Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday of complications from heart problems, fell just short of being the greatest player in golf history. But for a brief period, he was very nearly as good as anyone who ever played the game — and his greatness came at exactly the right time for a sport seeking viewers at the dawn of the television age.From 1958 to 1966, Palmer won seven major championships — including four green jackets at The Masters — and finished in the top 10 at 16 other majors. At the heart of that span was a five-season stretch from 1960 to 1964, which, according to our method of “major shares” (which credit players for their expected majors won based on how dominant their scores are relative to the field), still stands as the seventh-best peak performance of golf’s modern era.1For our purposes, golf entered its modern era in 1958, when the PGA Championship abandoned match play and unified all the majors under a common stroke-play format.Seventh-best doesn’t sound overly impressive, until you consider that slots 1 through 6 are four five-season stretches from Tiger Woods and two from Jack Nicklaus. In fact, that pair so thoroughly dominates any ranking of great golf seasons that merely being in their company is a rare honor. And in terms of peak greatness, Arnie is the only other player in the conversation aside from Tiger and Jack: 13Jack Nicklaus197019742054.37 PLAYERFROMTOCUTS MADEWINSMAJOR SHARES 1Tiger Woods199820022075.89 22Jack Nicklaus196919732053.69 19Jack Nicklaus196519691843.79 10Jack Nicklaus196219661964.63 21Tiger Woods200120052053.73 YEARSMAJORS 8Tiger Woods200220061964.66 4Jack Nicklaus197119752065.24 20Jack Nicklaus196119651743.76 17Arnold Palmer196119651843.94 7Arnold Palmer196019641964.78 2Tiger Woods199920032075.67 Since 1958, when the PGA Championship adopted a stroke-play format.Sources: ESPN, Yahoo Palmer didn’t remain at that level very long. He made his final top-10 finish at The Masters in 1967, and although he’d have 11 more top-10s at the other majors, he also fell out of golf’s highest tier of players around that time. While still capable of contending at majors, he didn’t do it consistently after the mid- to late 1960s. And by that point, Nicklaus had long since surpassed Palmer as the game’s top player. In Nicklaus’s absence, Palmer could have enjoyed a longer reign atop the sport, but Palmer had the misfortune of winning his first major only four years before golf’s eventual G.O.A.T. would win his.But in other ways, Palmer’s timing couldn’t have been better. His greatest stretch of seasons coincided with golf’s increased popularity in a booming postwar America, and — even more importantly — the ascendance of televised sporting events in the U.S. With good looks and a swashbuckling style that played well on TV, Palmer became the face of the sport, selling it (and himself) to growing audiences on a national stage.Ultimately, that will be Arnold Palmer’s most important golf legacy. But in all the talk about his role in popularizing the sport, we shouldn’t forget just how good he was at playing it during his prime. He wasn’t there very long, but when Palmer was at his best, only a couple players in the history of the sport were better. 5Tiger Woods199720012065.03 12Tiger Woods199620001854.54 Best 5-year runs in modern golf history 3Jack Nicklaus196319671865.45 6Tiger Woods200020042064.85 9Jack Nicklaus197219762054.65 15Tiger Woods200520091664.00 11Jack Nicklaus196419681844.59 23Arnold Palmer195919631953.68 16Arnold Palmer196219661833.97 25Arnold Palmer195819621863.67 18Tiger Woods200420081763.87 24Tiger Woods200320071953.67 14Jack Nicklaus197319772034.35
Rookie Russell Wilson staked his claim to be the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback on Friday night, throwing for 185 yards and two touchdowns to lead his team to a 44-14 preseason rout of the Kansas City Chiefs.The third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin also scrambled for 58 yards as visiting Seattle scored on its first six possessions to effectively put the game out of reach by halftime.The 5-foot-11 Wilson has been competing with Matt Flynn for the starting job. Flynn, the former Green Bay backup who was signed as a free agent in the offseason, missed the game with a sore elbow, giving Wilson the stage to himself.He made the most of his opportunity.“He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “This is the guy we hoped he would be. All of the talk about how tall he is and all that stuff, I don’t see it being a factor. I don’t see it, I have watched more carefully than anybody could have ever watched, and I don’t see it being an issue. It isn’t to me.”Seattle looked impressive in remaining unbeaten (3-0) as it prepares for its preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders next week. The Seahawks open the regular season at Arizona on Sept. 9.Wilson paced the offense to field goals on his first two possessions before hooking up with tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr. for a 21-yard scoring strike early in the second period.Wilson, who completed 13 of 19 passes without an interception, added an 11-yard touchdown pass to Charly Martin the first half’s waning moments as Seattle raced to the 23-7 halftime edge and never looked back.In three preseason games, Wilson has completed 67 percent (35 of 52) of his passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns with just one interception.The Chiefs’ offensive struggles helped assure the game’s lopsided margin. New offensive coordinator Brian Daboll’s offensive attack fizzled, going three-and-out on three of its first four possessions.Quarterback Matt Cassel completed 19 of 34 passes for 168 yards and a score, but was also intercepted by Seattle safety Earl Thomas, who returned it 75 yards for a third-quarter score.The Seahawks’ Golden Tate added a 95-yard punt return for another touchdown later in the period to push his team’s lead to 44-7.Kansas City wraps up the preseason at Green Bay next week before hosting Atlanta to open the regular season on Sept. 9.
