After the unbelievable global spectacle of the first Dream Team at the 1992 Olympics, the U.S. might have assembled Dream Team 2 this year, with stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Carmelo Anthony all competing on the same team.The first Dream Team was something the world had never seen before, the biggest stars on the biggest stage. When the United States decided to allow professional basketball players to compete in the 1992 Olympics (after the U.S. finished a disappointing third in 1988), the NBA—which was at first reluctant to supply players—soon realized what it had on its hands: a chance to put together the greatest collection of basketball talent the world had ever seen. So the “Dream Team” was born, with stars like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler all playing together, most of them near the height of their powers. They beat their world opponents by an average of 44 points and trounced Croatia for a gold medal. It is a team that is still being talked about, with documentaries still being made chronicling the historic nature of that squad.So are we now at Dream Team 2? Is this squad as good as that one? If we had a time travel machine and the two teams had occasion to play each other, who would win? Who would guard Jordan (maybe Kobe?), who would guard LeBron (maybe Barkley, or Malone?), could Tyson Chandler stop Ewing or David Robinson? (We’re thinking No.) The match-up possibilities are fascinating.Earlier this summer officials at USA Basketball released its list of 20 NBA all-stars who may be given the opportunity to represent our country in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London. Head officials Jerry Colangelo and head coach Mike Krzyzewski were faced with the tough task of trimming this amazing bunch of talent down to 12 players by June 18th.Injuries to Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard, Chauncey Billups, and LaMarcus Aldridge during the NBA season made this decision a lot harder, as these were four players who were likely to make the final roster. The Olympic committee granted the U.S.’s request for an extension on finalizing their roster for the games.Over the weekend USA Basketball finally released its final roster, and despite injuries this team still looks poised to dominate this year’s Olympic games. Team USA has been comprised of some of the most versatile and athletic players on the planet, which will make this team something to watch.The guards include Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, and finally James Harden, who was added to the pool after the injury to guard Derrick Rose. The forwards are lead by finals MVP Lebron James, scoring champion Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin and Andre Iguodala. Tyson Chandler is the only center selected for the team, as Team USA went with more athletic small power forwards who will take advantage of the FIBA rules used in Olympic play.The Summer Olympics will kick off July 27, 2012.For Hip Hop News & Entertainment at DimeWars.Com
Clippers143433-49202412<1<1 Pelicans155545-37119731<1 EFFICIENCY RKCHANCE TO … Pistons148940-42191258<1<1 Warriors175163-1913>9961%49% Projections for the 2018-19 Western ConferenceEfficiency rankings and playoff probabilities for the 2018-19 Western Conference, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO model Hornets147438-44132346<1<1 As of Oct. 14, 2018 Bulls136727-5526265<1<1 EFFICIENCY RKCHANCE TO … Timberwolves155945-37521741<1 76ers161753-2912298195 The favorites: Obviously, the Warriors are big favorites to win the West for a fifth straight season, with a 61 percent chance of returning to the NBA Finals yet again. Sure, the Rockets pushed Golden State to the brink during last year’s playoffs, and they added one-time superstar Carmelo Anthony over the summer, but the Warriors still have a sizable talent edge — even after accounting for the injury time likely to be missed by prized free-agent pickup DeMarcus Cousins. Houston does headline the next tier of Western challengers, though — a group that also includes the surprising Jazz and the steady Thunder (who could be better after ditching Anthony2A classic case of addition by subtraction. and trading for Dennis Schroder). But who are we kidding? It’s the Warriors’ title to win. Again.Moving up? After improving to 46 wins last year from 40 the previous season, the Nuggets could still be on the rise in 2019 — our model calls for 50 wins in Denver. Likewise, the Lakers should be the league’s biggest gainer this year after signing some guy from Ohio over the summer. LeBron James’s new team is a strange mishmash of spare veteran parts that may not fully mesh together, but it still has an 84 percent chance of getting the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. And despite losing Cousins, the Pelicans could end up vying for 50 wins again after snagging Julius Randle from the Lakers (particularly if Anthony Davis keeps playing like an MVP).Moving down? The West’s middle class has a few contenders to be the conference’s least-improved team: First, the Blazers appear to be headed for a regression after playing over their heads last season, flaming out in the playoffs and doing little to improve over the summer. Also, the Spurs will test Gregg Popovich’s legendary coaching acumen with a threadbare roster that was made even worse by recent injuries such as guard Dejounte Murray’s preseason ACL tear. Every year, Popovich seems to defy the doomsayers, but there are limits. And the Clippers could take a step back in a full season spent without both DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Plus we have to provisionally place the Timberwolves in this category, given the drama involving Jimmy Butler. We still project them to win 45 games after incorporating some probability3Specifically, the admittedly nebulous guess of a 50-50 chance. that Butler won’t take the floor for them, but that number would drop to 40 wins if Butler does actually leave.Lottery watch: With Mike Conley back in the lineup and a few new faces on board, the Grizzlies could be one of the most improved teams in the league — but that still probably won’t be enough to pull them into the playoff picture. (We give them a 12 percent postseason probability.) The rest of the West’s bottom-feeders are even further out of contention: The Mavericks, Suns and Kings each have less than a 4 percent chance of making the playoffs. That might change slightly if Dallas rookie Luka Doncic outplays CARMELO’s bearish projection, but most likely all three teams will be vying for the first pick in the draft, with the Kings having an edge in the race to the bottom. Grizzlies143633-49281012<1<1 Cavaliers139630-52212711<1<1 Pacers152043-391613772<1 Kings133023-592429<1<1<1 The NBA is back in action this week, which means it’s time to fire up our NBA predictions again and see what the league’s future