Convicted child sex abuser Jerry Sandusky maintains he is innocent of all charges and remains determined to clear his name, insisting he has always been faithful to his wife, Dottie, his defense lawyer said.Sandusky, the 68-year-old former Penn State assistant coach, was convicted Friday on 45 counts of child sex abuse charges in a case that reverberated college football for the graphic nature of the victims’ testimony.Sandusky has been confined to jail since then to await sentencing, while his attorneys vow to appeal the verdict.Sandusky faces a maximum penalty of more than 400 years in prison when he is sentenced.“He would like to be exonerated,” Sandusky attorney Karl Rominger said Monday after visiting his client in a Pennsylvania jail.“The main reason is he wants the public to know he’s not guilty, but the most important reason is he wants to maintain his innocence for his family’s sake,” Rominger told Reuters. “He really feels that (the conviction) is an insult to his wife, who he has loved and been faithful to all these years.”Dottie Sandusky posted bail for her husband when he was arrested last fall, accompanied him to court and testified on his behalf.Victims testified that some of the sexual abuse took place in the Sandusky home, but Dottie Sandusky testified that she never saw or heard any inappropriate conduct between her husband and the young boys who came over to the house.Sandusky’s attorneys have said they plan to appeal on a number of grounds, including their assertion that they lacked adequate time to prepare for the case, and because prosecutors were allowed to present as evidence an inaccurate version of a television interview Sandusky gave to NBC News before the trial.Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly said on Monday that contrary to issues raised by the defense, the former coach received a fair trial and prosecutors expect to prevail on any appeal.“As far as the timing, the judge made it clear from the beginning to all the parties that he intended to move this case along quickly,” Kelly said on CNN.“We were anxious to have this case brought to a conclusion so that the defendant who was not in custody during the process … so we could move to have his bond revoked.”Rominger also said Sandusky was not suicidal and is anxious for a psychiatric evaluation to determine him mentally healthy enough to receive visits from family and friends.
The Boston Red Sox have intensified contract discussions with power-hitting David Ortiz, who is coming off another big year, albeit it cut short by injury.General manager Ben Cherington said re-signing would be a priority in the offseason. While the sides have had informal talks, serious conversations with the free-agent designated hitter will begin at “some point next week,” according to a team source.Ortiz, 36, missed 71 of Boston’s final 72 games due to a right Achilles strain but said last week in New York that he felt good and should be able to begin his normal offseason workout regimen next month.“David is someone who we feel strongly about bringing back, and we’re trying to figure out a way to do that and we hope that happens,” Cherington said in New York.Cherington also said last week that the club is in talks on a new contract with free-agent outfielder Cody Ross.Ortiz hit .318 with 23 home runs and 60 RBIs in 90 games. His 1.026 slugging percentage would have led all of baseball had he finished with enough at-bats to qualify in the rankings.A year ago, Ortiz accepted arbitration from the Red Sox but contract negotiations dragged on through the winter until, finally, he signed a one-year deal worth $14.58 million on the day he was scheduled for an arbitration hearing.Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the process for a player like Ortiz is different this offseason. Instead of arbitration, teams have the option of making a qualifying offer (based on the average salary of the top 125 players in the league) to their free agents. In Ortiz’s case, that would mean a pay cut because the salary is believed to be in the neighborhood of $13 million.Ortiz has been vocal about wanting a mult-year deal for a few years now, and the Red Sox might be in position to offer one after shedding so much salary in their July deadline trade of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, outfielder Carl Crawford and pitcher Josh Beckett to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Hall of Fame former NBA player who won six championships and transformed the game with his patented “sky hook,” underwent quadruple coronary bypass surgery last month. When the protests grew angry in Baltimore over Freddie Gray’s death, Abdul-Jabbar’s heart was broken.A voice for the disenfranchised much of his life, he has spoken or written about social injustices with eloquence and perspective. For Time magazine, Abdul-Jabbar, still recovering from heart surgery, weighed in with strong, insightful positions that show how in tune he is — and how other athletes can follow his lead.The former center started his essay by writing: “The curfew has been lifted in Baltimore, and now all of God’s children are once again tucked back in the snug routine of their daily lives. The black temper tantrum is over, America. We can all go back to watching Castle boyishly charm his way through murder mysteries. Order is restored.“Except, as Sportin’ Life says in Porgy and Bess, ‘It ain’t necessarily so.’”Abdul-Jabbar used sports lingo to make the point that more uprisings could be on the horizon and that the impact of the uprising will not end any time soon. “What happened in Baltimore isn’t just a one-and-done situation,” he wrote. “This wasn’t just a slight sprain in the ankle that we’ll be able to walk off by morning. This was a violently shattered bone that will have America limping forward on crutches for months to come, maybe even years.“One thing that history has taught us is that civil unrest is rarely just about what incites the incident. From what information the public has been given, Freddie Gray’s death seems like a malignant cocktail of negligence and abuse, and the charges brought against the six officers seem to confirm that. But we’ve seen this all before — many times.”Significantly, like many, including the protesters indicated, the response to the death of Gray is bigger than that one horrible action, Abdul-Jabbar conveyed. And he rightfully expresses worry over the idea that the outrage will flicker and not rage.