2Madison BumgarnerSF201471560.0 Facing elimination in Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night, the Chicago Cubs did something that has distinguished this team from previous versions of the franchise: They didn’t fold. Despite trailing early against the notoriously front-running Indians, Chicago clawed its way back from the brink with a three-run flurry in the fourth inning, got a few more steady innings out of starter Jon Lester, and then used their bullpen to hold off Cleveland’s rally, securing a 3-2 victory and guaranteeing that their season would last at least one more game.In what has become the Postseason Of The Reliever, Cubs closer Aroldis Chapman had his fireman moment on Sunday. After Carl Edwards Jr. gave up a single and induced a flyout in the top of the seventh, Chapman entered the game — and proceeded to dominate the Indians’ lineup for the rest of the night on 42 pitches (which tied for the second–most he’d ever thrown in an MLB game). Eight of the 10 Cleveland hitters Chapman faced made outs, half of which came on strikes, as the closer gave up just one hit and walked none. Indians reliever Andrew Miller has become known in these playoffs for shutting down opponents over multiple innings, but it was Chapman’s turn in Game 5.In the history of World Series elimination games, Chapman recorded the sixth save of eight or more outs, placing his Game 5 in a group that also includes Madison Bumgarner’s unbelievable 15-out performance in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series. And more importantly for the Cubs, who asked their reliever to start his workday by immediately defusing a high-leverage situation, Chapman added a game-high 41 points of win probability to Chicago’s victory chances, which ranks 10th-most all-time among relief pitchers in a World Series elimination game: 14Allie ReynoldsNYY19526429.0 12Carl WillisMIN19916833.4 3Walter JohnsonWSH192471258.9 5Pete AlexanderSTL19267751.0 15Rick AguileraMIN19916628.4 Most valuable relief appearances in a World Series elimination game (according to win probability added) 1Dick DonovanCHW19595560.1 10Aroldis ChapmanCHC20165840.9 PITCHERTEAMYEARGAME NO.OUTS RECORDEDWPA 11Clay CarrollCIN197041140.5 Of course, winning Game 5 was always going to be the easiest step of Chicago’s three-part comeback journey. With staff ace Jon Lester1FiveThirtyEight’s pitcher scores rate Lester higher than any other Cubs starter. going up against a struggling Trevor Bauer at Wrigley Field, our Elo prediction model gave the Cubs a 65 percent probability of extending their season Sunday night, which was tied for their fourth-most-likely victory of the entire playoffs. Game 5 was a must-win game for them anyway, but if the Cubs were going to put their best foot forward in any one of the three games they hoped were left in their season, it was always going to be in Sunday’s matchup.Now the really difficult work begins for the Cubs. For one thing, the series shifts back to Cleveland; moreover, Chicago will have to go through a tougher Indians starter in Josh Tomlin for Game 6 — and then they’ll face ace Corey Kluber, who ranks second-best in all of baseball by our pitcher scores, for a potential Game 7. Elo gives the Cubs a 52 percent chance of forcing a Game 7, but it also says they’d be underdogs in that matchup2Right now our model only gives them a 45 percent chance of winning, though that could change depending on how much Chicago boosts its Elo in Game 6. even if they survive Game 6.Chapman’s performance helped give the Cubs a better chance than the slim probability they had after Saturday’s loss, but Chicago still has a long way to go before it can end its 108-year championship drought. 9Dick DragoBOS19756942.5 8Bob KuzavaNYY19527843.4 4Hank BorowyCHC194561254.1 13Jesse OroscoNYM19867629.5 6Hugh McQuillanNYG19247547.5 Source: Baseball-Reference.com 7Rollie FingersOAK19727646.2
Kemba WalkerCHA502244.8 James Harden: This season’s MVP of drawing 3-point shooting fouls Damian LillardPOR484255.2 Stats as of March 21. Restricted to players who drew at least 20 fouls on 3-point attempts.Source: BigDataBall Kyle LowryTOR444306.8 James Harden has become an occupational hazard for referees. Earlier this month, the Jazz were up seven on the Rockets with just over a minute to play, and Utah players were at their wit’s end with the officials. Following a signal that the Jazz had committed yet another foul, Joe Johnson threw his right hand up in disgust. Rudy Gobert shook his head in disbelief. Rodney Hood, who was charged with the foul, looked for a ref with whom he could plead. Joe Ingles had both palms out, confused as to how so little contact could prompt a call.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/jazz4thfoulagainstharden.