might hold. You may be surprised to learn that the 2018-19 Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets look good on paper, while the New York Knicks and Sacramento Kings … don’t.OK, so that’s not really surprising at all. But in the vast space between the favorites and bottom-feeders, there are still some interesting storylines and players to watch. And we’ll be bringing you a new way to follow those developments all season long after a tweak to the way we make predictions this year. Scroll down to the bottom if you want the full details, but in a nutshell, our interactive page now contains two projection options: pure Elo and CARMELO.1Better known as the Career-Arc Regression Model Estimator with Local Optimization. The former is well-known to FiveThirtyEight readers — it’s the simple version that appears on our franchise history pages — but the latter is more complex, using team depth charts and constantly updating player ratings to track just how much talent is on each team (after accounting for trades, injuries and disgruntled teammates).Let’s tip things off with a look at our preseason CARMELO projections for each conference, starting with the dominant West: Hawks137328-5430176<1<1 Jazz163655-271419884 Trail Blazers150139-43151834<1<1 Projections for the 2018-19 Eastern ConferenceEfficiency rankings and playoff probabilities for the 2018-19 Eastern Conference, according to FiveThirtyEight’s CARMELO model Spurs147237-45171925<1<1 TEAMCARMELOPROJ. RECORDOFF.DEF.MAKE PLAYOFFSMake finalsWIN TITLE Mavericks138928-5429203<1<1 Celtics163354-286599269 Thunder162553-29479574 Wizards156948-3410119292 MethodologyFor those seeking more details on our new model, welcome! We haven’t changed much as it pertains to these preseason forecasts — they’re still based on our CARMELO projections for each player, combined with depth charts for every team, and we still factor in playoff experience in our simulations for the postseason. The real change will come once the season begins, at which time we will begin updating player talent ratings on the fly during the campaign.Those ratings will be based on 2018-19 Box Plus/Minus and Real Plus-Minus numbers as they are released by Basketball-Reference.com and ESPN, respectively. Starting with a given weight assigned to our preseason CARMELO offensive and defensive plus-minus ratings,4Based on how much of a sample size went into the ratings — so rookies get less weight on their prior ratings. we mix in current-season performance in proportion with a player’s 2018-19 playing time to generate new ratings that balance between our preseason projections and a player’s in-season performance.Those numbers will feed into our depth charts to fuel each team’s CARMELO rating, a best guess at the amount of talent on the roster at a given moment. At first, these will use preseason playing-time estimates except in the cases of major injuries and trades; we’re still tinkering with how to handle smaller transactions and changes in expected minutes during the season. (Stay tuned for updates about subsequent versions of this new model!) Then we use those ratings within an Elo-like framework to simulate out the rest of the season and playoffs.5Like we do in our other models, we run these simulations “hot,” meaning the ratings change with each simulated game going forward to reflect the variance in how a team’s season could potentially play out.All of this means that we are retiring our old friend the “CARM-Elo” rating, which was always an uneasy compromise between basic Elo and a more complicated depth chart-based system. You might be wondering why we’re making this change; the rationale lies with how our in-season projections have handled dominant superteams like the Warriors, who have effectively rendered the regular season meaningless.6Or, at least, even more meaningless than usual. It’s not as though the NBA regular season was ever the most consequential affair. While our preseason forecasts usually perform quite well in various prediction contests,7Except for that one year when we didn’t use Real Plus-Minus in CARMELO — but we don’t talk about that. ;) our in-season updating process was flawed for a number of reasons: We accounted for injuries and trades only indirectly (through game results), and those game results could also be highly misleading, particularly down the stretch as powerhouse teams rested players — or simply coasted to reserve energy for the playoffs. Our new CARMELO system, then, will update in an almost opposite way: It will pick up on team performance indirectly (as players’ individual numbers rise or fall) but will be grounded in who is on each team — and how good our algorithm thinks they are.As for our pure Elo forecast, it’s based on a two-track Elo system, in which each team simultaneously maintains a faster-moving “regular-season Elo” and a slower-moving “playoff Elo.” A team’s playoff Elo tends to reduce the effect of late-season wins and losses, and we’ve found it to be a bit more predictive of playoff success historically.You can find both systems on our 2018-19 NBA predictions page, with CARMELO as the default. (But you can toggle between the two.) Because it addresses many of the old method’s shortcomings, we think our new CARMELO system will improve predictions and give you a better glimpse into what’s going on in the NBA. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading, and we look forward to spending another basketball season with you. TEAMCARMELOPROJ. RECORDOFF.DEF.MAKE PLAYOFFSMake finalsWIN TITLE Magic142232-50251519<1<1 Suns136126-5622301<1<1 Heat150341-41236652<1 Nets145536-46182234<1<1 Nuggets158750-323259131 Bucks155547-35916886<1 Knicks132623-5927281<1<1 Raptors165556-2674>9934%12% Lakers158248-348148431 As of Oct. 14, 2018 The favorites: A season after battling for the East’s top record — then promptly being demolished by the Cavs in the playoffs — the Raptors are back atop the conference’s projected pecking order. Who knows whether Kawhi Leonard will stay in Toronto beyond 2019, but for now, he makes the Raps (who, by the way, won’t have LeBron around in the conference playoffs to torment them anymore) favorites to advance to their first-ever NBA Final. Of course, the Celtics will have something to say about that with Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving returning from injury, and they’ve had a tendency to outperform these kinds of projections under coach Brad Stevens anyway. And the Sixers are hoping to put a chaotic offseason behind them, building on last year’s breakout with more stellar play from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Our model doesn’t expect much from former No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz, so anything he provides could give Philly extra upside.Moving up? The Bucks are a perennial pick to make “The Leap” behind MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo, though