New York Giants President John Mara said Tuesday that the NFL would probably not expand its postseason field from 12 to 14 teams for the 2014 season. But make no mistake, expansion is coming sooner or later. The television ratings for playoff matchups — even for early rounds — are so monstrous that it makes sense from a revenue-maximizing perspective to add postseason games.But how about from a football perspective? ESPN’s Stats & Information correctly points out that, even with 14 playoff qualifiers, only 43.7 percent of NFL teams would earn postseason berths, which is still lower than the 53.3 percent qualification rates in the NBA and NHL. Then again, both of those sports play best-of-seven series to determine who advances to the next round; the NFL’s postseason is a single-elimination tournament. (And, 2013 excepted, the NFL playoffs are trending toward less predictable outcomes as it is.)Even in a 12-team playoff format, the best team in football fails to win the Super Bowl far more often than not. But would a 14-team bracket add another layer of randomness? Using the power of Monte Carlo simulation and the theoretical distribution of true talent in the NFL, we can estimate how often a team of a given ranking in “true talent” wins the Super Bowl under both the 12-team format and the proposed 14-team arrangement. For both formats, I assigned each team a true-talent rating at random (from a normal distribution with a mean winning percentage of .500 and a standard deviation of .146) and simulated the 2013 NFL schedule 10,000 times, recording how often a team of a given talent ranking won the Super Bowl. Here are the results:As it turns out, a 14-team playoff format wouldn’t change much for the favorites’ chances of a Super Bowl victory. The No. 2 seed in each conference would be forced to play an extra game (rather than receiving a bye during the wild-card round), but that doesn’t move the needle a lot — mainly because the No. 1 seeds still get byes into the divisional round.What would really shake things up, though, would be a move to a 16-team bracket, which would give the NFL a playoff participation rate closer to the NBA and NHL (although the NFL would still be lower). If we run the same simulation process above but plug teams into a 16-team playoff format, the following probabilities emerge:Forcing the top seed in each conference to play an extra game would drastically shift the Super Bowl odds for the NFL’s three most talented teams, redistributing much of their current probabilistic advantage across the rest of the league. The move to a 16-team playoff would be a much bigger change than from 12 teams to 14.The remaining question is whether that’s a bad thing. A 16-team playoff would increase the role of chance in the NFL’s postseason — an element which has already been on the rise in recent seasons. The NFL’s landmark popularity over the past decade suggests that such parity has moved the league closer to the optimal mix of determinism and randomness. (By contrast, a system designed to turn the NFL playoffs into a science experiment always yielding the most deserving champion would be tedious and unpopular.) But it’s not clear whether there are diminishing returns to the NFL’s parity formula.
At a gathering in Harlem last week at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, several African-American women came together for a forum during which they accused the federal Title IX law of discriminating against black women.Women of all ages and backgrounds were at the meeting, from an 88-year-old grandmother to a 21-year-old recent college graduate, from executives at sports foundations to several recently retired athletes, but theyall shared one common goal: To widen sports opportunities for black women.Forty years ago President Richard M. Nixon signed the statute known today as Title IX, which declared, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” The legislation only talked about gender inequality in sports, but failed to address racial inequality. It opened many doors for white female athletes, but for black female athletes the benefits are yet to be seen, the women claimed.“If we don’t advocate for black women, who will we have to be the first to advocate for ourselves? We have to be the first ones at the table,” said Tina Sloan Green, the co-founder and president of the Black Women in Sport Foundation in Philadelphia. “We’ve got to take charge of our agenda.”The Aspen Institute Sports and Society Program also held a meeting in Washington that discussed a similar topic. They addressed the gap of opportunity between white female athletes and all female athletes of color, not just African Americans.The group in Washington believed that the gap in opportunity wasn’t necessarily intentional; the group of women who met in Harlem, on the other hand, begs to differ.“These white women don’t want us to compete with them. They want their kids to get the scholarships,” Green said. “They give us all kinds of awards, but when it comes to distributing money, it’s a whole other story.”According to a 2007 report by the United States Department of Education, white girls had a 51 percent participation rate in sports among high school sophomores. For black girls, the participation rate dropped to 40 percent. The percentages dropped lower for Asian/Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, whose participation rate was 34 percent and 32 percent, respectively.According to the New York Times, Title IX has also decreased the number of female coaches by allowing more men to coach female sports teams, especially in basketball and soccer.
Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks star who plans to become a free agent after the season, will shun various overtures and re-sign with the Knicks. This is according to his wife La La Anthony.The actress said: “I definitely think he will stay” during an interview with Bravo TV’s “Watch What Happens Live.” “I know that he wants to stay, and I support wherever he wants to go.“Listen, I used to live in Denver with him. If I can live in Denver, I can live anywhere. I just want him to be happy.”Carmelo Anthony, who is under contract through next season, says he will exercise his right to opt out of the contract and test free agency this summer.The Los Angeles Lakers are expected to be a suitor.“Well, everybody wants to play in Los Angeles,” Kobe Bryant said when asked about Anthony’s potential interest in joining the Lakers. “I mean, New York is a beautiful place, don’t get me wrong, but it is colder than s**t out here. You know, palm trees and beaches obviously are a little more appealing.“All jokes aside, I think that players, when that time comes, will have to make the best decision for them and their families. I try not to think about it too much. If he wants to call me for advice later as a friend, I will be more than happy to give it to him.”Anthony, who is in his 11th season, said Monday that his sole motivation is to win an NBA title.“That’s the only thing I care about. Anything else is irrelevant to me when it comes to basketball,” he said. “Championship is the only thing that’s on my mind, is the only thing I want to accomplish, I want to achieve, and I’m going to do what I got to do to get that. That’s my motivating factor. Nothing else even motivates me anymore, just that.”Bryant agreed with that position.“The only way to do that is win,” Bryant said. “That’s it. I won five championships, and there’s some of you guys [who] still say that. You just got to take it and roll with it. The important thing is winning a championship. That’s the only way to shake it. That’s the only way Michael [Jordan] shook it. That’s the only way any top scorer will be able to shake it.”
YEARTEAMCOMPOSITE ELOCHANGE FROM PRIOR SEASONWON NBA FINALSAVG AGE*CONT-INUITY* 1966-6776ers1734+103✓27.995% 27.282 2007-08Lakers1701+171 1984-85Lakers1736+102✓28.2100 That’s a pretty good group. You see Michael Jordan’s Bulls (twice), along with Tim Duncan’s Spurs and several of the Lakers’ mini-dynasties. But there are also a couple of cases of teams that didn’t quite live up to their promise. The next chart shows how many games each team won in the seven seasons after its breakthrough, along with whether it reached or won the NBA Finals.On average, these teams won 1.5 additional championships in the seven seasons after their breakthrough year.1Technically, that average could go slightly higher if the Cavaliers win the championship next year or if the Miami Heat do within the next three seasons. But the average, of course, conceals a lot of variation. Eight of the 13 teams won multiple additional titles, while the other five won no more.The Warriors look pretty good even compared to this elite group of teams, however. Their Elo rating is the second-highest — after the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls — while their average team age, 26.4 weighted by win shares, is the second-youngest, behind the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks.The Warriors have also gotten better “organically” with the same core group of talent. Their continuity percentage, which I calculate as the percentage of a team’s win shares that came from players who were also on the roster in the previous season, is 86 percent. Interestingly, going from good to great organically seems to be the more common path than doing it by signing a bunch of superstars. The 2007-08 Boston Celtics and the 2010-11 Miami Heat are the only real exceptions on the list above.Based on a nearest neighbor analysis,2Using the five categories you see in the first table in this chart: a team’s Elo rating, its change in Elo rating from the previous season, whether it won the NBA championship, its average age and its continuity percentage. the most similar team to this year’s Warriors is the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls. The