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The whistle marked the fourth time that night that Utah had been charged with fouling Harden in the act of shooting a 3-pointer. And while that might sound unbelievable, it wasn’t even the first time this season that the MVP frontrunner had drawn four shooting fouls from the arc in a game.1He also drew four shooting fouls while attempting 3-pointers during a Dec. 31 victory over the Knicks.Harden has long been great at drawing fouls no matter where he is on the court, but he has taken the art form to new heights on his 3-point attempts this season. After drawing 27 fouls while trying to shoot a triple in 2014-15 and inducing 46 such fouls last season,2According to Basketball-Reference.com’s Play Index. Harden has drawn a whopping 108 shooting fouls from distance this year with 11 games left to play. For context, consider that, outside of the Rockets, no team has garnered more than 73 of those calls.3Amazingly, if you limit Harden to just the 12 games in which he drew at least three 3-point shooting fouls, his 38 fouls drawn in those contests would outpace 21 teams’ totals for the season so far.If you subtract Harden’s numbers from the rest of the league’s, the average NBA player has drawn fouls on 1.6 percent of his 3-pointers this season, according to BigDataBall, which tracks the league’s play-by-play logs. Harden is drawing 3-point shooting fouls at a 16.7 percent clip, or more than 10 times as often. How is he so good at this? Hornets68 Stephen CurryGSW682223.2 James HardenHOU64710816.7% Mike ConleyMEM346236.6 Nicolas BatumCHA347246.9 Goran DragicMIA248249.7 PLAYERTEAM3PT ATTEMPTS3PT FOULS DRAWN3PT FOUL RATE Pacers51 PLAYER/TEAMSHOOTING FOULS DRAWN ON 3-POINT ATTEMPTS Raptors52 Harden has drawn more 3-point shooting fouls than any other NBA team The Rockets star has a couple patterns he uses to consistently get these calls. Unlike Jamal Crawford, who has drawn dozens of perimeter shooting fouls as players barrel into his legs during close-outs, Harden would seem to be the one initiating contact on many of his fouls.In particular, Harden has found a way to turn even solid, respectable defenders into victims. He generally waits until his man puts a hand up to defend, then locks arms with him and jumps to begin a shot, making the defender appear guilty. Harden basically forces perimeter defenders to play with their hands down along the 3-point line.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/harden4.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/harden101.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Back on New Year’s Eve, Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek vented about this after a loss in Houston, saying it’s impossible to defend Harden given his ability to trick officials. “He grabs with his left arm, has the ball in the right hand and wraps his left arm with your hand,” said Hornacek, whose team fouled Harden from 3-point range four times4He drew all four of them in an 18-minute span during the second half. that night while Harden racked up a 53 points, 16 rebounds and 17 assists. “To me, that’s an offensive foul. But he does it fast, quick — it’s hard to see.”Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/usethisharden16.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The other thing Harden does well: Stop on a dime and pop jumpers just as he’s navigating around screens. That trick makes life hell for the defenders who are sprinting to go over the pick to stay with him. Harden’s world-class ability to stop abruptly means that defenders frequently can’t hit the brakes as quickly as he can, which leads to players running into him from behind, prompting 3-shot fouls. This has been especially true this season, as defenders have tried to stay on Harden’s hip more than usual5Defenses have been guarding Harden more and more closely over the past four years. Opponents have been within four feet of him for 65 percent of his shots this season, up from 51, 61 and 62 percent, respectively, during the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons, according to NBA.com. to prevent him from spraying the ball wherever he wants in Houston’s spacious offense. Jeff TeagueIND2012210.9 Lou WilliamsHOU3925012.8 Isaiah ThomasBOS550224.0 Trailblazers41 Lakers73 James Harden108 Eric BledsoePHX309237.4 Russell WestbrookOKC482224.6 Harden plays on the Rockets, who have drawn 132 total shooting fouls, including his 108. Stats are for the 2016-17 season as of March 21.Source: BigDataBall “As an opponent, no, I don’t admire it,” Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony told reporters when asked about Harden’s tactics. “As a fan, [I] admire it. Because we as offensive guys, guys who like to score, always try to find tricks that can work in our favor. He found something that’s working for him. So no, as an opponent, I hate it.” (I asked a league spokesman about this issue as it relates to Harden — particularly since the NBA stopped awarding shooting fouls for a similar rip-through move years ago — but he said it’s against league policy to discuss how a particular player is officiated.)Harden isn’t oblivious to the perception that he draws more shooting fouls than he probably should. But the crafty guard makes no apologies, either, saying a defender making contact on a jump shot should merit a foul just like someone bumping a shooter near the basket would. “A foul is a foul no matter how it’s committed,” he told Time in a Q&A this season.Sometimes Harden’s strategy backfires in embarrassing fashion, as he’ll incorrectly anticipate contact and throw up a wild shot in hopes of drawing a foul that never comes.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/hardenflailing.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/hardenflailing4.