they haven’t quite put it all together yet. Our model still has faith; it calls for an improved record in Milwaukee — and an outside chance at an NBA Finals berth. Similarly, the Wizards always tantalize with potential before finding ways to disappoint, but better health from John Wall and, yes, the upgrade from Marcin Gortat to Dwight Howard (who still brings defensive value) has our model optimistic about Washington’s chances. Finally, the Hornets are looking to bounce back from two straight nightmarish 36-win campaigns, and they have the talent to at least challenge for a .500 record and a playoff berth in 2019.Moving down? No team will fall harder in 2019 than the Cavaliers, who may belong in the lottery conversation below after losing LeBron James again via free agency. Despite what Tristan Thompson thinks, don’t expect a fifth-straight Finals appearance for the Cavs, or anything close to it. The Pacers and Heat, two feel-good surprise teams from a season ago, could also see a drop-off: Miami mostly stood pat with a roster that was scarcely better than league average, while Indiana’s acquisition of FiveThirtyEight favorite Tyreke Evans might not be enough to offset the regression due for a team that probably overachieved last year. Lastly, the Pistons aren’t projected to get any better, and that alone is bad news for a team that missed the playoffs last year despite going all-in on a midseason trade for Griffin. We give Detroit a bit above a coin-flip’s shot at the postseason but little chance to do any damage once there.Lottery watch: The bottom of the East is a disaster zone. A couple of bad teams from 2018 (the Nets and Magic) are slowly moving more toward respectability — if not playoff contention — but the Hawks, Bulls and Knicks figure to be among the league’s worst yet again. New York in particular has the worst CARMELO rating in the NBA, after accounting for the fact that Kristaps Porzingis might play only minimally this season (if at all). After potentially missing the playoffs for a sixth straight season, the best the Knicks can hope for might be a return to the days of frozen envelopes in the draft lottery. Rockets166256-262898159
It’s been almost seven months since the Major League Baseball season started, and here we are, finally ready to determine a champion. We’ve been tracking — and forecasting — each team’s chances all season long, so we wanted to look back at the paths to the World Series taken by Boston and Los Angeles. Our final predictions give the Red Sox the edge over the Dodgers in the series, 60 percent to 40 percent — but as we know, anything can happen when the players take the field.Check out our latest MLB predictions.
Since Google began tracking search terms in 2004, people in the Los Angeles area have searched for the Lakers eight times more often than they’ve searched for the Clippers.The gap has narrowed since the Clippers traded for Chris Paul in December 2011, but not by that much. The Lakers have received 3.6 times more search traffic from Angelenos since October, when the current NBA season started. This in a year in when the Lakers went 27-55 and the Clippers 57-25.Having an owner like Donald Sterling, with his history of racist remarks and discriminatory business practices, won’t help the Clippers’ popularity (although it may spark more Google searches in the short term). And it’s not as if the team has been any good on the court under his ownership. Since the 1984-85 NBA season, when Sterling moved the Clippers to Los Angeles from San Diego, they are 582 games under .500, counting both the regular season and the playoffs. The Lakers are 772 games over .500 in the same period.Lately, the Clippers have been better, but it will take them some time to catch up. Even if they go 57-25 every season (and break even in the playoffs), they would need until some point in the 2031-32 season to pull themselves over the .500 line.
Source: Basketball-Reference.com 201220632910721.8 20166483311113.5 The obvious small-sample-size caveats strongly apply, but Durant has played like his usual self these past few games. First and foremost, he’s shooting the ball in line with his career norms again — and while most of that is due to better “shot-making” and not improved shot quality, Durant’s been an ace shot-maker for as long as we can track the statistic. For KD, not outshooting expectations is the freak outlier. He’s also played much better D, lowering his defensive rating (that’s good!) and raising his rank in points allowed per chance to the 65th percentile since May 2 despite matching up against tougher offensive competition. 1Weighted by the number of defensive plays he had matched up against each opponent, the average player Durant has checked since May 2 had a regular-season offensive BPM of +1.5, vs. a +0.2 mark for those he was guarding through April 30.Although the series is all tied up, San Antonio is still a 69 percent favorite to advance according to our Elo predictions. But if Durant can keep playing like the all-time great we’re accustomed to seeing don that No. 35 jersey — instead of the second-rate version who wore it early in these playoffs — the Thunder still have a decent chance to knock out one of the greatest teams in NBA history.Check out our latest NBA predictions. Last three663210721.2 201117582910820.3 PLAYOFF GAMESTRUE SHOOTING %USAGE %DEF. RATINGAVG. GAME SCORE 20106503510714.1 201311573210323.1 Kevin Durant is already one of the greatest players in modern history; that goes just as much for the playoffs as it does the regular season. Durant ranks 13th since the merger in playoff Value Over Replacement (VORP) through age 27; in six career postseasons, he’s led the Thunder to an NBA Finals berth and two other conference finals, with the possibility of a third looking surprisingly strong after Durant’s 41 points (on 25 shots) powered Oklahoma City to a win in Game 4 of the Thunder’s second series.This season, Durant answered whatever doubts arose during his injury-riddled 2014-15 season by posting the second-best campaign of his career (on a per-minute basis). But in the playoffs, he got off to an uncharacteristically rough start. After five games against the Dallas Mavericks and a brutal Game 1 drubbing at the hands of the favored San Antonio Spurs, Durant’s postseason numbers in 2016 were the worst of his career. Sure, Durant was averaging 24.3 points per contest over that span, but he was also shooting a horrific 37.1 percent from the floor, playing uninspired defense — according to SportVU player-tracking data, he was in the 23rd percentile of playoff defenders in points allowed per offensive chance — and helping teammates less than usual with his playmaking. And with more games looming against the historically dominant Spurs defense, things looked bad for Durant.Instead, Durant has turned his playoff campaign around — strength of opponent be damned. In Game 2, he scored 28 points on his best shooting night of the playoffs to date, as the Thunder took a rare road victory at the AT&T Center. And although the Thunder lost Game 3, Durant scored 26 and continued to shoot well, providing hope that a huge KD signature game wasn’t far away.That big game finally came in Game 4 — at least, in the second half. Held to 12 points on 4-for-12 shooting at halftime, Durant was as less-than-stellar as he’d looked earlier in the postseason. But down the stretch, he poured in 29 with an effective field goal percentage of 90.9 percent, single-handedly outscoring the Spurs 9-1 in the game’s final three minutes. OKC’s victory knotted the series up at 2-2, and added another data point to Durant’s mid-playoff statistical turnaround: YEARGAMESTRUE SHOOTING %USAGE %DEF. RATINGAVG. GAME SCORE Durant’s rocky playoff start 2016 statistics through April 30Source: Basketball-Reference.com Durant’s mid-playoff turnaround First six483311113.5 201419573210820.8