Bulls’ three best players that year — Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant — were 27 years old, 25 and 25. By comparison, Curry was 26 this season, while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were 24.That’s a fortuitous comparison, of course, since the Bulls’ 1991 championship was the first of six they’d win in eight seasons. The second-most similar team, however, is the 1970-71 Bucks. They had all the talent in the world — Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor3Alcindor changed his name to Abdul-Jabbar after the Bucks won the 1971 finals.) on the same team! But after going 66-16 and romping their way to a title in 1971, the Bucks wouldn’t win one again. They ran into a 69-13 Lakers team in the 1972 playoffs and then were upset (by the Warriors) in the 1973 playoffs. They did reach the finals again in 1974 but lost to an underdog Celtics team. Robertson retired after that season, and Abdul-Jabbar left for Los Angeles a year later. And that was it.At least the Bucks were highly competitive, though, averaging 61 wins in the three seasons after their breakthrough. If the Warriors fail to win another title, it’s likely to be because of a Bucks-like circumstance of running into some other really hot team in the playoffs or blowing a couple of playoff series that they ought to win — rather than (barring an injury to Curry) because of a sudden and dramatic collapse. Winning an NBA championship is never easy. But the Warriors are very good, very young and have many players locked up to long-term contracts. Teams in similar circumstances usually haven’t been one-year wonders and instead are able to make several more runs at a championship. 28.942 2014-15Warriors1796+170✓26.486 1995-96Bulls1815+199✓30.289 26.779 We here at FiveThirtyEight have been riding the Warriors bandwagon for a long time. Good thing they won the championship Tuesday! But now the question is how many more titles Steph Curry and company might expect in their future.Let’s take a really simple approach. We’ll identify other teams that, like the Warriors, had a big breakthrough and quickly went from being good to really great. More specifically, we’ll look for teams that had a composite Elo rating of 1700 or higher, which is a rating that we’d ordinarily associate with a championship-caliber team, and whose Elo rating improved by at least 100 points from the previous season.There were only 13 of these teams before the Warriors, it turns out. You can find them below. 1971-72Lakers1732+199✓30.489 1998-99Spurs1728+105✓29.478 2007-08Celtics1710+310✓28.048 2008-09Cavaliers1738+188 1970-71Bucks1723+143✓25.977 2010-11Heat1702+138 1999-2000Lakers1724+110✓28.481 *Weighted by win shares 1990-91Bulls1755+122✓26.795 1979-80Lakers1706+124✓27.266
Oh, and don’t forgetHow Shoddy Statistics Found A Home In Sports Research We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe See more NBA predictions Some personal news first: I’m leaving FiveThirtyEight soon to start a forthcoming daily newsletter, Numlock News. If you’ve been a fan of Beside The Points, please subscribe!Things That Caught My EyeLightning making a go of itThe Tampa Bay Lightning’s win Tuesday meant that their playoff series with the Washington Capitals won’t end in a sweep, but Washington has good reason to be excited about their chances up 2-1. Teams have a 21-0 series record when they win the first two road games in the final two rounds of the playoffs. Still, as all of my fatalist Caps friends repeatedly insist, if there’s any cursed sports city that could foul that up it’s Washington. The teams play tonight in D.C. [The Washington Post]Vegas was secretly a sports town this whole timeThe Vegas Golden Knights are 5-1 at home during the playoffs and have outscored the opposition 22-10, cementing the town as one of the toughest away games in the league. That’s extra-impressive because in the playoffs as a whole, road teams have actually been on a tear, with a record of 38-35. [USA Today]Seattle ready for another franchiseA Seattle group testing the waters to become the 32nd franchise in the NHL received 10,000 deposits in the first 12 minutes of availability, with the final count ending up north of 33,000. Vegas’ immediate success sets a high bar for any new expansion