The Race For The Top Pick In The 2015 NFL Draft

The 2-12 Jacksonville Jaguars host the 2-12 Tennessee Titans Thursday night, ending this season’s sad slate of Thursday night games with the saddest game of all. But this awful matchup still matters. The top pick of the 2015 NFL draft is in play.This week, we added each team’s chances of getting the No. 1 overall pick to our weekly playoff implication interactives. In 50,000 simulations, just Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Oakland, Jacksonville and Washington managed to clinch the No. 1 overall pick at least once (the New York Jets blew their chances with last week’s win). The Buccaneers are your clubhouse leader, getting the pick in 54.8 percent of simulations, while the Titans are second at 25 percent.The size of that gap is a little misleading. The Buccaneers don’t control their own destiny, and the loser of Tennessee at Jacksonville will be nipping at their heels:The game also affects a much weirder scenario. If two teams from different conferences finish with the same record and strength of schedule, the pick will be decided by coin flip. These flips aren’t so uncommon, but they’ve never decided who gets the No. 1 overall. Before Thursday’s game, there is a 2 percent chance the top pick will be decided by a Tennessee vs. Tampa Bay coin flip. If the Titans lose, that figure bumps up a bit to 3.2 percent.But which team would actually keep the pick? The presumed top player of the 2015 draft is Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. None of the teams in contention saw impressive QB play in 2014: Josh McCown is old, Zach Mettenberger is shorn, Blake Bortles is bad and Derek Carr is dinky. Washington is just a mess, but they’re pretty much out of the running.Jacksonville and Oakland are the most likely to trade the first pick, as Bortles and Carr have likely done enough in their rookie seasons to warrant a second look. Tennessee and Tampa Bay would be much more likely to take Mariota. This means the St. Louis Rams – or even the Philadelphia Eagles – could be keeping an eye on an otherwise terrible Thursday night game, crossing their fingers for a Jacksonville loss.Mike Beuoy contributed analysis. read more

The Utah Jazz Got Good While You Werent Watching

Usually, it’s pretty easy to figure out why an NBA team got better. The Sixers, who were the NBA’s most-improved team this year, got Joel Embiid and an extra 18 wins compared to last season. Houston, 14 wins better, got MVP-level play out of James Harden, who’s been a perfect fit for new coach Mike D’Antoni’s pace-and-space offense.Then there’s Utah, a team that was 40-42 last year, yet has pieced together a fringe NBA title contender this season. The Jazz’s improvement isn’t as straightforward as the Rockets’ or Sixers’, though — they did it by tinkering with the margins of a roster that had missed the postseason for four consecutive years, and they’re capitalizing on their two young stars finally coming of age.Perhaps the best comparison for this Jazz team is the Indiana Pacers from three or four years ago: Rudy Gobert is the Jazz’s souped-up version of Roy Hibbert, the leader of a very stingy defense that forces a ton of midrange jumpers. Gordon Hayward is the analog to Paul George, a talented wing player who can score over just about anyone. And Utah’s George Hill is … George Hill, who joined the team in July following an offseason trade and is now the conductor of a Pacers-like slow-paced offense. And even that lofty comparison to the two-time Eastern Conference finalists may be selling this club short; the Jazz shoot and pass the ball better and far more than Indiana ever did.Much of Utah’s jump stems from two key trades that bolstered each of those areas. The first deal landed Hill, a respected veteran point guard1In exchange for the No. 12 pick, Taurean Prince, in a three-team deal, and the other yielded skilled forward Boris Diaw2Diaw cost the Jazz Olivier Hanlan, the 42nd pick in 2015, and a 2022 second-rounder.. Both players, who once played for San Antonio, have helped the Jazz become a rare team that has been able to replicate the Spurs’ style. Watch the Jazz for long enough, and you can see San Antonio’s influences baked into some of Utah’s offensive plays and sets; particularly when Diaw is on the floor3The Jazz threw more passes than any other team during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. The Spurs ranked third and fifth, respectively..Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The team’s transactions weren’t the sexiest, which is reflected by the NBA’s national TV ratings, in which the Jazz still rank near the bottom of the league. But as of now, those two moves — plus the Joe Johnson signing — look prescient. Hill, despite battling injuries all season, forced opponents to guard the perimeter more honestly and logged a career-high scoring average. Diaw, Utah’s best passer despite playing power forward, finished with a team-high six assists in the Game One victory over the Clippers. And Johnson, who connected on 41 percent of his 3s during the regular season, had 21 points in the series opener, including the game-winning floater at the buzzer4There were a flurry of Twitter users who didn’t know Johnson played for the Jazz until they saw him hit the dramatic shot to win Game One.But the offseason moves alone wouldn’t have made the Jazz this formidable. Utah needed Hayward to take the next step. Among the most notable improvements that he has made: Hayward has grown considerably stronger, giving him the ability to be more aggressive and absorb more contact as he barrels toward the basket following curls and dribble handoffs. Aside from connecting on a blistering 69 percent of his shots at the rim this year — one of six wings to shoot that well on 200 shots or more — Hayward also managed to log a career-best 45 and-1 situations where he scored despite getting fouled. By contrast, he was blocked just 43 times all season. To put that into context, it’s pretty rare for wing players to finish with more and-1s than shots blocked in a given season; this year LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard were the only other wings to accomplish the feat5Among players with at least 30 and-1s.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.The other Jazz player who took the leap is also the reason the team’s die-hard fans can’t sleep at night: How injured is Gobert? It’s not clear how long he’ll be out with his knee hyperextension and bone bruise. The Jazz managed to squeak by without him on Saturday, but as Tuesday’s Game Two highlighted, the defense sans Gobert may be too porous to win this series6The Jazz have allowed the Clippers to shoot 79 percent from inside of five feet this series when using small-ball lineups, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. That number shrinks to a more respectable 62 percent when Utah uses two traditional bigs on the court at once., let alone compete with Golden State, who will almost certainly be waiting for them in the conference semifinals.But should Utah get a healthy version of its best player back — and yes, Gobert’s incredible jump in offensive efficiency, paired with his stellar defense, makes him the club’s most-valuable player — the Jazz can make some noise. They owned the third-best defense in the association this year, behind San Antonio and Golden State, and excel at defensive rebounding and limiting team’s opportunities in transition. Playing the percentages, the defense surrenders the NBA’s lowest share of corner 3-point attempts, and the only true soft spot they possess on that end is by design: They rank near the top of the league in terms of how frequently they goad opponents into taking inefficient midrange jumpers.Yet their entire defensive scheme, which often calls for wings to switch assignments and aggressively crowd their opponents along the 3-point line, works to perfection because of Gobert’s incredible mobility and impact around the rim. Watch this regular-season sequence against Portland, for instance. Damian Lillard seemingly pulls the trigger on his shot a beat quicker than he normally would to avoid Gobert. Then Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu grabs an offensive rebound, but opts against going for the putback because of Gobert’s presence.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.When teams are actually bold enough to bring the ball inside against him7Opponents take just 31 percent of their shot attempts at the restricted area with Gobert on the court, down from 36 percent when he’s on the bench., it frequently turns out to be a mistake.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Gobert, who led the NBA in defensive win shares and blocks, held foes to 49 percent shooting from within six feet, 12.5 percentage points beneath their average and the best rate among centers8Among those who have played at least 50 games. Fellow Defensive Player of the Year candidate Draymond Green’s rim-protection stats were equally impressive, at 48 percent while holding players 13.2 points under their averages. But Green is considered a forward on tense as this moment is for Jazz fans, the offseason may prove to be even more stressful. Hayward, 27, and Hill, 30, become unrestricted free agents at season’s end, leaving the small-market club — which has the league’s smallest payroll — with tough financial choices9The team also faces a tough decision on big man Derrick Favors, who’s getting a pretty high-profile audition with Gobert sidelined. as it seeks to build on its first 50-win season since the 2009-10 season with Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan.But those decisions can wait a bit. After all, winning — and doing it now, in this postseason, with this core group — is the strongest case a team like Utah can make to its pending free agents anyway.Check out our NBA playoff predictions. read more