“The Baltimore uprising isn’t just about Freddie Gray. The image of the cops carrying him, his legs dangling uselessly, his neck crooked awkwardly is a visual manifestation of the impotence many African Americans have felt over the past year as death after death of black people at the hands of police keep adding up,” Abdul-Jabbar wrote. “After each death there is the usual flurry of outrage, protests, political promises, celebrity tweeting, and condemnation of protestors. Then nothing happens until the next death, which is often tragically close behind. About 70 unarmed Blacks have been killed by police between 1999 and 2014. The only thing that seems to change is that the list of the dead keeps getting longer.”Abdul-Jabbar was not well-liked by the media during his playing days because he saw through them. He saw most of them as vultures seeking inflammatory information or personal info that was no one’s business. So, he often was described as “surly” or “petulant.” The reality was that he was insightful and a deep thinker who was intellectually superior to the reporters who covered him.That mind — and his courage to speak out on racial injustice — came through when he wrote: “Baltimore is the most recent in a long, frustrating line of protests that … reveal a larger pattern of systemic injustice. For African Americans, it feels as if we are all gathered together in the path of giant steamroller. We shout up at the driver to put on the brakes, but he keeps shouting for us to get out of the way. But there’s no place to go. We keep backing up and backing up. In Baltimore, it felt as though everyone’s back was against the wall, and there was no place to back up to anymore. If shouting doesn’t get the driver’s attention, maybe something more drastic will.“Baltimore protestors weren’t just expressing their anger over the treatment of Freddie Gray; they were expressing their frustration over living in economic circumstances that makes them seem less than human to those in power. Worse, they have little hope that these circumstances will change.”Not many people — forget about an athlete — express such keen insight, especially considering his fame and wealth have him as far physically removed as one could be from Baltimore. But Abdul-Jabbar clearly is connected. “What’s even more frustrating for African Americans across America witnessing the events is the blatant attempt of some in the media to portray this as (1) the result of “thugs” who want to exploit Gray’s death to stock up on some free TVs and (2) an anomaly that doesn’t represent America,” he wrote. “Both attitudes exhibit the kind of racial profiling that is at the heart of the problem in the first place.”He ended his nearly 1,100-word essay with a history lesson. “America was born out of protest. We felt economically suppressed and politically repressed, and we changed things. Slaves weren’t freed by benevolent leaders wanting to do the right thing. No one gave the American worker better and safer conditions out of gratitude for a job well done. Vietnam veterans didn’t get their benefits from an Agent-Orange-denying government by sitting at home waiting patiently. Each time, Americans took to the streets to be heard.“I suggest we all pay attention to what’s happening in Baltimore, because it’s very likely that unless the economic and injustice issues raised there are addressed in a meaningful way across the country, we will be seeing many more Baltimores throughout the election season.”With that, Abdul-Jabbar threw down the figurative mic. The man who perfected the “sky hook” had scored a slam dunk.
197776ers*161551Trail Blazers162449✓ 1969Lakers*161458Celtics159842✓ YEARTEAMW-LPOINTS SCOREDPOINTS ALLOWEDSCORING MARGIN 1974Bucks*170980Celtics159220✓ 1954Nationals166661Lakers*160739✓ * Home-court advantage.Elo ratings are for each NBA Finals team as they entered the series. 1968Celtics*159456✓Lakers158644 YEAR▲▼FAVORITE▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼UNDERDOG▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼ 1987Lakers15-3120.6109.2+11.4 198276ers*169957Lakers168643✓ 1991Bulls*175067✓Lakers169733 1956Warriors*161775✓Pistons152925 1949Lakers*162584✓Capitols149016 2007Spurs*170570✓Cavaliers164130 2000Lakers*169968✓Pacers164332 1962Celtics*166980✓Lakers155720 2002Lakers*171780✓Nets160120 196776ers*174592%✓Warriors15418% 2004Lakers*169858Pistons168242✓ 2014Spurs*173076✓Heat163824 1996Bulls15-397.486.8+10.6 1984Celtics*170672✓Lakers163328 2005Spurs*171666✓Pistons167034 2015Warriors*180275✓Cavaliers171225 1963Celtics*167785✓Lakers153315 1971Bucks*170491✓Wizards15079 1986Celtics15-3114.4104.1+10.3 1997Bulls*179966✓Jazz175134 1989Pistons*176369✓Lakers170131 1986Celtics*180788✓Rockets164012 1961Celtics*166977✓Hawks157123 2001Lakers15-1103.490.6+12.8 1980Lakers*171262✓76ers168138 2001Lakers*176889✓76ers159211 1987Lakers*173872✓Celtics166128 1952Lakers*164667✓Knicks159433 1964Celtics*166970✓Warriors160230 198376ers*170771✓Lakers163829 2016Warriors*179070Cavaliers172530✓ 1959Celtics*164382✓Lakers151418 1955Nationals*163273✓Pistons155127 2008Lakers173759Celtics*168541✓ 1960Celtics*167678✓Hawks157522 1988Pistons169255Lakers*165845✓ The Cavaliers are great … but still a big underdog 1991Bulls15-2103.992.2+11.7 1951Royals*161574✓Knicks153126 1950Lakers172777✓76ers*159723 1985Lakers15-4126.3116.2+10.2 YEAR▲▼FAVORITE▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼UNDERDOG▲▼ELO▲▼WIN PROB.▲▼WON▲▼ 1958Celtics*160365Hawks155935✓ There’s just one big problem for Cleveland: Golden State.Reason No. 3: Elo thinks the Warriors are insanely great — one of the two best teams ever, along with the 1995-96 Bulls.The Warriors’ current Elo rating is 1850. That’s the highest rating a team has held upon entering the NBA Finals. And it’s the second-highest rating a team has had at any point in the regular season or playoffs; the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls peaked at a rating of 1853 after sweeping the first three games of the finals.3The Bulls then lost Games 4 and 5 before recovering to win the title in Game 6, finishing with an Elo rating of 1823. It’s higher than the peak rating of last season’s 73-win Warriors, who topped out at 1839 after starting out the regular season 24-0.We’ll be publishing a deeper dive on the Warriors next week, but Elo’s affection for them isn’t hard to explain. They’re 27-1 over their last 28 games. That includes a 12-0 record in the playoffs and an average margin of victory of more than 16 points, which is the best playoff scoring margin of all time. And they’ve done all of this in the Western Conference, which is still a lot deeper than the East.4True, Golden State benefited from a playoff injury to the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard — although the Cavs were helped by injuries to the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry and the Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas. The Warriors are making it look so easy that they may even be underrated by the “eye test,” which tends to reward teams that triumph in the face of adversity. Other than in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, the Warriors haven’t faced much adversity because they haven’t let their opponents get close. 