franchise, but the rules that made Vegas’ squad so good — teams could protect either eight skaters and a goalie or seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender — mean that top-flight talent is instantly available to new organizations who raid teams with salary-cap issues. [The Los Angeles Times]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Cavs are off their gameThe Cleveland Cavaliers are allowing 112.8 points per 100 possessions against the Boston Celtics, and this is an opponent that during the regular season averaged only 105.2 points per 100 possessions with star guard Kyrie Irving playing most of the year. (Irving was lost to injury right before the playoffs.) Another issue that the Cavs are having is that their three-point shooting touch is off, a factor that’s had a very strong correlation with this particular team’s efficiency. [FiveThirtyEight]Basketball is fasterThis past NBA regular season saw an average of 99.57 possessions per 48 minutes, which is almost 10 possessions faster than the pace in 1996-97 (89.78 possessions per 48). This quickening of the game has also proceeded into the playoffs, when the game usually slows down. Round two of the NBA playoffs had a pace of 99.94 possessions per 48 minutes, and round one had a pace of 97.52, some of the speediest ever. [FiveThirtyEight]De-processing the NBA draftThere’s an enormously steep curve of future value when moving through the NBA Draft. Breaking down the production of an NBA draftee in his first five seasons, the average No. 1 pick in the draft is worth more than 35 wins over replacement player; once you get past the tenth pick, however, those players are generating only a fraction of the WORP. This has incentivized teams to tank like hell in order to get a better shot at the top pick, which makes for crummy basketball. But a new tweak set to go into effect next year will make that incentive considerably dicier. [FiveThirtyEight]Big Number(s)64 percentThe American League has beaten the National League in interleague play every single year since 2003. So far in 2018, though, the NL has won 64 percent of the time, leading the AL 32-18 in interleague games. Recently, the AL has had most of the talent — even this season, only one person in the top 10 of major league WAR is in the National League — and over the past decade it had a record of 1,503-1,257 against the NL, going into this season. Perhaps this is the year things will finally be different. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: neil:Frost: Not all titles claimed by Tide legit, eitherThis dumb college football debate continues to be great Predictions NBA All newsletters
Urban Meyer speaks at the 2016 Student Appreciation Day on April 2 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Credit: Judy Won | For The LanternThe Ohio State football team might be creating buzz with the contributions of incoming freshmen in spring drills, but there are still multiple questions about the team that will don scarlet and gray come September.Following the morning session of spring practice on Tuesday, OSU coach Urban Meyer answered questions from the media about how the team is progressing with spring drills.Here are three takeaways from Meyer’s time at the podium.Assist from alumniMany notable players departed Columbus after last season to pursue the next level, such as wide receiver Michael Thomas, cornerback Eli Apple and offensive tackle Taylor Decker.Although these players will no longer step on the field for the Buckeyes, they are contributing in ways other than making plays.“They’re really helping our young guys,” Meyer said. “(Thomas) comes here to coach.”A big question looming over the heads of Buckeye fans is how the offensive line will handle the large transitional phase of losing three starters from last season. But spirits are high, Meyer said, especially since one of the highest-rated offensive linemen in this year’s NFL draft is mentoring the next men up.