America Has Spoken The Yankees Are The Worst

Milwaukee Brewers2– The fight to be America’s favorite team is very closeShare of respondents who said a given team was their favorite Seattle Mariners4– TEAMSHARETEAMSHARETEAMSHARETEAMSHARE 2Boston Red Sox8– NORTHEASTSOUTHMIDWESTWEST 8Atlanta Braves3– Colorado Rockies1– 7Miami Marlins3– 7Texas Rangers4– 8St. Louis Cardinals4– 25San Diego Padres2– TEAMSHARETEAMSHARETEAMSHARETEAMSHARE 26Houston Astros2– 12Detroit Tigers3– Pirates10Orioles6Indians9Angels6 Miami Marlins603327+6 Red Sox17Red Sox10Cubs11Dodgers12 30Toronto Blue Jays<1– Dodgers2Astros4Brewers8Rockies5 Houston Astros644321+22 27Tampa Bay Rays1– 23Chicago White Sox2– Baltimore Orioles674621+25 1New York Yankees10%– Tigers2Cubs5Reds8Yankees6 Percentages are rounded and may not add to 100.Responses from a survey of 989 American baseball fans conducted from June 30 to July 8, 2017.Source: Surveymonkey Mets12Red Sox8Twins10D-backs7 Yankees34%Yankees25%Yankees28%Yankees26% New York Mets3– Every region has its own favoriteShare of respondents who said a given team was their favorite by census region TEAMSHARE FAVORITE TEAM Atlanta Braves704525+20 NORTHEASTSOUTHMIDWESTWEST Texas Rangers644123+18 25San Diego Padres1– TEAMRATED BYFAVORABLEUNFAVORABLENET FAV. 13Toronto Blue Jays3– 24Houston Astros1– The Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves come very close behind at 8 percent, while the West Coast’s bitter rivals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, aren’t far behind at 5 percent. The difference between the top teams is so small that the Yankees would tie for third place (with the Braves), trailing the Cubs and Red Sox, if you exclude fans from the state of New York.Breaking down the favorite-team results by census region we can see that, unsurprisingly, different areas of the country prefer different teams. While the Yankees are in a tight fight for first place with the Red Sox in the Northeast,2In New England (six states), the Red Sox are first at 71 percent. In the slightly higher populated New York state, the Yankees are first at 55 percent. they don’t come anywhere close to being the favorite team (or even breaking 10 percent) in any other region. Texas Rangers2– Oakland Athletics2– Cleveland Indians694524+21 Kansas City Royals644717+30 23Cincinnati Reds1– San Diego Padres614120+21 Every part of America hates the YankeesShare of respondents who said a given team was their least favorite by census region Rockies1 3Los Angeles Dodgers5– 6Washington Nationals4– 19Pittsburgh Pirates2– The Cubs are the most liked team and the Yankees the leastFavorable and unfavorable ratings for every MLB team when respondents were each asked their views on ten randomly assigned teams Washington Nationals613625+11 12New York Mets3– Milwaukee Brewers2– 30Seattle Mariners1– Boston Red Sox845628+28 5Chicago Cubs4– 16Baltimore Orioles3– Percentages and percentage points are rounded.Responses from a survey of 989 American baseball fans conducted from June 30 to July 8, 2017.Source: SurveyMOnkey Minnesota Twins584018+22 15Oakland Athletics2– 29Miami Marlins1– 6San Francisco Giants5– Seattle Mariners614120+21 Chicago Cubs81%67%14%+53 15Minnesota Twins3– Chicago White Sox694326+17 Cubs1Cardinals4Royals5Padres5 Pittsburgh Pirates644321+22 Los Angeles Angels634023+17 Cubs4Braves5Indians5Athletics5 Milwaukee Brewers603822+16 20Colorado Rockies2– 9Chicago White Sox3– Cincinnati Reds613625+11 3Chicago Cubs8– Percentages are rounded.Responses from a survey of 989 American baseball fans conducted from June 30 to July 8, 2017.Source: SurveyMonkey Detroit Tigers583820+18 9Detroit Tigers4– 14Cleveland Indians3– Philadelphia Phillies623329+4 New York Yankees924448-4 1New York Yankees27%– Sixty-seven percent of baseball fans nationally had a favorable view of the Cubs, while just 14 percent had an unfavorable view. Amazingly, this gave the Cubs the highest favorable rating in the poll in addition to a tie with the Colorado Rockies for the lowest unfavorable rating. In every region of the country, the Cubs had a favorable rating of above 60 percent and an unfavorable rating