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.But more often than not, it’s been a worthwhile gamble for Harden and the Rockets to go for the foul. That’s become even more true in the past month, since Houston traded for Lou Williams, the player who’s drawn the second-most 3-point shooting fouls in the NBA this season — trailing, of course, only Harden. I asked Houston general manager Daryl Morey about having both of the league’s top two guys in such an odd category, and he said he and others in the Rockets’ front office had noticed Williams’s unusual ability to draw contact from the perimeter, but that it wasn’t the overriding reason they made the swap with the Lakers.“We knew that both Lou and James are extremely good shooters that are hard to guard. So, going over the screen and being physical with them is one of the only ways to guard them, which causes them to get fouled more than others,” Morey said. “That said, we focused more on their overall efficiency than how people have to foul them to stop them.”Teams will do their best to stop Harden from using the trick once the postseason starts. But if last year’s playoffs are any indication, that may not work, either: Harden drew five whistles on just 42 3-point attempts. Three of those fouls came in one half, in a game against the Warriors.Neil Paine assisted with research for this story.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
The group stage of the Champions League starts Tuesday, and FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer predictions are ready. In the video above, FiveThirtyEight’s sports editor, Geoff Foster, breaks down what to expect in the coming days and lays out which group is really the Group of Death.Read more: FiveThirtyEight’s club soccer predictions
The United States was seconds away from defeating Portugal on Sunday when Michael Bradley, normally one of the steadiest American players, mishandled a ball in midfield and gave Portugal a last opportunity. Silvestre Varela took advantage, scoring on a header.But the 2-2 draw was a result the U.S. might have been happy with before the match began. It improved the Americans’ odds of advancing to the knockout round of the World Cup. Those chances are up to 76 percent, according to the FiveThirtyEight forecast, an improvement from 65 percent before Sunday’s match.That 76 percent figure may even be slightly low, for reasons I’ll explain in a moment. Still, the U.S. will not be guaranteed advancement unless it manages at least a draw against Germany on Thursday in Recife, Brazil. If the U.S. loses, the Portugal-Ghana game, which will kick off simultaneously in Brasilia, could cause heartbreak for Americans. You may want to have two screens at your disposal for Thursday’s matches.The U.S. has essentially three ways to advance to the knockout stage:The easy way. First, it could draw or beat Germany. That might not sound so challenging, but the Germans are the third-best team in the world, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index. Our forecast gives the U.S. a 14 percent chance of a win and a 22 percent chance of a draw — but a 64 percent chance of a loss. As a bonus, however, the U.S. will advance first from Group G if it beats Germany. That matters because the first-place team from Group G is likely to face Russia or Algeria in the Round of 16 — while the second-place team will face a stronger side in Belgium.The almost-as-easy way. Next, the United States could lose to Germany but advance if Ghana and Portugal draw in Brasilia. Our forecast puts the chance of a Ghana-Portugal draw at 29 percent.The hard way. Finally, the U.S. could lose to Germany but advance because it edges either Portugal or Ghana — whichever team wins in Brasilia — on goal differential or another of FIFA’s tiebreakers.Let’s talk tiebreakers. FIFA resolves ties in the group stage in the following order: goal differential, goals scored, head-to-head results. (Eventually, it gets down to drawing lots.)So far, the United States has four goals scored and three allowed — a +1 differential. Ghana has scored three times but allowed four goals — a -1 differential. Portugal has scored twice but allowed six goals, giving them a -4.That seems favorable for the U.S. But we’re specifically concerned about the scenario where the United States loses Thursday and there’s a victor in Brasilia. In that case, the goal differential will tighten.For example, if the U.S. loses to Germany 1-0 but Ghana beats Portugal 1-0, then the U.S. and Ghana would have an even goal differential. They’d also each have four goals scored and four goals allowed. So advancement would come down to the third tiebreaker — head-to-head results — and the U.S. would advance only on account of having beaten Ghana.But Ghana could advance under other scenarios. If the U.S. loses to Germany by more than one goal — not unlikely against a formidable German offense — or Ghana’s win against Portugal is by more than one goal, then Ghana will go forward.Ghana would also advance if both games are decided by one goal but Ghana’s is higher scoring. For instance, if Ghana beats Portugal 2-1 but the U.S. loses to Germany 1-0, then Ghana would advance on the basis of the goals-scored tiebreaker by having scored five goals throughout the group stage to the United States’ four.The U.S. has less to worry about if Portugal wins in Brasilia. But it’s not out of the question that the Portuguese