continued to get to the line, forcing two Nebraska players to foul out. Mitchell said that the difference in the third quarter came from taking note of the errors committed in the first half. “Coach McGuff puts big emphasis on what’s not right,” she said. “Once we realize and focus on the things we didn’t do in the first half, we always try to do a good job of buckling down in the second half.”The Buckeyes look to kept their streak alive, playing at home against Penn State at 7 p.m. on Feb. 1.
Whether people are attending a concert or a basketball or ice hockey game at the Schottenstein Center, they often only see the finished product. One Ohio State student recently attended an ice hockey game and found himself curious about the transition process. “I wondered about it during the hockey game,” said Randy Norman, a fourth-year in computer science and information. “I didn’t know if they could hold a basketball and ice hockey game in the same weekend.” In fact, that sort of thing happens often. For one particularly tight conversion, Steve Lind, conversion manager at the Schottenstein Center, said they were able to convert from the basketball court to the ice rink in two hours and 10 minutes. Lind said that result is not typical. Usually it takes closer to three-and-a-half hours to convert from the basketball court to the ice rink, he said. The most difficult conversion is going from the ice rink back to the basketball court, a process that usually takes about four-and-a-half hours, Lind said. “It’s a lot more cosmetic,” he said. Setting up the basketball court involves piecing together 225 individual wooden pieces, along with adding extra rows of seating. The ice rink has less seating to install, but has 182 pieces of glass that make up the rink. In all, the Schottenstein Center holds more than 20,000 people for concerts, 19,500 people for basketball games and 17,500 for ice hockey games. To cover the ice during basketball games and concerts, protective flooring is placed over the ice. The speed with which they accomplish the conversion depends heavily on the size of the crew. Lind said the average conversion crew has 20 to 25 members. The crew that set the record had more than 40 members. Maintaining the ice surface during the season, and throughout multiple conversions, is the responsibility of custodial services manager Ray Williams. It’s a process that isn’t as difficult as it used to be, due in large part to the advancement of the Zamboni. “It’s labor intensive, but the Zamboni does its job,” Williams said. Williams said the Zamboni removes any imperfections the conversion process might cause in the ice. The ice, formed at the beginning of the hockey season in October, takes between 50 and 60 hours of labor to form, he said. Williams described the process in detail. First, the concrete floor beneath the ice is regulated to 10 degrees. Twelve miles of piping are laid under the floor that runs the cooling system. Then, a thin layer of water is sprayed onto the ice. Once it’s frozen, the ice is painted white. The lines follow and the center ice logo is put in place. The logo, which is made of mesh, is placed at center and freezes into the ice. Williams said the process of placing the logo takes only 10 to 15 minutes. When they had to paint the logo, the process took about six hours. Once the logo is in place, the ice is built up until it is between one-and-a-quarter and one-and-a-half inches. In all, 10,000 gallons of water is used to create the surface. The ice is kept at 18 degrees when the protective flooring covers it and 14 degrees when it is uncovered. Williams said the surface temperature of the ice fluctuates because of overhead lighting. The ice is melted in March after OSU’s hockey season. Converting the Schottenstein Center is a large task, but it is not the process that strikes Lind, but rather who is involved in the process. “Ninety-eight percent of the crew is Ohio State students,” Lind said. “I think that’s pretty neat.”