of 20 percent or less. The Cardinals (at +31 percentage points) were a distant second to the Cubs (at +53 percentage points) when it came to net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating).The Yankees are an entirely different story. While a fairly high 44 percent of fans have a favorable view of the Yankees, they are the only team in the country for which more fans hold an unfavorable view (48 percent) than favorable view. (For the sake of context, no other team has an unfavorable rating above 35 percent.) Yankee fans will be particularly stung by the fact that more fans have a favorable view of the rival Red Sox (56 percent) than the Yankees.Not only are the Yankees generally disliked, they’re also outright hated by more fans than any other team. When asked to give their least favorite team, an astounding 27 percent of fans said theirs was the Yankees. The Red Sox were a distant second at 10 percent. 11San Francisco Giants3– TEAMSHARE LEAST FAVORITE TEAM Marlins3Mets3Marlins3Rangers3 Percentages are rounded and may not add to 100.Responses from a survey of 989 American baseball fans conducted from June 30 to July 8, 2017.Source: Surveymonkey 13Cincinnati Reds3– Yankees28%Braves22%Cubs22%Giants15% Colorado Rockies554114+27 Phillies4Tigers5White Sox4D-Backs4 White Sox1Reds3White Sox4Athletics5 New York Mets784335+8 4Atlanta Braves8– Nats3Blue Jays4D-Backs4White Sox4 28Washington Nationals1– 2Boston Red Sox10– 20Minnesota Twins2– Phillies16Yankees9Cardinals11Mariners12 26Tampa Bay Rays1– Brewers2Rangers3Nats3 17Cleveland Indians2– 21Los Angeles Angels2– 27Baltimore Orioles1– Kansas City Royals2– D-Backs6D-Backs6Cardinals8Red Sox8 Percentages are rounded and may not add to 100.Responses from a survey of 989 American baseball fans conducted from June 30 to July 8, 2017.Source: Surveymonkey 18Philadelphia Phillies2– San Francisco Giants694623+23 Reds1Mets3Yankees3Red Sox4 19Los Angeles Angels2– The Braves are first in the South, with the Texas Rangers second.3The Rangers are a clear first in Texas (at 52 percent), with the Houston Astros a distant second at 17 percent. In the region’s other big state, Florida, a team from Georgia (the Braves, at 17 percent) is actually slightly ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays — and the Yankees — at 15 percent. The Miami Marlins are a distant fifth in their own home state, at 8 percent. The Midwest is dominated by the Cubs, trailed by the Detroit Tigers, the Minnesota Twins and the Cubs’ arch-rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, all in double digits. Meanwhile, the Giants are just ahead of the Dodgers and the Seattle Mariners in the West.4The Giants are also a little ahead in California, at 28 percent (over the Dodgers at 23 percent).What isn’t regional is how well the Cubs are liked — that finding came up pretty much everywhere. We often think of fandom as stopping at one’s favorite team, but fans can like (or dislike) more than one team. So in addition to asking fans who their favorite team was, we also asked each fan whether they had a favorable or unfavorable view of 10 randomly assigned teams. That means the sample size for each team’s favorable or unfavorable rating was a little over 300 fans. For most teams (19 of 30), 67 percent or less of the fans we polled felt they could offer an opinion — again, suggesting the regionality of baseball. But more than 80 percent of fans had a rating for the Cubs, and they were well-liked by nearly everyone. Pittsburgh Pirates2– 29Kansas City Royals1– 5Los Angeles Dodgers5– Toronto Blue Jays583325+8 Los Angeles Dodgers734429+15 St. Louis Cardinals695019+31 Oakland Athletics573621+15 14St. Louis Cardinals2– Arizona Diamondbacks593920+19 4Arizona Diamondbacks5– The Yankees are America’s most hated teamShare of respondents who said a given team was their least favorite Tampa Bay Rays573423+11 17Arizona Diamondbacks2– Rockies3Marlins4Braves4Marlins3 Mets6Nats6Red Sox5Giants6 The Yankees were the least favorite team in every region in the country, and it wasn’t a particularly close race anywhere. 