1996Bulls*183284✓SuperSonics169516 1999Spurs*174580✓Knicks163120 1990Pistons*168860✓Trail Blazers166340 1981Celtics*166876✓Rockets157324 1985Lakers175260✓Celtics*169740 1978SuperSonics*161059Bullets159041✓ 1947Warriors*142352✓Stags143248 1998Jazz*176254Bulls176146✓ It’s become a rite of spring. Every year — or at least every year since LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers — our NBA Elo ratings are skeptical of the Cavs when the playoffs begin. And every year, LeBron and Co. have smashed our poor algorithm to bits.In 2015, the Cavs entered the playoffs with a lukewarm 1631 Elo rating. That’s perfectly respectable, but the sort of rating you might associate with the Los Angeles Clippers or another 50-something-win team that you’d expect to lose in the second round or the conference finals. Instead, Cleveland reached the NBA Finals, losing to the Golden State Warriors in six competitive games even with a depleted roster.In 2016, the Cavs had a similarly good-but-not-great Elo rating — 1642 — when the playoffs began. But they blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs before beating the 73-win Warriors to win the NBA title, famously overcoming a 3-1 series deficit along the way. Their Elo rating finished at 1759, ranking them among the top 25 teams of all-time and implying that the system had massively underrated them initially.This year, Elo had the Cavs pegged lower still when the playoffs began last month. Although the Cavs were our preseason favorite to win the Eastern Conference, they slumped at the end of the regular season — losing 13 of their final 22 games, including their last four — and their Elo rating fell all the way to 1545. That isn’t good; it’s the sort of rating you’d normally associate with a No. 6 seed or some other team you’d expect to lose in the first or second round. Accordingly, the Cavs’ chances of winning the title drifted around in the low-to-mid single digits — variously at 2 percent to 5 percent according to our simulations — as the regular season wound down and the playoffs began.But the Cavs have gone 12-1 in the playoffs and won by an average score of 117-103. Their Elo rating has climbed by almost 150 points, to 1691. They clinched a return to the finals by beating the Boston Celtics by 33 points on Thursday. It’s been dominating stuff.So has Elo learned its lesson? Well, maybe not. Cleveland’s chances of winning the finals are just 10 percent according to the more advanced, “Carm-ELO” version of our ratings — and 13 percent according to the simpler, original Elo algorithm. Bookmakers also have the Cavs as underdogs, but not as heavily, implying that they have about a 30 percent chance to beat the Warriors again and repeat as champions.Giving Cleveland only a 10 percent chance is not the hill I want to die on. Our NBA projections are pretty simple, and sports betting markets are pretty sophisticated. While there are occasional exceptions, I’d usually defer to Vegas in the event of a major disagreement.1I wouldn’t say that of political betting markets, which aren’t as sophisticated and have a bad track record in recent years compared with simple polling averages. Still, we’ve gotten a lot of questions throughout the playoffs about why Elo hasn’t given the Cavs a better chance. There are basically three reasons — but the one that matters the most right now has nothing to do with the Cavs and everything to do with the Warriors.Reason No. 1: Elo doesn’t account for teams such as Cleveland finding a higher “gear” in the playoffs. We covered this point extensively before the playoffs began, so I won’t go into too much detail here. Our Elo projections — and most other projection systems — essentially treat regular-season basketball as equivalent to playoff basketball. But LeBron’s teams have a long history of performing at a much higher caliber in the playoffs than in the regular season.Maybe this is because James and his teammates conserve their energy; there aren’t a lot of high-leverage regular-season games in the Eastern Conference, as evidenced by the fact that the Cavs could play so crappily down the stretch run and still stumble into the No. 2 seed. Maybe it’s because LeBron is a terrific half-court player, and there’s a premium on the half-court game in the playoffs as defenses tighten up. In any event, the assumption that playoff basketball equals regular-season basketball seems to be pretty wrong in the case of the Cavs. This is something we plan on re-evaluating as we retune our NBA models this summer.Reason No. 2: Elo ratings heavily weight recent performance. That hurt Cleveland before, although it’s starting to help them now. Elo ratings were originally devised for chess, which doesn’t have any such thing as a “season.” Instead, performance continuously fluctuates up and down over time. Our Elo-based sports ratings mostly work the same way.2With some exceptions: Regular Elo ratings revert each team’s rating partway toward the league average at the start of each regular season. And the Carm-ELO version of our ratings start each team out with an initial rating each season based on our player projections. The more recent the game, the more heavily it gets weighted.I’d defend this as being the right assumption to make, in general. The degree to which Elo ratings fluctuate from game to game — which is governed by something called the K-factor — has been tested based on tens of thousands of NBA games. Other things held equal, a game played a week ago ought to tell you more than one played six months ago. Elo can be “smart” about catching cases like the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks, who started out 40-8 but went 20-14 for the rest of the regular season before being swept by Cleveland in the conference finals.But