could advance. This would require a blowout win by Portugal, a blowout loss by the U.S. or some combination thereof. For example, if the U.S. lost to Germany 3-0 and Portugal beat Ghana 3-1, then Portugal would advance.So, why I do I say that our 76 percent figure might slightly underestimate the Americans’ chances? One reason is technical rather than soccer-related: Our simulation was programmed to resolve ties beyond goals scored and goal differential randomly, rather than looking at head-to-head results, because the head-to-head tiebreaker so rarely comes into play. But if a Ghanaian win in Brasilia and an American loss in Recife come by exactly the same scoreline — e.g. Ghana 3, Portugal 2, and Germany 3, U.S. 2 — that would trigger the head-to-head tiebreaker. The probability of such an outcome is low, but it means the simulator has slightly underestimated the U.S.’s advancement prospects, perhaps by 1 or 2 percent.The other reason is that four teams in Group G know this math just as well as you or I do — and that could affect the style of play in both Recife and Brasilia. Germany has no real incentive to beat the United States — it also advances in first place from the group with a draw. A draw is also a good result for the U.S., getting it to the knockout stage. That could lead to a more conservative game plan for both teams and a slower pace, making the odds of a draw higher than they otherwise might be.Of course, just the opposite is true for Ghana and Portugal. Both teams fail to advance with a draw. In fact, a mere one-goal win would be problematic for both teams and especially for Portugal. That means they’ll have every reason to play attacking football and pile on the goals until the last minute, making a draw less likely and a lopsided score more likely than it might be ordinarily.
Iowa 10-022%5%24%96%14% Notre Dame 9-126%2%31%63%40% Alabama1>99% Oklahoma 9-145%4%60%92%46% Florida State 8-2<1%<1%<1%1%40% North Carolina21 Clemson147 TEAMFINAL LOSSESPLAYOFF CHANCES Houston 10-01%<1%1%4%31% Ohio State21 Playoff chances if they … (The dash in Alabama’s row denotes that we had a sample-size issue with that projection. They lost to Charleston Southern only three of 5,000 times in our simulation. That they went on to make the playoff two of those three times is statistical noise, so we excluded that number from the table.)What to watch for this weekBig TenGame of the week: Ohio State vs. Michigan StateWe already outlined the stakes of this game. Ohio State is a 79 percent favorite to win, according to predictions based on the Football Power Index (FPI). But the Buckeyes have had a tumultuous — though successful — turnover at quarterback, with J.T. Barrett replacing a slumping Cardale Jones, only for Barrett to get suspended for one game, allowing Jones to fill in until Barrett returned. Barrett will start against the Spartans.Big 12Game of the week: Oklahoma State vs. BaylorThe Big 12 carnage threatens to continue! After Oklahoma State took care of TCU two weeks ago and then Oklahoma impressively took down Baylor last week, the conference is showing how its November bloodbath schedule can wreak havoc. Oklahoma — which is now comfortably the best college football team according to FPI — takes on TCU in a game it’s expected to win 74 percent of the time. A closer matchup involves the other Oklahoma school: undefeated Oklahoma State, ranked No. 6 by the committee,3All the rankings I use in this article are the committee’s. is an underdog at home against Baylor. Should the Cowboys lose, as FPI predicts is 62 percent likely, their chances of making the playoff fall to 10 percent.SECGame of the week: LSU vs. MississippiArkansas’s thumping of LSU cleared up the SEC end-game scenarios — while sending me into an existential spiral about my beloved Tigers. But should Ole Miss lose against LSU this week (a 35 percent probability), Alabama clinches the SEC West. That means the Tide can formally book its ticket to face Florida, the winners of the East.ACCGame of the week: North Carolina vs. Virginia TechNorth Carolina is having a great season, but like Notre Dame, the Tar Heels aren’t guaranteed a playoff spot should they win out. The one-loss Tar Heels look set to face Clemson in the ACC title game — but even if they win out the regular season and beat the No. 1 Tigers, our model projects UNC as having only a 55 percent shot at the playoff. In short, the ACC is notably weak, and outside of an undefeated Clemson, there is no sure thing.Pac-12Game of the week: Utah vs. UCLAYou can watch Utah vs. UCLA because it’s the best and closest Pac-12 matchup of the week, but it won’t have major playoff implications. Practically nothing in the Pac-12 does. Both Stanford and Utah — the conference’s shining lights to make the playoff — lost last week. That said, Stanford still has an 11 percent chance of getting in. As a curious reader asked on Twitter: Under what scenario could that happen?Let’s play college football god for a minute (using the first table above as our guide). For a two-loss Stanford to get in, they’d first need to beat Notre Dame, which would presumably eliminate the Irish from the playoff hunt. Then they’d need to see carnage elsewhere. The Cardinal could pray for Big 12 chaos — TCU losing to Oklahoma and then beating Baylor; Oklahoma State losing to Baylor but beating