10Philadelphia Phillies4– Dodgers2Phillies3Twins3Angels3 Red Sox23Rangers12Tigers12Dodgers13 The Yankees’ longstanding self-important and overpaid ways have been pushed aside by a plucky band of youngsters and rising stars. So is it now fair to say that the franchise once proudly known as the “Evil Empire” is no longer baseball’s most hated team?Nope. As far as most Americans are concerned, the Yankees are still plenty hateable, thank you very much. In fact, they’re the most hated MLB team.That’s according to a FiveThirtyEight-commissioned SurveyMonkey Audience poll of 989 self-described baseball fans, conducted June 30 to July 8.1This was only in the United States — so fans in Canada, where the Toronto Blue Jays play, did not participate. The poll does provide the Yankees with one talking point: They received more votes as people’s favorite team than any other franchise. But a deeper look at the results reveals that the Cubs are a much better fit for the title of America’s best-liked team (if such a thing even exists).Because baseball fandom is highly regional, Americans have many favorite teams. The Yankees top the national list of favorites, but with just 10 percent of the vote. Interestingly, we do see that there is at least some correlation with being well-liked in a region and having haters. The Red Sox are the second-most disliked team in the Northeast,5Even in New England, the Red Sox are the second most-hated team, at 13 percent. In New York state, the Yankees rank second at 15 percent. the Cubs are the second-most disliked team in the Midwest, and the Dodgers are the second-most disliked team in the West. Perhaps fans of other teams are just jealous of these teams’ popularity, or perhaps there’s a rivalry element to this finding. All of these team’s top rivals (Yankees for the Red Sox, Cardinals for the Cubs and Giants for the Dodgers) were fairly popular in their own right, and each fan base listed the rival as their least favorite team.Of course, I don’t think any of these disliked teams in each region are going to be crying about being hated. Ownerships don’t care whether you watch a team to root for or against it — they just care that you watch. Each region’s most and second-most disliked team also ranks among the top 10 in MLB attendance this season. As Oscar Wilde wrote, “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”Still, these numbers suggest you shouldn’t mistake notoriety or ticket sales for being well-liked. In some cases, well-known teams (like the Cubs) are also well-liked — but in others (cough, Yankees), these teams can be better described as “notorious.”Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

How The Eagles Embarrassed The Vikings

From that drive forward, Foles was as aggressive as he was efficient, completing a remarkable 24 of 29 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. How could he complete 82.8 percent of his passes while averaging 11.6 yards per attempt?He played with all the poise that had suddenly abandoned Keenum.Though Foles was pressured on 11 of 34 dropbacks, time and again he stood tall in the pocket and waited patiently for his receivers’ downfield routes to develop. His patience was rewarded. Eagles pass-catchers kept getting open off of play-action fakes and well-executed double moves, helping Foles post a nearly perfect 149.3 passer rating on throws 20-plus yards downfield. Per ESPN TruMedia, the Vikings blitzed Foles 14 times, and he burned them for an average of 12.4 yards per play.A reminder: The Vikings finished the regular season No. 1 in scoring defense and No. 1 in yardage defense, and they were No. 1 in weighted defensive DVOA coming into this game. They were far and away the NFL’s best third-down defense, allowing conversions on just 25.2 percent of third downs — the best of any team since at least 1991. But with a Super Bowl appearance on the line, the Eagles converted 10 of their 14 third downs (71.4 percent), extending drives and keeping Minnesota’s defense on the field.The Eagles didn’t just generate more opportunities, they finished them much better. They were perfect on field goals (1/1), red-zone efficiency (2/2) and goal-to-go conversions (1/1), while the Vikings were 0-fer on all of the above.The end result was an every-phase dismantling perfectly reflected in the blowout final score. Per Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz, the Eagles’ dominance resulted in the best single-game DVOA rating (130.3 percent) since the 2015 season’s NFC title game.The question football writers, talkers and fans everywhere will spend the next two weeks asking is whether Foles and the Eagles will be able to play anywhere near this well — especially without the help of their dog-mask-wearing fans — in Super Bowl LII against the New England Patriots.Check out our latest NFL predictions. While the rowdy Lincoln Financial Field fans embraced the Philadelphia Eagles’ underdog status Sunday night, the Eagles played like they always believed they were the better team.Over the course of their 38-7 NFC Championship Game win over the Minnesota Vikings, the Eagles did everything they weren’t supposed to be able to do without injured starting quarterback Carson Wentz — and they forced the Vikings to do almost everything badly.Offensively, the Eagles