for a team whose regular-season performance doesn’t tell you much about how they’re going to fare in the playoffs (like the Cavaliers), there isn’t much benefit to doubling down on recent play. Cleveland played pretty well in the first half of the regular season, but middlingly — sometimes even poorly — in the second half. Elo put a lot of emphasis on that late-season slump as the playoffs approached, and that made it more skeptical of the Cavs.Elo’s philosophy of rapidly adjusting its ratings is benefiting the Cavaliers now, however. Because of their dominance in the playoffs, the Cavs’ current Elo rating has rebounded. Their 1691 is the highest Elo rating they’ve had since Dec. 25, when they were at 1692 and had a 23-6 record after beating the Warriors.That’s a very good Elo rating. Since the ABA-NBA merger in the 1976-77 season, the average NBA Finals participant has entered the finals with a rating of 1695. So Elo is saying that despite their regular-season struggles, the Cavs are every bit as strong as the typical conference champion. 1994Rockets*166356✓Knicks165544 The Warriors have dominated the playoffs like no one before them 2010Lakers*168657✓Celtics167443 1966Celtics*165076✓Lakers155824 1973Lakers*166759Knicks164941✓ 1961Celtics8-2120.7109.1+11.6 1979SuperSonics162057✓Bullets*157743 1957Celtics*163075✓Hawks154125 1975Bullets*165975Warriors157125✓ 2012Thunder*173767Heat168633✓ 1948Warriors*149152Bullets150048✓ 2017Warriors*185087Cavaliers169113 1965Celtics*165375✓Lakers156525 1953Lakers*163251✓Knicks164149 1992Bulls*174264✓Trail Blazers170236 1971Bucks12-2109.194.6+14.5 PER GAME PLAYOFF AVERAGES 2003Spurs*174681✓Nets162419 1976Celtics*155857✓Suns154443 2009Lakers*176068✓Magic170332 2017Cavaliers12-1116.8103.2+13.6 1972Lakers*173890✓Knicks155510 1970Knicks*159566✓Lakers154934 2006Mavericks*171773Heat163727✓ Minimum 8 playoff games played.Source: Basketball-reference.com 1995Magic*162852Rockets163548✓ 2017Warriors12-0118.3102.0+16.3 2013Heat*175565✓Spurs171135 2011Heat*172155Mavericks171745✓ 1993Bulls174173✓Suns*163427 To put this in perspective, suppose you took an indisputably great team like the 1986-87 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 65-17 in the regular season and entered the NBA Finals with an Elo rating of 1738. Elo would have given the Lakers only a 20 percent chance to win a seven-game series over the Warriors, assuming that the Warriors had home-court advantage (as they will against the Cavs). Compared with that, the Cavaliers’ 10 percent or 13 percent chance doesn’t seem so bad. Still, I’d put a few dimes down on LeBron at Elo’s odds.CORRECTION (May 30, 4:05 p.m.): An earlier version of a table in this story gave an incorrect winner for the 1951 NBA Finals. It was the Rochester Royals, not the New York Knicks.
Embed Code Welcome to The Lab, FiveThirtyEight’s basketball podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 22, 2018), we’re taking the All-Star Game back into The Lab. In the aftermath of a pretty successful Team Steph vs. Team LeBron showdown, Neil and Kyle dive into our best listener suggestions for how to improve the game even more. Next, we’re joined by our ESPN colleague Brian Windhorst to discuss NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s latest comments about potentially switching up the playoff structure. Plus, a significant digit on the Toronto Raptors’ amazing bench.Here are links to what was discussed this week:Keep an eye on our 2017-18 NBA predictions, updated after every game.In case you missed it, check out last week’s brainstorm with FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver on how to fix the All-Star Game.ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz writes that this year’s All-Star Game got the shake-up it needed.Guest Brian Windhorst of ESPN reported on Adam Silver’s possible playoffs compromise.According to Basketball-Reference.com, Toronto’s second unit is the best lineup in the league. By Neil Paine and Kyle Wagner More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed
Every year since his first presidential campaign, Barack Obama has shared his NCAA men’s college basketball tournament bracket with the public, and, for the last five years, predictions for the women’s tournament, too. As he’s chosen teams, many of them from swing states, he’s resisted the urge to play politics with his picks.Obama’s main bracket criterion: the number next to a team’s name. The lower a team’s seed, the more likely he is to overestimate its chances. The president has predicted a far smaller number of round-of-64 upsets than the tournaments have produced, and in the last seven tournaments he’s forecast just one men’s team with a seed below 9 to win more than one game.He also has a soft spot for certain states. The president loves teams from Connecticut, a reliably blue state, and Kentucky, a reliably red one.1Schools from those states get a bump of about 0.7 wins per year in his brackets, compared to the expected performance of their seed numbers. The effect is statistically significant (p<0.05). But that may just be a reflection of Obama’s preference for highly seeded teams: After controlling for seed, no state had a statistically significant effect on the president’s picks. He’s been pretty neutral on states where he’s lived, studied or had family ties, including Illinois, California, Kansas, Massachusetts and New York. (Hawaii hasn’t had a tournament team in the years of Obama’s brackets.)Other public figures have picked brackets, but Obama, a big basketball fan, is unusual in having entered so many of his bracket predictions into the public record2He usually has unveiled them on ESPN broadcasts. — enough to create a sample size bigger than some of the polls used to forecast his election and re-election, and to search for patterns in his picks.To assess Obama’s brackets, I compiled the number of wins he predicted for each tournament team in each season,3There are two groups of exceptions to this list.First, neither ESPN nor the White House was able to supply a copy of Obama’s 2010 women’s bracket, and the link from a Whitehouse.gov blog post about it points to a different ESPN.com bracket. I gathered as much information as I could from press accounts of his Final Four picks that year, plus whatever I could glean from this video clip of his ESPN interview, and excluded from all analyses the 21 women’s teams in the 2010 tournament for which I couldn’t figure out the president’s prediction.Second, I excluded