“(Decker) is here for a lot of reasons,” Meyer said. “One is to lift and train, but also to help (sophomore) Isaiah Prince and (junior) Jamarco Jones.”Jones is expected to start at left tackle this season for the Buckeyes, while Prince looks primed to be the regular right tackle.Student Appreciation Day more than just funOn Saturday, OSU hosted its annual Student Appreciation Day, in which students are invited to attend a practice held by the team and witness what it is like to suit up with the Buckeyes.Although the event is fun for the spectators and usually results in good laughs — like when players such as redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett participate in the circle drill with a female student — there is a more serious side to the event, Meyer said. “Last week was about chaos,” the coach said. “You have 3,000 students in there, loud noise the entire time, screaming and yelling.” When the Buckeyes take the field at Ohio Stadium, there is invariably more than 100,000 fans in attendance, making it a hectic environment. But, outside of the sounds of whistles and shouting coaches, most of their spring practices are quiet.The use of the annual event to create a more distracting environment is something the coaching staff feels will better prepare the team for games where crowd noise makes relaying plays and audibles extremely difficult.“We, on purpose, try to create situations like that,” Meyer said. Linebackers look promisingOSU has gained a reputation for producing strong talents at linebacker, a trend Meyer said he feels will continue again this year. He spoke volumes about the ability of sophomore linebacker Jerome Baker. Meyer said the Buckeyes could very well use the Cleveland native like they used Darron Lee, who bolted for the NFL after starting for two seasons. The Buckeyes also lost Joshua Perry at linebacker. “Jerome Baker has the skill set,” Meyer said.Baker, a 6-foot-1 four-star recruit, was not a starter last season and saw limited action on the field, registering three tackles. But after a string of good spring showings, Meyer said the coaching staff feels he can make a large contribution for the Scarlet and Gray this year. The Buckeyes are working toward preparing the team for the upcoming spring game, which is set for 1:30 p.m. on April 16 at Ohio Stadium.
Hesiman Watch Week 10
The Ohio State women’s golf team started its fall season in full swing tying University of Nevada-Las Vegas for second out of 17 teams at the Branch Law Firm/Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M. The Buckeyes started off with a score of 293 strokes for the first round, and shot a pair of 297s for rounds two and three. Senior Rachel Rohanna, who was named Big Ten Golfer of the Week on Wednesday, led the Buckeyes, placing second individually with scores of 71, 72 and 73 to finish the tournament. Rohanna credits her success at the tournament to her strength and her mental game. “My biggest strength is my strength on the course,” Rohanna said. “I think I have a little more of an advantage over most of the golfers out here with my distance off the tee and especially my irons and my mental game.” Fellow seniors Amy Meier and Susana Benavides followed Rohanna. Meier tied for 13th place with a final score of 221, and Benavides tied for 19th place with a final score of 222. Meier attributed her success at the tournament to her ball striking and ability to hit greens. “I hit a lot of greens and even if I didn’t make that many putts, I knew that hitting the greens would give me more opportunities,” Meier said. The three seniors were included on the 2012-13 Big Ten Players to Watch List at the beginning of the season. Coach Therese Hession said she is proud of the seniors’ work at the tournament. “I think our seniors did a fantastic job,” Hession said. “They all had a good tournament and it sure is fun to get out of the gate that way.” The rest of the Buckeyes followed with sophomore Claudia Lim tied for 35th place with a final score of 228, junior Allison Harper tied for 55th place with a final score of 233 and sophomore Jan Chanpalangsri tied for 69th place with a final score of 236. Hession is pleased with the overall results from the tournament and hopes the team can keep it up throughout the season. “I think we had a solid tournament,” Hession said. “We were in the hunt around the top of the leader board the whole time, which we always love being there, and unfortunately we came off one shot short.” The Buckeyes will travel to Chicago, Ill., to contend in the Windy City Collegiate on Oct. 1-2.