were better running the ball, far more effective passing downfield and devastating on third down. Their defense upstaged the Vikings’ vaunted unit and made quarterback Case Keenum look like the undrafted journeyman backup he’d been his entire career.Through the first two drives, though, the game went mostly by the book: Keenum opened the game with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped by a 25-yard touchdown pass. Eagles quarterback Nick Foles gained just 17 yards in 94 seconds before Philadelphia had to punt it back.That’s when Keenum threw a pick-six that changed everything: Over the course of the regular season, Philly fans had helped the Eagles tally the best home-field scoring differential in the NFL, an average of 15.3 points. That pick-six ignited the crowd, whose energy seemed to fuel the Eagles’ aggressive defense. Their pass rush was relentless, pressuring Keenum on 48 percent of his dropbacks.As FiveThirtyEight explored before the game, Keenum had been elite under pressure this season. But after that one critical failure, he collapsed. Before the pick-six, Keenum was 4-of-6 passing for 60 yards and a touchdown. Afterward, he completed just 57.1 percent of his 42 passes, gaining a meager average of 5.0 yards per attempt, no more touchdowns and another interception.Like Wile E. Coyote looking down long after he ran off the edge of a cliff, it seemed that Keenum was finally regressing to what he had been most of his career, not the quarterback who finished seventh in the NFL in passer rating and adjusted net yards per attempt, second in QBR and first in Football Outsiders’ Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, or DVOA.The Vikings were also forced to abandon their run game. After tailbacks Jerick McKinnon and Latavius Murray combined for 29 yards rushing in the first two drives, they gained just 29 more all night.On the other side of the ball, the power running of LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi was the key to unlocking the vaunted Minnesota defense. The Eagles started their second drive with a 13-yard Ajayi run and finished it with a powerful 11-yard Blount touchdown run: read more

The Timberwolves Might Have Too Many Stars

Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Beyond that, Butler is already familiar with Tom Thibodeau’s highly tactical schemes, having played for him in Chicago for the first four seasons of his career. “We’re very fortunate, because everybody already knows the system, which expedites the process 10-fold,” Towns said.Thibodeau suggested that he wasn’t concerned about who would create looks for whom in this offense. Striking the balance among several talented scorers “is a challenge that all good teams face,” he said. Thibodeau thinks Butler (who, at 5.5 assists per game last season, has upped his assists per game every year) is one of the best playmaking shooting guards in the NBA, and that Crawford, for all his 1-on-1 tries, is a tough cover when defenses trap him in pick-and-rolls.3Crawford averaged more points per possession than any other NBA player when teams trapped him in pick-and-roll scenarios last year, according to Synergy Sports.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.“Everyone has to play for each other, to sacrifice, and put the team first,” Thibodeau said. “So if you’re a primary scorer, and the second defender comes, without hesitation, you have to hit the open man. You have to trust each other.”And again, offense isn’t Minnesota’s chief concern. By all accounts, the Wolves should finish top 10 in the NBA on that side of the ball — but that’s a necessity for them to compete considering how bad their defense could be. The Wolves blew 22 double-digit leads and tied for fourth-worst in the association on that end last season. Butler and Taj Gibson could help the Timberwolves improve slightly on defense (though Rubio to Teague is a downgrade), but expecting a complete turnaround might be asking too much of Wiggins and Towns, who, despite being cornerstones, are still just 22 and 21 years old, respectively.This shoddy defense gives the Timberwolves’ offense very little margin, particularly late in games, when the club’s fourth-quarter offense goes stale and Minnesota becomes too reliant on perimeter jumpers with heavy, fatigued legs.The question of who will get the ball in crunch time looms large, especially for a team that somehow lost a whopping 30 games that were within 5 points during the final five minutes of play.