sara.ziegler: HahahaThe way the Warriors have played the Durant injury is really interesting to me. Do you guys think he’ll actually end up playing?neil: It’s a little concerning to me that he still hasn’t begun basketball-related activites yet.chris.herring: I have no idea what’s going on in his head, aside from a feud with Chris Broussard.JaredDubin: I think the more interesting question is: If he doesn’t play, has he already played his last game for the Warriors.tchow: Oh no, Jared, not this again.sara.ziegler: Tony’s just waiting for him to get here, LOL.JaredDubin: As a Knick fan who is all too familiar with their repeated free-agency failures, I will believe KD is signing with the Knicks when he is in Madison Square Garden wearing a Knick jersey during a regular-season game, and not a moment sooner.tchow: That’s so many months too late, Jared.sara.ziegler: LOLneil: I like that we have the two polar opposites of Knick fandom here.sara.ziegler: All Knicks represented.Looking beyond KD, will DeMarcus Cousins actually play in the finals? And will he actually help the Warriors?chris.herring: It sounds like he’ll play. Less sure about whether he’ll have an impactMy question there is, if the Raptors pull ahead in the series early, and Cousins simply doesn’t have it, can you afford to play him for long stretches? Answer seemingly is “probably not.”As badly as you want him to feel involved.JaredDubin: He seems more likely to have an impact against Toronto, where he can bang inside with Gasol, than Milwaukee, where Brook Lopez might space him off the floor.I also feel like whether OG Anunoby is ready to come back from his appendicitis matters a lot, especially if Durant is able to come back during the series. Toronto’s ability to go small for extended stretches against the Death Lineup depends on having another big wing alongside Kawhi.sara.ziegler: Though, Jared, our model actually thinks the Raptors are better without Anunoby.JaredDubin: OG had a tough year on and off the floor (his father passed away during the season), but having another big wing is important in a matchup where you might need to go small a lot.chris.herring: Jared’s point is spot-on.That would be either my biggest or second-biggest question with Toronto.They usually have one of Marc Gasol or Serge Ibaka on the floor. If the Warriors go up-tempo, with Draymond as their 5, it could be tough for them to match that.JaredDubin: Is your other biggest question, “How will Kyle Lowry deal with guarding Steph and not disappearing on offense at the same time?”chris.herring: Yes. It is/was.Lowry’s been pretty good in this series. Curry would be a brutal matchup for him, though.And Fred VanVleet is playing the series of his life at the moment. But I don’t think that would continue in the next series.JaredDubin: It was like a week ago that everyone was wondering if it was time to bench him because he hadn’t hit a shot in (seemingly) three years.neil: A lot of things were different for Toronto (and Milwaukee) about a week ago.chris.herring: Tell me about it!Only five teams in NBA history have come back from down 2-0 to win a conference final in the best-of-seven era.neil: Last one I remember being quite this surprised by might have been OKC beating the Spurs in 2012.chris.herring: And Ibaka was on that team, which was the last team to do it.JaredDubin: Stat! Teams trailing 3-2 in a series are 27-162 all-time, but when a team goes up 2-0 at home and then loses three straight, they are 8-7. All seven wins by the team leading 3-2 have come in Game 6. The team that went up 2-0 and then lost three in a row has won all eight Games 7. sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): The Toronto Raptors stole a road win Thursday night with a huge game from Kawhi Leonard and are now just one win away from taking the Eastern Conference finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.If the Raptors can win either of the next two games, they’ll move on to face the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. And, surprise — the FiveThirtyEight model favors the Raptors! What do you guys think about that?neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): That seemed … interesting. 🤔I suppose it’s largely about the Warriors’ many injuries? (Not that those seemed to matter much vs. Portland.)JaredDubin (Jared Dubin, contributor): The Warriors did just sweep the Blazers without Kevin Durant, and without Andre Iguodala for Game 4.neil: Right.sara.ziegler: But our model doesn’t think much of the Blazers, either.chris.herring (Chris Herring, senior sportswriter): Our model is wrong.All due respect to our model.neil: Fightin’ words, Chris! (Haha.)tchow (Tony Chow, video producer): Nate is not here to defend himself.sara.ziegler: But why is the model wrong?chris.herring: Even if it’s meant to be accounting for KD’s absence, the Warriors are 31-1 in their last 32 games without Durant but with Steph Curry.JaredDubin: The Raptors were much better defensively than the Blazers during both the regular season and the playoffs. But they also haven’t played the Warriors in the playoffs.chris.herring: I don’t think the Warriors will struggle to create half-court offense the way the Bucks have, mainly.I’ve been pretty vocal in saying that the Bucks are the best team to take down Golden State. I don’t feel that as strongly when Toronto is the team coming out of the East.neil: Maybe it also says as much about our model’s love for the Raptors’ players as it does about the Warriors’ injury issues. Our ratings think that almost all of Toronto’s current rotation is composed of at least above-average players, if not really good ones: sara.ziegler: Toronto won more games on the season than Golden State and has fewer injuries. Toronto would have the home-court advantage in the finals. Aren’t those important points in the Raptors’ favor?chris.herring: I can’t bring myself to think it matters all that much. At least