from the analysis any teams that hadn’t yet lost in this year’s tournaments, since we don’t know their final win totals.Here are links to Obama’s 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 men’s brackets, and to his 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 women’s brackets. and compared that number to two benchmarks: How did his picks compare to what might be considered typical picks, and how did they compare to how teams actually performed?The first benchmark was the average number of games that teams with the same seed had won for each tournament, over a period from the first year the tournament expanded to 64 teams41985 for men, 1994 for women. through the year before he picked the bracket.5That calculation was based on data provided by ESPN Stats & Information. I counted only wins from the round of 64 on, since the brackets Obama entered didn’t require entrants to predict play-in games. I assigned each play-in team half its seed’s expected wins, since only half the play-in teams advance to the round of 64.Obama, incidentally, has never picked the play-in winners to win their next game (a questionable strategy), and generally hasn’t picked the outcome of the play-in games, either, though he did write on his 2009 bracket — incorrectly, as it turned out — that Alabama State would beat Morehead State and enter the round of 64 as a No. 16 seed.This measure models the sort of information used by a typical tournament forecaster (or as typical as one in the White House can be): How well have teams of that seed done before?The second benchmark for Obama’s picks was the one used to score brackets for accuracy: how many games the teams won. This is both less and more fair than the first benchmark — less fair because he couldn’t have known how the teams would do when he submitted his picks, and more fair because it credits him for insights beyond the seed numbers.After subtracting either number — expected wins or actual wins — from Obama’s predicted win total for each team, we’re left with two possible measures for his lean toward or away from that team. When Obama picked Louisville to make the final last year as a top seed, the first measure scored that as a big pro-Louisville preference, since the average No. 1 seed from 1985 to 2012 averaged 3.375 wins. But the second measure detected a presidential slant against Louisville, since the Cardinals won the title. Conversely, Obama looks like a Washington, D.C., outsider based on his picks for the capital’s teams: He expected fewer wins for them than their seeds would have suggested. But his picks proved optimistic when the teams underperformed their seeds by a big margin.I now had a set of over 700 teams, each one with two scores indicating whether Obama was hard or easy on each team. I then looked up each team’s home state and ran a series of linear regressions to find whether politics could be driving the president’s picks.My first test: Was Obama backing the states that were most supportive of him, or — for his first bracket — the prior Democratic presidential candidate, John Kerry in 2004? Or, instead, was he throwing some love to the states that were most supportive of Republican candidates, hoping to sway their hoops-mad voters into his camp?Neither, best I can tell. For each year, I took the most recent presidential election data6Election data from uselectionatlas.org. Since March precedes November, for Obama’s 2008 tournament picks, the most recent election was 2004; for 2012, it was 2008. and subtracted the percentage of votes going to the Republican from the percentage received by the Democrat, then normalized the results.7For each election year’s data, I subtracted from each state’s figure the average of every state’s figure. This data normalization put all states for each election year on the same playing field: how far they leaned Democratic or Republican relative to the average state in that year. I then ran two regressions against this score, one for each of my scores of Obama’s picks. And I found no relationship whatsoever.The story repeats for other political indicators that might have steered his picks: whether states were swing states,8I defined swing states as those with a gap of less than 5 percentage points in the previous presidential election between the vote shares of the Democratic and Republican candidates. and the probability that a single voter in that state — perhaps a fan of a team Obama could pick for the Final Four — could swing the presidential election.9Based on work by Columbia University statistician Andrew Gelman and FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver, using Silver’s 2008 presidential-election forecasts; Gelman provided me with a table of probabilities by state. For each possible factor, I ran the same pair of linear regressions.10Technically, I ran two pairs of linear regressions for the probability of one voter swinging the election: One using the raw probability, and one the logarithm of the probability, since the probabilities were minuscule and varied by orders of magnitude. And each time I found no clear relationship.11Six out of the eight coefficients were positive, which would suggest Obama was favoring Democratic states or electorally vital states, but none of the results was statistically significant.There was one highly statistically significant relationship: between Obama’s picks and a team’s seed number. For each improvement in seed of one — say, from 5 to 4 — Obama was likely to give the team a bump of about 3 percent of a win relative to its seed’s expected wins, and about 4 percent of a win more than the team actually won.12Seed was highly significant: p<10^-6. After controlling for seed, all the political factors still produced insignificant effects and half their coefficients were negative, suggesting any hint of a lean by Obama was more a product of seed number. And for each regression, p>0.4.Here’s another way of saying that: President Obama backs favorites to win even more than they have historically. And he’s remained consistently risk-averse, ranging from three to six upset picks in the round of 64 in his seven men’s tournament brackets. He’s never picked a team seeded below 13 to win a game, though six have over those years.13It’s probably imprudent to pick too many early upsets by big underdogs since their opponents are favorites not only to win but to go on to advance far in the tournament. But many fans do pick at least one. The millions of entrants to