“Obviously I think I’m a great scorer, and that I’m a great weapon. I think of myself as a No. 1 option,” Wiggins said. “We all think we’re the No. 1 option. Not in a selfish way. It’s more that we just know what we can do.” 1999-2000BucksRay AllenGlenn RobinsonSam Cassell Could Minnesota be the NBA’s next three-headed monster?Teams with three players who posted at least 25 percent usage over the season, since 1992 MINNEAPOLIS — It would take days to compile a full list of all the things the Timberwolves have done wrong during their 13-year span wandering the basketball wilderness.Management has had long stretches of gross ineptitude. That lack of direction partly explains why the Wolves have cycled through eight coaches in the 13 seasons since they last made the playoffs, including two different men who each held the job twice. Aside from the lack of continuity, there are also the mind-numbingly bad picks. The 2009 draft was especially awful: Minnesota selected two different point guards, Ricky Rubio and eventual washout Jonny Flynn, ahead of a guy named Steph Curry, who’d go on to win two MVPs while becoming the greatest jump shooter in NBA history.So it doesn’t take much to see why this season — with newly acquired All-Star Jimmy Butler, a handful of solid vets and some of the NBA’s best young talent — is one of the most anticipated campaigns in Timberwolves history. But look closer, and there may be slight cause for concern: Minnesota, owner of the NBA’s longest playoff drought, might suddenly have too much star power on its roster.The Wolves boast a ton of individual scoring but don’t necessarily have a surplus of players known for facilitating an offense. Consider the fact that the team’s Big Three is made up of Butler, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins — a trio in which each player logged usage rates of 25 percent or higher last season.While it’s not unheard of for an offense to be this reliant on a set of three players — the Warriors and Cavaliers both did it last season en route to the Finals — it’s still unusual from a historical standpoint. Even as the notion of the superteam has spread throughout the league, there have been only six instances of three separate players logging 25 percent usage rates for the same team over the past 25 seasons,1While playing 30 minutes per game and at least 50 games that season. according to ESPN Stats & Information Group. 2001-02BucksRay AllenGlenn RobinsonSam Cassell 2008-09MavericksDirk NowitzkiJason TerryJosh Howard 2016-17CavaliersLeBron JamesKyrie IrvingKevin Love SEASONTEAMPLAYER ONEPLAYER TWOPLAYER THREE 2007-08SpursTim DuncanTony ParkerManu Ginobili 2016-17WarriorsKevin DurantStephen CurryKlay Thompson Still, it’s hard to know whom, if anyone, the Wolves actually compare to — especially now, after having moved Rubio, a pass-first guard who managed to keep his high-scoring teammates fed most nights.“I get people involved, but he was a fan favorite, and I hear that every day. Seriously, I do,” said Jeff Teague, the Wolves’ new starting point guard, who gets in the paint and scores more than his predecessor. The 29-year-old, one season removed from a career-high 26.6 percent usage rate himself, said he’s been studying film to learn where his new teammates prefer the ball. Teague also cited his experience leading a highly balanced Atlanta Hawks’ offense as reason for optimism in Minnesota.Figuring out the proper pecking order won’t get a whole lot easier when Teague heads to the bench, either. Three-time Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford, who led the NBA in percentage of time going 1-on-1 last season, figures to be a primary ballhandler when he enters the game as a reserve. All of which raises a question about how this team’s offense — which fell from a top-five team in assist rate with Rubio on the floor to a bottom-10 club with him off the court last season — will move the ball with so many scoring specialists sharing the court at once.There are a ton of kinks for this team to work through — all things considered, the Timberwolves’ defense could still be pretty bad — but to be fair, the Wolves also have a handful of factors that could play to their advantage. Unlike the LeBron James superteams that struggled out of the gate in Miami and Cleveland in 2010 and 2014, Butler is the only true star joining Minnesota this offseason. And because Towns and Wiggins have played alongside each other the past couple of seasons, the trio’s growing pains may not be as extreme to start.2Towns connected with Wiggins for seven outlet passes of 60 feet or farther last season, second in the NBA only to Kevin Love — the outlet-pass king — and LeBron James. Among players with at least 30 minutes per game, minimum 50 gamesSource: ESPN Stats & Information Group read more

Navy reservist honored before Ohio State game