not yet.Golden State has shown it can win despite not having home-court advantage.JaredDubin: I think I’d be more inclined to give those things weight if this were the first year of the Warriors’ run and not the fifth, and if we didn’t know that the Warriors essentially treat the regular season as an extended preseason. Draymond Green didn’t even start caring until he went on his crash diet in March, and he’s been one of the, like, three best players in the playoffs.chris.herring: If anything, the Durant injury is the thing to watch. They’d obviously be better positioned, and make the Raptors work a lot more, if they had him. (If for no other reason because of Kawhi presumably having to guard him at times.)But the Warriors haven’t given us any reason to suspect they can’t win the way they are. Also, one of the Raptors’ wins over the Dubs was a game in which Curry didn’t play.sara.ziegler: I guess my point here is that the opinions on who we think will win are based most on knowing that Golden State has won.chris.herring: That’s fair.But I also don’t think Toronto is a particularly great postseason match for Golden State.sara.ziegler: I get that.And the model is about the people playing — not about how they’ll play against the specific guys on the other team.chris.herring: I would have felt much better about the Bucks and think I’d favor them.neil: For what it’s worth, Vegas still has it as Warriors 69 percent, Raptors 18 percent, Bucks 13 percent.tchow: Hypothetically, if the Bucks were up 3-2, based on the CARMELO scores, they would also be favored against the Warriors in the finals at this point, no? Would we think there’s something wrong with the model then?chris.herring: * ding ding ding *neil: Tony, I think it might. Both teams currently have identical full-strength CARMELO ratings. Our model still thinks the Bucks and Raptors are pretty interchangeable, talent-wise.sara.ziegler: That’s kind of amazing.JaredDubin: This series has essentially shown that to be true, right? The Bucks and Raptors being relatively equal, talent-wise. Each team has a blowout, and the other three close games could have gone either way.tchow: The model has been really high on Toronto, compared to other models, all playoffs long. That prediction is looking pretty good so far this series, which is making us Bucks believers (fear-ers?) look bad. Maybe I’m still salty about being wrong about Toronto, because my initial reaction on seeing the new finals projections was also “no f-ing way.”neil: I mean, that was my honest reaction too, Tony: sara.ziegler: Ooooh, that’s interesting.I’m still trying to FEAR THE DEER.chris.herring: It’s a bit hard to.tchow: So Game 6 is Toronto’s Game 7.neil: That’s why Game 6 is so huge in these circumstances. According to this playoff leverage thing I did, Game 6 with the home team up 3-2 is the second most crucial possible situation.Trailing only (obviously) Game 7.chris.herring: Also, Toronto is a really difficult place to play anyway, let alone in a scenario where the Raptors can clinch a ticket to the FinalsMilwaukee made a lineup change, but it kind of feels like they’re stuck in the mud on offense when they aren’t in transition.JaredDubin: It feels like Mike Budenholzer really needs to lean in to the lineup he started last night, though. They crushed the Raptors with Bledsoe-Brogdon-Middleton-Giannis-Lopez and got destroyed in the other minutes. But he said before the game that he thinks it’s better to have 36 peak Giannis minutes than 40-plus of like 90-percent-ish minutes, basically.chris.herring: I won’t dwell on it too much, but I was so, so impressed by how many big plays the Raptors came up with at the end of a game on the road. So perhaps seeing that is reason enough to leave open the possibility that the Bucks can do that with their backs against the wall in Toronto.tchow: Can we talk big picture for a moment? Neil asked me this question this morning and I wanted to ask the group here: What would you put the chance of Kawhi staying in Toronto right this second? Before we know what happens in Game 6 or the end of this series.chris.herring: I imagine it’s really high if they win the series. It will show that you essentially can’t do any better from a team success standpoint than the situation he was traded into. So at that point, if you leave, it clearly becomes about wanting to play in another market. And with the exception of LeBron James, it’s hard to find a lot of first-rate players having done that.JaredDubin: I can’t imagine him finding a better running mate from a fit standpoint than Pascal Siakam. And if he stays, the Raptors can be even more aggressive in seeking out help for him than they were this year, and they were pretty aggressive in trading for Gasol at the deadline this year already.chris.herring: Then again, it’s Kawhi, and no one has ever been more quiet in terms of their overall persona. Who knows?He may be intrigued by being able to partner with a team on going out and getting a second max talent.sara.ziegler: He’s loved in Toronto, too. He’d obviously be second fiddle in L.A.chris.herring: Not with the Clippers!sara.ziegler: LOLOK, fair.JaredDubin: Kawhi would probably hate being second fiddle.tchow: * Kawhi laugh *chris.herring: I said this last night, but even if the Raptors lose, you have to feel content with having gone all-in at this point.You got a legitimate superstar, and he’s given you everything you could ask for at this point, especially if they reach the finals. All you wanted was a chance to win the whole thing.tchow: Yeah, definitely. Last night’s game kinda proved that’s why you risk it for a player like Kawhi, even if you end up losing him.chris.herring: If you get to that round, and he leaves anyway, that’s more about what he wanted and less about anything you as a team did wrong.JaredDubin: Masai Ujiri, president of the Raptors, has also been trying to do a full-on rebuild with this team for years. It started with trading Rudy Gay, but then James Dolan supposedly nixed a deal for Kyle Lowry, and the Raptors turned into the Raptors team we’ve seen over the past several years. Dealing for Kawhi with a year left on his deal set them up to either extend a window of contention around a player who is likely better than any the franchise has ever had, or pivot to trading guys like Lowry and Ibaka, and build around Siakam, Anunoby and some of the other younger guys they have.sara.ziegler: In other NBA news this week, the All-NBA teams were announced on Thursday. Any big surprises?chris.herring: I thought Bradley Beal would make one of the teams. But honestly, when you don’t make the playoffs, it’s always a crapshoot if you’re borderline like that.JaredDubin: There were less “surprising” things than just the reveals of incredibly tough calls. Nikola Jokic vs. Joel Embiid for first team center, and Beal vs. Kemba Walker vs. Klay Thompson for third-team guard.neil: It was weird