Urban Meyer prepares to run out on to the field with the team prior to the Ohio State- Oklahoma game on Sep. 9. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorAlong with several topics pertaining to the on-field performance of Ohio State’s football team, head coach Urban Meyer also addressed several off-field topics and locker room issues that are important to his team during Monday’s press conference. Here are our takeaways.Big Ten away locker roomsFootball teams know when traveling for away games that the accommodations in the locker room will not quite live up to the standards set by those at home. However, teams expect not only at least respectable locker rooms, but also believe they should be met with air conditioning and proper care when it comes to medical treatment.During Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh’s press conference Monday, the outspoken coach said his team was met with poor facilities at Purdue and that the poor conditions tend to be more of a reflection on the rest of the conference rather than just the Boilermakers.“We had to open the doors to get ventilation going in a small area and people are walking by watching you dress. The number of urinals or bathrooms for the players and staff, I think there was two,” Harbaugh said. “Injured players can’t get an X-ray. Taken to a student health care center in a van. We needed a brace for a player and there wasn’t one at the facility we were taken to. A lot of things need to be addressed.”Harbaugh is not the only coach to express displeasure with away locker rooms in the conference. Meyer said he has had a “couple” of difficulties with the locker rooms in opposing stadiums and said that he has expressed his opinions to the commissioner, Jim Delaney.“All due respect, this is the Big Ten Conference,” Meyer said. “I’ve shared it with our athletic director and the commissioner should handle that.”Kneeling during the National Anthem in the NFLFollowing tweets from President Donald Trump condemning the actions of players in the NFL who knelt during the national anthem, athletes from around the league demonstrated a large display of solidarity Sunday, kneeling during the anthem in large groups or remaining in the locker room. As the players did this, debates raged between those who viewed the demonstration as players expressing their First Amendment rights to protest racial injustice in the United States and others who viewed it as a protest against the country as a whole and as disrespectful to military members.Topics such as this have divided the nation, but Meyer said the mutual respect teammates show for one another has helped maintain decorum in Ohio State’s locker room.“It’s the ‘r-word,’ the respect. Respect all,” Meyer said. “I personally have very strong beliefs and thoughts about things like that. And I share them with my friends and obviously very close with my family about our thoughts.”Religion in sportsThe “r-word” appeared again in Meyer’s vocabulary when the head coach was asked about religion. He talked about how important it is for the players in the locker room to all have mutual respect for everyone as many of the players have different views on religion as well. Meyer said the players are all allowed to hold their own views on religion, and that in the Ohio State locker room, all views are not only welcome, but also encouraged given how important religion is in Meyer’s life.“Our players, you look at their schedules, so we want everything to be user-friendly,” Meyer said, “Whether it be nutrition, whether it be real-life Wednesdays, those type of things, and also your spiritual life, so we have everything available to them. And I’m proud to say we have multi religious players, denominational people in our program.”
Sir John Leighton, director general of the NGS, said he was delighted by Diageo’s gesture, which offered offered a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this major work to be acquired for the nation”.He added: “The Monarch Of The Glen is an iconic image which is famous across the world.”The ideal home for such an important and resonant picture is the Scottish National Gallery, where it can be enjoyed and admired by millions of visitors in the context of the nation’s unrivalled collection of Scottish, British and European art.”Fiona Hyslop, the culture minister, welcomed the deal and said reaction to news of the painting’s planned auction in London next month had underline its importance.The romantic evocation of the Highlands of Scotland, depicting a “royal” stag with 12 points on its antlers, was commissioned as part of a series of three panels to hang in the Palace of Westminster in London. It later entered corporate hands and was widely used in advertising campaigns.Strictly speaking it might have been called The Royal of the Glen, as a “monarch” stag has 16 points. ‘Royal’ stags have 12 points and ‘monarchs’ have 16 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. The Monarch of the Glen, Sir Edwin Landseer’s iconic oil painting of a red deer stag, could be saved for the nation after its owners agreed a deal with the National Galleries of Scotland.The drinks giant Diageo planned to put the painting up for auction – for the first time in 100 years – in a move that art lovers feared could have taken it overseas.However, the firm has now gifted half the estimated £8 million value of the piece to the galleries in the hope that they can raise the remaining £4 million to bring the masterpiece into public ownership for the first time.It has been on display while on loan to the National Museum of Scotland for 17 years, and the drinks company said it decided to sell the work of art, painted in 1851, because it had no direct link to its business or brands.Gallery officials now have four months to raise the target figure that will keep the famous Victorian painting, which gave its name to a popular TV series, in Scotland.