Oklahoma, for instance. Or if UNC upsets Clemson, the ACC might not be assured of a playoff bid. Although these cases aren’t likely, they’re possible. Hence the 11 percent odds for Stanford.Beyond The Power FiveGame of the week: Houston vs. UConnCongrats, Cougars! You’re one of the five undefeated teams remaining, but you’re still a long shot for the playoff if you win out: 4 percent, by our model’s estimate. To crash the playoff, Houston needs the major teams to seriously cannibalize one another’s chances.One other team deserves some respect: Navy. The 8-1 Midshipmen have an outside shot (3 percent) at the playoff if they win out. Their matchup with Houston next week should be a curious contrast in styles, with fringe playoff implications. North Carolina155 Utah24 Michigan St. 9-112%1%46%95%11% Memphis 8-2<1%<1%<1%<1%43% Michigan St.22 Michigan 8-29%<1%14%47%19% Michigan St.195 Oklahoma St.098 TCU136 Florida27 North Carolina 9-19%<1%15%55%15% TCU 9-15%<1%19%36%15% Notre Dame163 Houston04 Clemson0>99 Navy13 Notre Dame22 Iowa119 Ohio State 10-062%29%72%>99%35% Utah 8-21%<1%3%4%34% Iowa096 Navy 8-1<1%<1%<1%3%17% Stanford 8-211%<1%15%49%21% In 5,000 simulations of our College Football Playoff model, a one-loss1How exactly those losses occur — against which teams, in the regular season or conference championship game — is not specified in this simulation. Ohio State team makes the playoff 52 percent of the time. (The table next to this paragraph shows teams’ odds of making the playoff under different scenarios — Iowa going undefeated, Alabama losing a second game or Ohio State losing its first one, for example. These scenarios factor in the outcomes of conference championship games.) That 52 percent probability represents Ohio State’s chance should the Buckeyes take any one loss; if they lose to the Spartans specifically, their odds to make it are only 29 percent.So obviously this week’s game is hugely important. But even at 29 percent, Ohio State would have a higher chance of making the playoffs than Notre Dame does now. They have more leeway than nearly any other team to lose this weekend, as you can see in the second column of the what-if table farther down in this piece. That said, the Michigan State matchup matters for an additional reason: The winner will likely get to play in the Big Ten championship game.2Unless Michigan State blows it by losing to Penn State next week — which it has a 24 percent chance of doing. That’s another way Ohio State could back into the playoff. If the Buckeyes lose this weekend and then go on to win out, the College Football Playoff committee will have to decide that Ohio State belongs in the playoff without seeing the team play in a conference championship game. Still, Ohio State would have just one loss in that scenario and would have ended its season with a regular-season win at Michigan — and remains the defending national champion. It’s far from the worst résumé, and it’s plausible that the committee could add Ohio State alongside Michigan State or Iowa.Ohio State isn’t the only team that will still have a shot if it falters: Should Clemson or Alabama lose before Dec. 6, our model gives a one-loss Tigers squad or a two-loss Tide team a better than one in three shot of making it into the playoff. Other teams, too — such as Iowa, Oklahoma State and Florida — have some reasonable shot at the playoff should they lose one additional game before season’s end, since they could still win their conferences. (Michigan State, however, is basically eliminated from playoff contention with a loss.)Let’s dwell on the two-loss team scenarios for a second. Contrary to some folk wisdom, incurring two losses does not automatically disqualify an elite team from the playoff. (It’s also not that uncommon historically to have a two-loss team ranked in the top four before the bowl games.) According to our simulations, there is about a one in eight chance that a two-loss team makes it. (To be more exact, in 11.6 percent of our simulations at least one two-loss team makes the playoff.) Usually the two-loss team is Alabama, which has a 35 percent chance of making it with two losses, but Florida (7 percent) and Oklahoma (4 percent) stand an outside shot, too, should they drop another game.These scenarios also identify the most likely odd man out: Notre Dame. Sorry, Irish fans, but your team is the best squad not fully in control of its own destiny. Yes, the College Football Playoff committee currently has Notre Dame ranked No. 4, but they are at risk of being bumped (with only a 63 percent chance of making it in if they win all their remaining games). Think of it this way: If Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama win out, they’re locks — that’s no surprise; but as the what-if table shows below, our model expects an undefeated Oklahoma State or even a one-loss Oklahoma to have a better shot at the No. 4 spot than the Irish. The latter scenario seems like it would be especially maddening to Irish fans, as Oklahoma’s loss came to Texas — a team Notre Dame destroyed 38-3 early in the season.What-ifs of the week Ohio State152 Michigan247 Oklahoma St.118 Mississippi 7-3<1%<1%<1%<1%32% Ohio State vs. Michigan State is this week’s marquee matchup in the college football world. If either team wants to ensure a playoff appearance, it needs to win out — but the Buckeyes and Spartans have to first get past each other. (And come the Big Ten championship game, one will also need to get past Iowa, if things hold.)But a win here matters more for one-loss Michigan State. It’s not that Ohio State can take a mulligan; the undefeated Buckeyes just have more leeway. Oklahoma St. 10-025%10%45%98%17% Oregon 7-3<1%<1%<1%<1%32% LSU 7-2<1%<1%<1%<1%28% Wisconsin 8-2<1%<1%<1%<1%53% Alabama 9-163%—63%>99%47% Florida State21 Ohio State0>99 Northwestern 8-2<1%<1%<1%<1%14% Oklahoma24 TeamPlayoff ChancesLose nextWin nextWin outWin out likelihood USC 7-31%<1%2%5%25% Stanford249 Baylor158 Baylor 8-116%<1%28%58%27% Florida190 Alabama235 Clemson23 Florida 9-123%1%23%90%21% Clemson 10-068%35%69%>99%48% USC35 Oklahoma192
Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (May 9, 2017), we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring to break down the latest news from the NBA playoffs as we edge closer and closer to the conference championships. We discuss Celtics vs. Wizards and the sweeps by the Cavaliers and the Warriors. Next, the Mets have had a wild week, but is their injury-ridden squad cursed? Finally, FiveThirtyEight’s Christie Aschwanden returns to fill us in on the attempts to run a two-hour marathon. Plus, a significant digit on Ryan Howard.You can check FiveThirtyEight’s latest NBA predictions, which are updated after every game.The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks says the Celtics-Wizards series has been a game of coaching Whac-A-Mole.In his latest piece, FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring takes a look at Draymond Green’s defensive prowess.Chris also wrote about how Isaiah Thomas, the shortest guy in the NBA, became unstoppable.Rob Arthur wrote about the Mets’ unremarkable injury woes.FiveThirtyEight’s latest MLB predictions (updated after every game) currently give the Mets a 38 percent chance of making the playoffs.FiveThirtyEight’s Christie Aschwanden shared some thoughts on Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to run a two-hour marathon. He came tantalizingly close.Significant Digit: .184, Ryan Howard’s batting average for the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett team. Howard was released from his contract on Monday after 11 games. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Embed Code FiveThirtyEight
OSU then-junior catcher Jalen Washington (2) swings at a ball during a game against Bethune-Cookman at Bill Davis Stadium on April 1. Lantern file photoOn Friday, Ohio State baseball coach Greg Beals announced his team had voted for senior catcher/infielder Jalen Washington and redshirt junior starting pitcher Adam Niemeyer to serve as co-captains for the upcoming 2017 season. This will be the second year Washington will lead as co-captain for the Buckeyes. He served in the role last year alongside third baseman Nick Sergakis.The process of selecting the captains was done by voting amongst the players, leaving the coaches outside of the decision process. Despite this, Beals felt his team made the right decisions in selecting their captains.“We have great leadership throughout our clubhouse, but these two have more than proven themselves as leaders on the field, in the locker room, classroom and on our campus,” Beals said in a press release. “I have absolute confidence in Jalen and Adam to captain the 2017 Buckeyes.”Last season, leading the Buckeye pitching staff behind the dish, Washington was able to help drive the team to a 44-20-1 record in 2016, a Big Ten Tournament championship and a berth into the NCAA Louisville Regional. Washington started in 62 of OSU’s 65 regular season games and slashed .249/.352/.343 with three home runs and 14 steals in 19 attempts.Washington held opposing base stealers to a .730 success rate with 14 passed balls. He also led the Big Ten in runners caught stealing, successfully throwing out 17 would-be base stealers.For Washington, it was a “tremendous honor” to be recognized as one of the team’s captains for a second year.“This means a great deal to me, to know that my teammates saw me fit to lead this team again,” Washington said in the press release. “I’m going to do my best to help push this team to play championship ball.”OSU then-redshirt sophomore pitcher Adam Niemeyer (43) pitches during a game on April 14 at Bill Davis Stadium. Credit: Lantern File PhotoIn his second season in the Ohio State rotation, Niemeyer amassed 71.0 innings across 14 starts while spending time as both the Saturday and Sunday night starter, though he missed several starts towards the end of the season with a lingering hamstring injury. The right-handed finished the season with a 4.31 ERA, 70 strikeouts, only 12 walks (fewest of any starter in the rotation) and a .270 opponent’s batting average.Now faced with stepping up in the rotation following the graduation of John Havird and Cleveland Indians draft pick, former ace Tanner Tully, Niemeyer will be counted on to step up in the role as the Friday-night starter.“I am honored to be named a captain,” Niemeyer said. “It makes it even more special that it was voted on by my teammates. We have numerous leaders on our team and I cannot wait to get the season started.”The 2017 season starts on Feb. 17 for OSU in Osceola, Florida, when the Buckeyes take on the Kansas State Wildcats.