seeing LeBron only be third-team All-NBA.sara.ziegler: It was sort of weird to see LeBron make it at all!neil: Well, he hadn’t missed first team since 2007. (But yes, it made sense for him to drop, given how much time he missed.)chris.herring: I can’t tell whether people are sad for Klay having missed out on the supermax, or if they’re simply relaying the news that he missed out. This would have been a weird season to make a passionate argument for him, in my opinion.All in all, I thought the teams were generally fine — I just think the setup of contracts and incentives being based on how the media votes is somewhat dumb. I think they should change it in the next CBA, but I don’t know how it should work going forward.JaredDubin: I don’t think there’s anybody in the media who wants to have control over how much money players make.tchow: It’s such a weird thing.JaredDubin: But we’ve also seen with player votes for All-Star teams that they don’t necessarily take voting even as seriously as the least-serious media voters, so maybe this is the best of bad options. (Aside from getting rid of supermax qualifications based on voting altogether.)tchow: I wonder if it goes through the minds of the media members who do vote where they ask themselves if they see a player like Klay or Beal “deserve” a super-max contract, and if answering “no” factors into their All-NBA selections.chris.herring: As I explained all this to my girlfriend yesterday, she was quick to remind me that these guys who are up for potential supermaxes all are due to make well in excess of $100 million anyway.It’s a crazy amount of money, but I think it’s easy to forget that A) it wasn’t really the media’s choice to have this role in the process and B) we’re talking about the very best players, and it’s not easy to decide which are the 15 best all the time.JaredDubin: I feel like, even if I were due to make $190 million, I would still prefer to make $220 million. But I also have no idea what it feels like to make $190 million, which I’m sure surprises everyone.sara.ziegler: 🤣chris.herring: Yeah.neil: The alternative is something like the baseball arbitration system, where a formula determines pay.chris.herring: * ding ding ding *neil: (And that is obviously also very fraught.)JaredDubin: It has always seemed strange that the percentage-of-cap maximums are determined by your years of service in the league. It almost always leads to guys being underpaid early and overpaid late.neil: Although that’s basically how every sport runs its business now. (Or again, if we go with the baseball model, they underpay early and then don’t pay late.)tchow: I hope we see an angry Klay in the finals play like someone who just lost out on $30 million and irrationally blames it on the Raptors/Bucks.JaredDubin: In the unlikely event the Finals gets to Game 6, I bet we see a Klaysplosion then. He’s incredible in Game 6.neil: Those Toronto and/or Milwaukee based writers clearly had a vendetta against him.sara.ziegler: Maybe the writers vote based on who gives the best interviews.neil: He’s a great interview, if the topic is scaffolding.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
OSU sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell (3) dribbles the ball during a game against Rutgers on Jan. 10 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorINDIANAPOLIS — Coming into the Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Big Ten tournament on a two-game losing streak, No. 9 Ohio State (24-6, 15-3) wasn’t looking to take 10th-seeded Rutgers (18-14, 8-10) lightly.OSU sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell took matters into her own hands, dropping 43 points to break a Big Ten tournament record for single-game scoring and directing the Buckeyes to a 73-58 victory over the Scarlet Knights in the quarterfinals.Mitchell has scored 91 points in her last two games, pushing herself to No. 11 on OSU’s all-time scoring list by tallying 1,650 points in mere two-year career.Although it seemed as though Mitchell could do no wrong, OSU had a difficult time getting shots to fall from the tip.“Coach (Kevin) McGuff just put the emphasis on we were a little too anxious,” Mitchell said. “Getting a lot of quick shots and just trying to rush the ball a bit more.”The Buckeyes had one of their most sluggish shooting performances of the season in the first half, going 10-of-33 from the field and finishing the first 20 minutes of play with only 26 points. All but eight of those first-half points came from the fingertips of Mitchell.Friday night’s first-half outing was OSU’s second-lowest scoring performance in a first half this season, with its low being 24 points against No. 1 Connecticut at the beginning of the season.Like the Buckeyes, the Scarlet Knights weren’t able to get offensive production from all five players on the court. Instead, senior forward Kahleah Cooper and junior guard Tyler Scaife anchored the Scarlet Knight offense.Scaife utilized her quickness to get to the rim, ending the half with 16 points, while Copper put her power in the paint to good use to chip in 13.Playing catch-up after a slow start in the first half is not a situation that the Buckeyes would consider foreign, but now, in a playoff environment, there was a bit more urgency for the Scarlet and Gray.“Well, the thing we talked about is just getting more balance in our offense,” McGuff said.“We ran more set plays to get drives and get the ball into the paint, either off a pass or off the dribble, and just so we wouldn’t settle for so many threes.”OSU was able to get its first lead of the game at the 7:15 mark after a 3-pointer from Mitchell. After the deep ball, the Buckeyes were able to regain the confidence and swagger that they were searching for. They did not look back for the rest of the game — kind of.The positive feelings of the second half came to a screeching halt when an injury left OSU holding its breath. Senior guard Ameryst Alston crashed into a few Scarlet Knights players in an attempt to grab a loose ball and injured her wrist on the ground, leaving the Buckeye fans in attendance in shock.The collision would send Alston to the locker room early, ending her night with 12 points. She later returned to the bench in the waning seconds with an ice bag resting on her wrist.“Yeah, she came down,” McGuff said. “I think she sprained maybe her wrist. But I don’t have much more than that. I just had a quick update, that was it.”OSU is set to continue its journey through the Big Ten tournament Saturday evening approximately 30 minutes following the semifinal matchup between Maryland and Northwestern, which is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m.The Buckeyes are slated to face third-seeded Michigan State with a spot to get to the championship game on Sunday night at 7 p.m. on the line. The Spartans beat OSU in triple overtime in the regular-season finale last Saturday.