Former Ohio State guard JaQuan Lyle will play basketball for New Mexico beginning in 2018-19. He will sit out his first year, per NCAA . Credit: Mason Swires | Former Assistant Photo EditorMonths after junior guard JaQuan Lyle quit Ohio State’s men’s basketball team, he has reportedly found a new home. Lyle is headed west to play for and attend New Mexico, according to TheLoboLair.com.He will have to sit out the 2017-18 season, per NCAA transfer rules, since he has not graduated. Lyle was arrested and charged for three misdemeanors – public intoxication, criminal mischief to a vehicle and disorderly conduct – May 13. Later that day, an Ohio State spokesman told The Lantern Lyle had quit the team April 11.Tuesday evening, Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann told season ticket-holders that he did not expect Lyle to return to Ohio State. He said he consulted the players on a decision about whether to entertain Lyle’s return.“We’ve also involved our entire team in some of those decisions that were made,” Holtmann said. “Obviously they were here and I wasn’t.”Last season, Lyle averaged 11.4 points per contest and led the Buckeyes with 142 assists in 31 games, including 24 starts. He was the final player from Ohio State’s 2015 recruiting class on the Buckeyes’ roster. Now, all five are enrolled and playing at different universities.Lyle isn’t the only former Ohio State men’s basketball player in the state. A.J. Harris, who was also a member of the Buckeyes’ 2015 recruiting class, transferred to New Mexico State after the 2015-16 season and will be eligible to play this upcoming season.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Greg Schiano gives junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper (18) a high-five as he comes off the field in the fourth quarter of the game against Michigan State on Nov. 10. Ohio State won 26-6. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorGreg Schiano had things to talk about heading into the Maryland game. The Ohio State defensive coordinator discussed his defense’s improvement on limiting missed tackles, the play of sophomore safety Brendon White, the stability of the linebacker position and the return of redshirt senior Dante Booker. But there was something he knew he had to address. According to a report by Brett McMurphy, a staff writer from Stadium, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer covered up a verbal altercation between former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and former wide receiver Trevon Grimes that allegedly took place during a practice in September 2017. The report stated that Smith had used racial slurs when speaking to Grimes, leading to his transfer to Florida in December 2017. When asked about this, Schiano wanted to make something perfectly clear. “One thing I learned a long time ago in coaching is Saturday is going to come,” Schiano said. “Whatever time kickoff, this week, it’s noon. Noon is coming. Whether you are ready or not, nobody cares.” That does not mean the players and the coaching staff are ignoring the allegations made in this report. Meyer said in the Big Ten Coaches Teleconference Tuesday that he was “irate” and the players were “over-the-top irate” when they heard about the report. “They were extremely upset that that kind of accusation would be made about something that is absolutely not tolerated, and quite honestly, the most preposterous thing I ever heard being involved in college athletics,” he said. Ohio State offensive coordinator Ryan Day echoed Meyer’s feelings from the teleconference, saying, “all of that stuff is foolishness.” But he said the team came out Tuesday and practiced like it always did. However, for the offensive coordinator, he saw there were clearly things on the minds of the players and the coaching staff. “Today was just one of those things where a lot of people were just shaking their head like they don’t quite understand where that all comes from,” Day said. “But this team is strong. This team is galvanized from a lot of different reasons, but yeah, this would be another example of that.” This is something Day is used to. He was the interim head coach for Meyer when he was placed on paid administrative leave on Aug. 1 and through the first three games of the season when Meyer was suspended after reports claimed he knew about domestic violence allegations made against Smith. Smith was dismissed from the program on July 23. He said, despite the off-the-field storylines Ohio State has gone through, it has not bothered the team, giving credit to the culture and the leadership of its captains. But the players did not stay quiet when the report was released. “There are a lot of guys that are angry about that,” Day said. “You can tell right when it happened. People came out and said a lot of stuff and denied any of that stuff, but I think in this situation here, everybody was just kind of appalled by the whole thing.” Ohio State redshirt senior wide receivers Parris Campbell and Johnnie Dixon were quick to rally support against the report, saying they witnessed the altercation between Smith and Grimes and the report of the use of a racial slur was false. “You think a group of African American young men will sit there and let something like this happen?” Dixon said in a tweet. “Say what you want but this isn’t true at all.” When asked about the report, junior defensive end Jonathon Cooper stated his allegiance to Ohio State and the football program. “All I have to say to that is I love my teammates, I love this university,” Cooper said. “I know we have good people here and good guys and it’s a really great program.” There are players and coaches angry in response to McMurphy’s report. But Schiano said, with the formula Meyer has set up in the Ohio State football program, it takes an extreme situation to “break you out of your routine.” The defensive coordinator said the best way to deflect attention about the report is to not get involved because, he said, there are bigger things to worry about. According to Schiano, there is a difference in this report and the allegations made in it from McMurphy. But when Saturday arrives, it does not matter. “On Saturday at noon, nobody cares about that,” Schiano said. “All they care about is do we do our job and do we win the game. So you can get distracted, but get ready because you are going to get it a week from now.”