Plagued with injuries that sidelined four girls for the remainder of the season, the OSU women’s gymnastics team will rely heavily on the shoulders of junior Rebecca Best in 2010.“Her role will continue to be one of our most consistent competitors,” coach Carey Fagan said. “So we’re going to lean on her pretty heavily again this year.”Best is Ohio State’s first returning All-American in gymnastics since 1999. Best earned All-American honors on floor in last year’s National Championship and scored a 9.850 on floor at the April 16 NCAA Championship. She became the sixth Buckeye to earn national laurels in gymnastics.When recruiting Best, Fagan said she recognized the potential in her athletic prowess.“[Best] has a natural quickness and speed, and she’s incredibly strong,” Fagan said. “Those are all things in gymnastics you have to have.”On her recruiting trip, Best said the connection she felt with the girls played a major role in her decision to come to OSU.“One of the first things I noticed when I came here was how close all the girls were,” Best said. “Then I fell in love with the campus when they took me on the tour.”In her time at OSU, Best has amassed some impressive honors and accomplishments within gymnastics.Last season, Best was second in the all-around, vault and beam while ranking third on floor and bars among the Buckeyes. In ’08 and ’09 she was named a second-team All-Big Ten honoree. At the 2009 NCAA Central Regional Championships, Best posted a career-high all-around total of 39.350 for the second consecutive time (a 40.000 is a perfect score in all 4 events). She was named the OSU team’s Impact Player on beam and earned the “O”-chievement Award for most valuable performer.And that was just her sophomore season.But Fagan said the biggest growth she’s seen in Best in her time at OSU is not in her gymnastics, but in her sense of leadership. Although an aggressive competitor, Best is quiet and her personality is reserved, Fagan said.“I think as a member of the team she’s really developing as a leader in terms of sharing her experiences with the other kids, really developing that whole concept of being on a team,” Fagan said. “Contributing not just as an individual, but how she can help her teammates, giving them tips here and there.”Associate Athletic Director and Sports Administrator for OSU gymnastics, Heather Lyke, also recognizes a progression in Best’s overall performance. “She is determined to improve every year and continues to grow as a leader on our team,” Lyke said.At their home opener in St. John Arena on Jan. 16, the Buckeyes took second to Oregon State, where the loss of girls due to injury seemed to affect the team’s overall performance.Despite Best’s slip up on floor near the end of the meet, Fagan believes the pressure of being the athletic leader of the team will help Best in the long run.“I think she’ll snap out of it, because she learns with every mistake that she makes,” Fagan said. “Very rarely does she make the same mistake twice.”What makes Best unique among gymnasts is her continued increase in difficulty level over the years, Fagan said.“That’s not typical in college gymnastics. A lot of time kids come and have to maintain their skills as they get older,” Fagan said. “But Rebecca’s still developing and I think she’s going to continue to be a standout.”What Best likes most about gymnastics is not the applause or the recognition for her multiple achievements, but rather a simplistic enjoyment of acrobatics.“I like to flip and I like to go as high as I can. It’s just fun to see how many skills [I] can do,” Best said. “I like to get the scores and see how much better [I] do from the last meet.”Although she says staying consistent is one of her main goals for the season, Best added to her beam routine a handspring-layout-layout. Imagine someone flipping onto their feet from a handstand, followed by two front flips with legs straight out, toes pointed, all while landing on a balance beam measuring 10 centimeters in width.Fagan said despite trying to better the girls’ routines, they have to remain somewhat conservative to keep the girls healthy and to get them through the season. Watering down routines for now, the girls will build them back up before Championships.“I think the biggest thing is for the team to pull together with all these injuries. At the beginning of the year we set some pretty big goals of winning Big Ten’s and qualifying in NCAA’s,” Fagan said. “But it’s going to take a lot of team chemistry to develop between now and then.”With nine meets left before Big Ten Championships, Fagan took a moment to look ahead to next year. She has big dreams for Best in her final season, like becoming a team captain.“I think she can be a repeat All-American,” Fagan said. “One of the goals I’ve set for her is to be a Big Ten Champion, whether it’s on an event or in the all-around, that’s something we’re working towards.”And what does Best want?“To do better than last year,” she said. “That’s always my goal.”