OSU then redshirt-sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) celebrates after a touchdown during a game against Michigan on Nov. 28 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorGoing into spring camp, Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer had a definite answer for who was going to be the guy behind the center: redshirt junior J.T. Barrett. But beyond Barrett at quarterback, there are many questions of who is going to replace players such as running back Ezekiel Elliott or receivers Braxton Miller and Michael Thomas. With the Buckeyes’ annual spring game set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m., there are several young players looking to make a good impression on Meyer and the offensive coaches. OSU is looking to limit the transition phase to only the spring so it can come into the regular season ready to produce at the high level that is expected, and having the veteran Barrett still at the helm makes that slightly easier. After former offensive coordinator Tom Herman took the head coaching job at Houston before the 2015 season, co-offensive coordinators Tim Beck and Ed Warriner were left with the tall task of replacing him. There were obvious growing pains during the 2015 season, but they seemed to recede toward the end of the year, evidenced by the dominant performances against Michigan and Notre Dame. Meyer said Beck and Warinner are still learning, but, at the same time, they’re helping grow the offense.“(Beck) took over for a very valuable guy, and I expect more out of him and our offensive staff in general,” Meyer said. “We have to do a better job than we did a year ago. I see it happening this spring as far as the growth of the offensive staff.”As the centerpiece of the offense, Barrett has impressed many this spring, including Meyer. Just the fact that Barrett is healthy and getting a chance to take part in these valuable reps is a benefit that he hasn’t been afforded since leaving Texas for Columbus. “He’s having a great spring,” Meyer said. “He’s never been the quarterback in spring practice or in a spring game. We are changing some things on him that were not fundamentally where they needed to be last year. … He is a fast player and we need him to play as fast as he can.”Barrett said he is already working on some of those fundamental changes that Meyer and the offensive staff encouraged him to make. “I am trying to evolve my game to be able to see things faster because the game slows down as you play more,” Barrett said. “That’s just from watching film and transferring what I see onto the field.”That comes from practice, which Barrett said is a key part of what Buckeye fans see on Saturdays in the fall. “We don’t have game players,” Barrett said. “You have to make plays in practice in order to make plays on Saturday.”Two players taking advantage of the practice time are fighting for the top spot in the offensive backfield: senior Bri’onte Dunn and redshirt freshman Mike Weber.Even though Dunn has more game experience at the college level — he has 48 carries for 287 yards in his career — Meyer said both Weber, a high-profile recruit from Detroit, and Dunn are neck and neck to take Elliott’s spot.“As of now, Bri’onte and Mike are still fighting it out, and the young guys have done a decent job,” Meyer said. “No one has separated themselves yet.”The backup quarterback role is another position, in addition to offensive line, that still needs to be decided upon. Even though Barrett has solidified himself as the clear starter, redshirt freshman Joe Burrow is performing at a high level this spring. “He’s doing pretty well,” Meyer said. “I don’t think he’s the athlete that J.T. is right now, but he is becoming a much better runner, his release is night and day of what it was.” Meyer was asked what would happen if Barrett sustained an injury and Burrow had to assume the starting spot. “We would probably lean on the tailback and high-percentage passes,” Meyer said, “But he’s getting close to being game-ready.”With that said, a way for young players, like Burrow, to become game-ready is through the spring game. With fans breaking the national attendance record for spring games last year, Meyer is hoping that will happen again for the sake of the younger players. “I want to see Joe Burrow and Mike Weber perform in front of 100,000 people in the stadium,” Meyer said. “They have never done it. The value is probably the greatest it’s been in my four years here to see the young players respond.”Spring practice is not the stopping point, though, before the football season starts. It’s only a jumping off point, as there is still a lot of work to do before the team is game-ready, Barrett said. “One of the things we like to talk about is development and developing guys, and spring ball has definitely helped,” Barrett said. “Also, we still have summer. That’s the time where I get to work with receivers, especially the ones who haven’t been in. That’s definitely going to help us later on.”