ESPN.com’s bracket challenge this year and last averaged about one pick per three brackets of a 14, 15 or 16 seed to reach the round of 32.Obama predicted wins for 32 teams seeded 10 and below, from the round of 64 on, for the seven men’s tournaments from 2008 to 2014.14 I didn’t count wins by 9 seeds over 8 seeds as upsets since those teams are so closely seeded. Yet 50 percent more teams have won at least one game. He was especially downbeat about the chances of teams seeded 12 or lower, predicting just eight wins for the group. Some 29 teams seeded that low have combined to win 38 games.Obama’s caution intensifies as he moves through the men’s bracket to later rounds. He’s picked just one team seeded 7 or worse to make the Sweet Sixteen in seven years of men’s bracket-picking.15North Carolina State, in 2012. Obama was right. Yet 27 teams with seeds that low made a Sweet Sixteen since 2008 — including two teams, Connecticut and Kentucky, that qualified for the Final Four on Sunday. Conversely, though nine No. 2 seeds have lost before the Sweet Sixteen, Obama has picked every one to make it that far.16He evidently considered choosing Clemson to upset No. 2 Oklahoma in 2009’s round of 32 but crossed out that pick and went with the chalk — correctly, as it turned out. Obama has backed no Elite Eight teams with seeds worse than 5, yet nine such teams have made it that far. And he’s picked no national semifinalist seeded worse than 4, yet seven Final Four teams have fit that category.When Obama has predicted a men’s upset, he has guessed well. By chance alone, you’d expect that 14 of the teams he picked seeded 10 or below to pull off at least one upset of a higher-seeded team would have done so.17That calculation is based on the actual rates of upsets for each seed number, and how many upsets he predicted. Yet 18 got at least one win — including all five of the 12 seeds he backed. Obama is on the verge of displaying a statistically significant forecast skill in the men’s brackets.180.1>P>0.05.In the women’s tournament, where favorites tend to dominate, Obama’s caution has been merited. He’s picked 12 teams seeded 10 or worse to pull off first-round upsets since 2011,19I excluded the incomplete 2010 Obama women’s bracket from this analysis, in case his picks for the omitted teams deviated sharply from his picks that we know. and 13 have. He’s shown no particular ability to identify upset victims, forecasting three correctly compared to an expected total of 2.4.Obama also seems to like certain teams more than others, though with just 12 of his brackets on record, no team has a sample size large enough to draw broader conclusions. His likes, relative to expected and actual performance, include Baylor, Kentucky, Louisville, Marquette, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State. By contrast, Obama is hard on Arizona, Gonzaga, Oklahoma, San Diego State, Texas and Xavier.20The effect for Baylor, Louisville and North Carolina is statistically significant (p<0.05) for his picks relative to the teams’ seed numbers; he typically gives those teams one more win than their seed suggests. The effect vanishes, though, for those schools when examining how they did relative to Obama’s picks. In other words, their results suggest he was mostly right when picking them to outperform their seed. The effect is also smaller and statistically insignificant after controlling for seeds, since those teams tend to have high seeds. Adding that control reveals that Obama has been hard on Washington State, to a statistically significant degree: Controlling for seed, Obama has under-picked the Cougars by an average of nearly two wins per tournament, relative to their seed. His view on some schools looks different depending on the measure: Obama seems like a Duke-backer based on the Blue Devils’ results, but his picks have been in line with their seed numbers.Separating his preferences for certain schools’ men’s and women’s teams is especially tough because of the sample-size problem. So it’s hard to say whether he likes Cal’s women’s teams but dislikes their male counterparts, or if that’s just a statistical fluke.Asked about the president’s picking strategy, the White House press office referred to his statements to ESPN when unveiling his brackets.21Here are video clips of Obama’s chats with ESPN’s Andy Katz about his 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 brackets. Obama usually talks about specific teams in those broadcasts, rather than a broader strategy. The country’s chief executive has a soft spot for team chiefs, mentioning more coaches than players in recent years. (He has high praise for Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and North Carolina’s Roy Williams; in 2012, he admitted, “I’m just a sucker for the Tar Heels.”) He likes point guards and teams with momentum. Last year, he mentioned his “Big 10 bias.”22Obama does back Big 10 teams beyond their seed to a statistically significant degree, but the effect isn’t significant after controlling for seed, since Big 10 teams usually are highly seeded. Because of all the conference realignment during Obama’s bracket-picking years of 2008 to 2014, I studied only the conference he mentioned liking and counted only Big 10 teams that were in the conference throughout the period. When Obama does mention a player, he is sometimes motivated by where the player comes from rather than where his school is. For example, he said he picked Duke to reach this year’s Elite Eight partly because Blue Devils star Jabari Parker comes from Chicago. And Obama is aware of his tendency to back favorites. He said this year, “I know these are not imaginative picks, but I think they’re the right ones.”It’s hard to argue with the president’s preference for favorites: Picking upsets incorrectly is more damaging than picking upsets correctly is valuable. And lately, it’s working for him. He picked the women’s champion correctly twice in four tries, got one of the surprising men’s Final Four teams right this year — No. 1 seed Florida — and is in the 74th percentile of ESPN’s bracket contest. However, he may regret taking the relatively daring step of backing a No. 4 seed, Michigan State, to win the title. It was his first time picking a men’s or women’s champion that wasn’t a No. 1 seed, and the Spartans’ elimination on Sunday left him without any chance of gaining further points next weekend. In presidential brackets, as in presidential politics, risk-taking sometimes backfires.
It took Serena Williams a year to get her 22nd major title, the one she needed to tie Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era. She got it at Wimbledon last month, after tough losses late in the previous three majors. We think Williams has a 55 percent chance to get her 23rd title much faster, at the U.S. Open in New York two months after her Wimbledon triumph.For the first time, FiveThirtyEight is forecasting a tennis tournament. (Read more about our methodology.) And it’s potentially a historic one: Williams is the favorite to win her seventh U.S. Open, which would complete her remarkable run at Graf’s record after turning 30. Williams has younger rivals, including two who beat her in Grand Slam finals this year, but we aren’t giving any of them better than a 9 percent chance at the title. Also looming: Roberta Vinci, the Italian who upset Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals last year but who has beaten only one top 10 player since then. Williams could face Vinci in the final — a round that we think Vinci has a 1 percent chance of reaching.Aiding Williams’s chances is the absence of the two women who have been the most consistent among her rivals over the past five years: Maria Sharapova, the five-time major champion who is serving a suspension for using a banned substance, and Victoria Azarenka, the two-time major champ who announced last month that she is pregnant and will resume playing after her baby is born. Sure, neither woman has beaten Williams at a major in the past 12 years, but you have to stretch to find a big threat to the dominant No. 1. Her toughest competition at this event might be her older sister, Venus, who is the No. 6 seed at age 36 and took a set off her younger sister in a quarterfinal meeting at last year’s Open. Or it could be her tricky first-round match against Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted Serena Williams from the 2012 Australian Open and has beaten top 10 players eight times at majors; we give Makarova a 6 percent chance to win the match. Williams’s other obstacle might be her right shoulder. Inflammation caused her to skip a pre-Open tournament in Cincinnati (our forecast doesn’t directly account for injuries). Less is at stake in the men’s draw, because of a series of near misses.Had Novak Djokovic won at Wimbledon, he’d be going for his sixth straight major title and trying to become the first man to sweep all four in one year since Rod Laver did it in 1969. But American Sam Querrey upset Djokovic in the third round.If Querrey’s win had sparked a great run, Americans might hope to see the first win at the U.S. Open — or any major — by an American man since Andy Roddick in 2003. But Querrey has lost more matches than he has won since that upset, and we don’t give him or any other American man even a 1 percent chance of reaching the final.If Andy Murray had won in Cincinnati a week ago, he’d be entering the Open on a 23-match winning streak, with the potential to make it 30 by winning his second major in a row. But he lost in the final to Marin Cilic.And if Roger Federer were playing the Open, we’d give him a decent shot at winning a record 18th major title and the first major title by a man 35 or older since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972; our rating system thinks Federer is better than every active male player besides Djokovic and Murray. But Federer isn’t playing any more this year; he’s rehabbing a knee injury.1Though Federer came to New York last week to promote a new tennis event with Laver; Federer promises to play doubles with Rafael Nadal next year at the competition.There are still plenty of open questions to answer at the Open. Can Rafael Nadal win his first big event on hard courts in three years and pass Pete Sampras to rank second in career major titles? (We give him a 6 percent chance of doing so.) Will Djokovic overcome the wrist injury that caused him to skip Cincinnati and win his 13th major title, resuming his dominance of the tour? (57 percent) Will Murray win his fourth major title, tying Rosewall, Jim Courier and Guillermo Vilas on the Open-era list and giving him two in the same season for the first time? (17 percent) Can Stan Wawrinka win his third after an inconsistent start to the year? (2 percent) Can Milos Raonic become the first Canadian man to win a major in singles, or can Kei Nishikori become the first man representing an Asian country to do so? (3 percent and 7 percent) If either one does, it’d be the first big title won by a man born in 1989 or later and the first real sign of a crack in the dominance of the old guard of men’s tennis. It could happen, but our model suggests a triumph by Djokovic or Murray is almost three times more likely than a victory by anyone else.Check out our U.S. Open predictions. We’re forecasting every match of the 2016 men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments. See our predictions here »
The Ohio State women’s lacrosse team claimed a victory against the San Diego State Aztecs, 19-11, at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium Wednesday night after tying its season-high for most goals in a period. Thanks to a team-high of five points off three assists and two goals by sophomore attackman Jackie Cifarelli, OSU improved to 5-6 overall and 4-1 at home. The Buckeyes played at full speed in the first half of the game, scoring 12 points and shooting with 63 percent accuracy. Less than a minute into the match, Cifarelli made the first score of the game. After another 20 minutes, OSU had built a 9-2 lead. The Aztecs, though, would answer and trade goals back and forth with OSU, but OSU didn’t lose the lead, going into the half with a score of 12-5. Junior attackman Katie Chase said it was teamwork that got OSU going. “We started playing together really well,” Chase said. “Our defense got some really big stops for us and our attack got it flowing. Once we got into the flow of the game, our goals just kept coming. It was a strong team effort all around.” Coming out of the game’s intermission, though, the Aztecs scored four goals in the first five minutes of the half, cutting OSU’s lead to three, 12-9. Chase, though, said the comeback was expected. “We knew that was going to happen,” she said. “We just needed to get back in the flow of our game.” The Buckeyes quickly called a timeout, and after that, they controlled the rest of the half. Chase said remembering the team’s theme this year provided