After finishing the regular season as the second-ranked team in the Big Ten, the Ohio State women’s soccer team will play host to the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament.The Buckeyes will play their first-round game Friday at 7:30 p.m. against Oregon State and a potential second-round game against either Florida or Illinois State. Both games will be played in OSU’s Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.Playing at home is something coach Lori Walker cherishes.“We love being at home,” Walker said. “We’re in the Jesse and we’re thrilled about that. I think that’s a wonderful opportunity for us, to be here in front of our home fans.”The Buckeyes are hoping to shake off the disappointment of a loss in their regular season finale. The 1-0 defeat at the hands of Michigan State kept OSU from winning the program’s first ever regular-season conference title. “I was disappointed for our team, but I was in no way disappointed in our team,” Walker said. “I think that’s behind us, and all we’re worried about now is Oregon State.”Oregon State finished the regular season as the Pac-Ten’s sixth-ranked team, with an overall record of 12-7-1. “They’ve had success in a very difficult conference so we’re going to do our homework and find a way to tactically adjust as we need to,” Walker said. “But really this part of the year is about us playing well, doing the things that we do well and finding a way to continue to score goals.”
For many in the wrestling community, it’s a family sport. Often, when one brother wrestles, so do the others. In the case of Ohio State’s wrestling coach Tom Ryan, who has eight of his wrestlers competing for a national championship this season, that’s precisely what happened. “The truth in the situation for me is that basketball was my first love, I played it from second grade until seventh grade,” Ryan said. “And in seventh grade, the coach of the junior high team didn’t think that I was as good as I thought I was.” His junior high basketball coach cut him. His five-year love affair with basketball was in shambles. But Ryan’s brother, who was on the wrestling team, had another idea. “He said, ‘Listen, I want you to try wrestling.’ And I was like, ‘You’re crazy, I ain’t wrestling, I ain’t wearing that singlet,’” Ryan said. But after his first workout with the wrestling team, Ryan said he was hooked. Since he first stepped onto the mat, wrestling has led Ryan to many places, the first being Syracuse University where he followed his brother to wrestle. “My brother was a great role model to me growing up, we were very close,” Ryan said. “Basically, wherever he went at college to wrestle, that’s where I was going to go.” And yet, his heart was at the University of Iowa, where he had attended wrestling camp almost every summer, Ryan said. But Iowa never called and offered him a spot on their wrestling team. Syracuse, on the other hand, was only four or five hours from his hometown, and the full scholarship they offered him made the cost of college easier on his family. For two years, Ryan wrestled and lived with his brother at Syracuse. After finishing 2-2 at the National Tournament at the end of his sophomore year, Ryan said he grew frustrated with his own performance and sought a place that could challenge him to be the best he could possibly be. “I felt that the pull of wanting to stand out in the sport was really tightening at me,” Ryan said. “I had this ache inside, and I just felt that the best way to cure the ache was to go somewhere known to really challenge people.” He packed his car, talked to his parents, his coaches, his team and his brother, and headed to the University of Iowa, the place where his heart was. For two months after arriving in Iowa City, Ryan lived in a hotel until he enrolled in school and walked onto the wrestling team. After coming to Iowa, there was no turning back, Ryan said. “I talk to my team a lot about this, but go burn the boat. It’s like the Vikings, when they conquered a foreign land, the first thing, the first thing they did when they got to shore was burn their boat,” Ryan said. “And the thought process there was, either we conquer this new place or we die here. And that was the thinking; I’m going to this place and there’s no looking back.” His first day of working out with the Hawkeyes still stands out to him, Ryan said. “I remember vividly wrestling with two brothers, twin brothers, they were the Steiner brothers, and they beat me unmercifully,” Ryan said. He said he left practice crying “quite uncontrollably,” and remembers sitting in his car contemplating whether or not he was willing to do what it took and not just what he wanted to give, to make this work. “It was that moment in my life that was a clear crossroads and I obviously decided to stay and before long, I was a starter there, and impacting the program in a positive way,” Ryan said. Ryan graduated from Iowa having been selected as an NCAA Division I All-American twice and won two Big Ten Championships in 1991 and 1992. In the years that have passed since Ryan wrestled his last match for the Hawkeyes, he’s held an assistant coaching position at Indiana and a head coaching job at Hofstra that led him to OSU. Since he took over in 2006, he has led the Buckeyes to two NCAA runner-up seasons in 2008 and 2009 and was awarded the National Coach of the Year in 2009. On Jan. 20, he became OSU’s first wrestling coach to beat Iowa since 1966. For Ryan, though, it’s more than taking down a school like Iowa and making a statement for OSU wrestling. It’s more than just winning Big Ten titles and National Championships. He said the first time he and his family set foot on campus, he realized he had a huge platform to impact peoples’ lives. Even as a freshman wrestler, Cam Tessari said he can already see how invested Ryan is. “He’s a great guy, a great wrestling coach, a great person all around. He definitely wants the best for you in all aspects of life,” he said. Redshirt freshman Logan Stieber agreed. “He’s real energetic, he always has funny stories and he’s got probably the best analogies I’ve ever heard,” he said. “He really cares about everybody on the team and he’ll do anything to help us out and make sure we’re the best we can be.” Ahead of last weekend’s Big Ten wrestling championships in West Lafayette, Ind., Ryan set a goal for OSU to qualify 10 wrestlers to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championship in St. Louis, Mo., March 15-17. Seven qualified for the national meet, and redshirt freshman Logan Stieber won the Big Ten championship at 133 pounds. The NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee announced Wednesday that an eighth wrestler would receive an at-large bid to the national meet.. Ryan might be serious about crafting the Buckeyes into a national power, but some of his wrestlers say he also has a softer side. Ryan can also be goofy, said freshman wrestler Derek Garcia. “He’s always one of the guys to make jokes and be serious,” he said. “He’s a good guy, an awesome coach, I don’t know how to explain it.” For Ryan, it’s not about him — far from it. The team always starts practice with a talk from Ryan, Tessari said. “He wants you to succeed as a person, rather than just on the mat,” he said.