the boost necessary. “Our theme is ‘Buckeye Strong,’ be strong all over the field,” Chase said. “Our thing this year is just playing with heart, playing like you want it all over the field, play for each other.” The Buckeyes went on to score five consecutive goals and earn their biggest lead of the game, 18-10, with just more than 10 minutes left in the game. “San Diego State is a great team,” OSU’s women’s lacrosse coach Alexis Venechanos said. “They took us to our last limits and it was a very challenging game but we definitely responded so we are able to take some positives.” The Buckeyes finished with 11 saves and 15 groundballs despite 22 fouls and seven turnovers. OSU is scheduled to take on Vanderbilt at noon Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Members of the OSU men’s lacrosse team rush to the ball during a game against Jacksonville March 29 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won, 13-2.Credit: Dan Hope / Lantern photographerThe weather was cold, but the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team was on fire against Jacksonville.Playing the third of a three-game home stand, the Buckeyes (3-6, 1-0) defeated the Dolphins (1-7, 0-1), 13-2, inside a soggy Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium Saturday.Getting off to a quick start, junior midfielder Jesse King and sophomore attackman Carter Brown tallied a pair of goals within the game’s first 45 seconds to put the Buckeyes ahead.After King notched his second goal of the game less than two minutes later, OSU held a man-up advantage for four minutes after Jacksonville senior midfielder Mike McCredie crosschecked junior midfielder Turner Evans in the head. OSU went on to score twice during the man-advantage.OSU coach Nick Myers said Evans — who did not return to the game — would be evaluated by the medical staff and the team is expecting to know more on his condition in the coming days.“Right now we are going to have to wait and see,” Myers said. “Obviously he took a big shot in the first quarter, you hate to see that.”Taking a 6-0 lead into the second quarter, the Buckeyes continued their onslaught.Sophomore attackman Gordie Koerber tallied his second and third goals of the season in the second quarter before Brown completed a first half hat trick by scoring with 2:30 remaining.Brown finished the first half with four points (three goals, one assist), and King had seven points (three goals, four assists), as OSU took a 9-0 lead into the break.Starting the third quarter, the Buckeyes continued to spread the wealth as junior midfielder Rick Lewis tallied his second goal of the season, and sophomore attackman Ryan Hunter managed to register the first two goals of his career.Hunter said it was important for OSU to move the ball quickly and focus on the fundamentals so the weather wouldn’t be a factor.“One thing was just moving the ball,” Hunter said. “Our feet were heavy so it was key to keep the ball moving up around the perimeter and make sure our feet were moving and focus on ground balls.”Lewis said the offense did a good job of drawing double teams and then finding the open teammate which created good looks for the Buckeyes.“This week we just kept it simple and got back to the basics,” Lewis said. “Just drawing doubles, making singles, and just playing as a team. I think we did a great job of that. We shared the ball and got a good result for us.”It wasn’t until the 3:51 mark of the third quarter that Jacksonville got on the board, adding another with 12:52 left in the fourth.But that was all the Dolphins would get as freshman attackman J.T. Blubaugh put an exclamation point on the game by scoring with 59 seconds left.The two goals scored were the fewest OSU’s given up since defeating Bellarmine by the same score of 13-2 in 2012.Myers said it was important for the defense to bounce back from its disappointing 13-7 loss to Notre Dame earlier in the week, but it took an entire team effort to limit Jacksonville the way they did.“Defensively, we took it on as a challenge because we understand we haven’t been playing our best lacrosse, coming off 13 goals on Tuesday,” Myers said. “It was really a next play mentality. Our offense did a good job of maintaining possession and I thought we won some faceoffs, so it was a collective effort.”Freshman midfielder Jake Withers was able to control the faceoff circle once again, winning seven of his 10 draws to help give OSU extra possessions on offense.“The faceoff guys work their butts off all week so it’s nice to see it pay off,” Lewis said. “All those guys are battling every day in practice so it’s definitely a credit to that.”Offensively, nine different players registered a point on the day for OSU, including junior attackman Reegan Comeault, whose first quarter goal extended his point streak to nine games.OSU is scheduled to be back on the road next weekend as the team heads east to take on the Delaware Blue Hens. Game time is set for Sunday at noon.
OSU senior quarterback Braxton Miller (5) carries the ball during practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center Aug. 9.Credit: Mark Batke / Lantern photo editorOhio State senior quarterback Braxton Miller has re-injured his shoulder at practice after saying he was “100 percent” Monday morning, a source close to the team told The Lantern TV Monday evening.According to the source, Miller is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday.The severity of the injury, as well as how long Miller will be out, was not yet clear as of Monday night.Miller, who missed two full games and most of another in 2013 because of a knee injury, initially injured his shoulder during OSU’s season-ending loss to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery before sitting out all of spring practice.OSU had two practice sessions Monday. Miller and co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tom Herman met with the media in between.Miller and Herman both said the signal-caller had soreness in his shoulder and was limited in practice, but was expected to be ready to go for the Buckeyes’ first game of the season Aug. 30.The Huber Heights, Ohio, native was expected to be a Heisman candidate this season –– his third as the outright starter for the Buckeyes.News of Miller’s injury was first reported Monday night by The Columbus Dispatch.OSU is scheduled to begin its 2014 season Aug. 30 against Navy at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore. Kickoff is set for noon.