Ohio State commended Navy reservist Glenn Welling for his service before Saturday’s 31-27 victory over the Midshipmen at Ohio Stadium.Welling, an OSU Extension educator, received a Bronze Star for his success in leading a battalion in Iraq. An opening game-record crowd of 105,092 was on hand to watch Welling’s part of the pre-game ceremonies.“It was a humbling experience,” he said. “I had the privilege to serve with the finest young men and women in the United States Navy overseas in Iraq, doing what was described as the most difficult mission in Iraq. They did an exceptional job, and it was because of their success and their efforts that I was fortunate enough to be recognized.”Welling said he appreciates the support that Ohio State has always backed him with.“It shows so much class and patriotism by Ohio State University, not only to recognize the significance of the game, but the challenge that’s put forth to the other universities across the country, to do the same thing, to greet the other service academies with that same sense of respect and honor. I’ve always been proud to be a member of the Ohio State University faculty and staff.” read more

Football Big Ten coaches preview 2017 season at Big Ten Media Days

Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio speaking on Day One of the Big Ten Media Days Credit: Jacob Myers | Managing EditorCHICAGO — Hope springs eternal.Before the season begins, that applies to every coach of the Big Ten. Every team is tied in the standings and every coach sees a path to a Big Ten title and possible national championship.And as the coaches in the conference stand up at the podium for the first time, at arm’s length away from the three Big Ten trophies, the Big Ten Media Days provide the coaches their first opportunity to lay out their vision for the rest of the season.Day OnePaul Chryst, WisconsinThe first topic Chryst discussed was the promotion of Jim Leonhard from the defensive backs coach to defensive coordinator. A former walk-on safety at Wisconsin, Leonhard held the Big Ten record for career punt return yards and was named to the first team All-Big Ten thrice. Chryst addressed the three close losses during the past season and said his players have learned from those close losses and know this season they can compete with anyone on a given day. He added that while he has a ton of respect for Ohio State, it is too early to deem the Buckeyes the favorite in the conference seeing as how they have yet to play a game.Tom Allen, IndianaThe replacement to now-Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as head coach at Indiana, Allen began by laying out three numbers that are written on his board: 50, 26 and 10. Fifty years since Indiana won the Big Ten, 26 years since it won a bowl game and 10 seasons since Indiana posted a winning record. He said that the key to erasing all three numbers will be to have a top-25 defense. Allen was also outspoken in his criticism towards playing Big Ten games on Friday night and said that he wants to keep it a special night for high school football games.And Allen wasn’t shy about displaying his excitement for his first regular season game against Ohio State.“We’re going to be bringing our players in August 1st to report, start practice on the 2nd, to prepare for the biggest opener in the history of Indiana football on August 31st when we play the Ohio State Buckeyes in Bloomington for an 8:00 kickoff,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a very exciting opportunity for me to be in my first home game as the head coach in my home state.”Lovie Smith, IllinoisSmith began his opening remarks by highlighting plans to improve the facilities in Champaign, Illinois, to bring them up to the level of the other teams in the conference. The second-year coach announced his starting quarterback will be redshirt junior Chayce Crouch, who served as the backup to Wes Lunt last season before requiring shoulder surgery after sustaining an injury. Smith also said he expects the healthy return of redshirt junior wide receiver Mike Dudek, who has missed the past two seasons due to an injury, but set school records for receiving yards by a freshman in his first year (1,038 yards).Mark Dantonio, Michigan StateComing off the worst season in Dantonio’s 13 year coaching career, the Michigan State coach discussed the steps necessary to have a rebound season. He compared the Spartans’ new starting quarterback, redshirt sophomore Brian Lewerke, to former Michigan State quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Connor Cook, and believes Lewerke’s past experience, size and arm strength has him established above the rest of the pack. Dantonio added a key to the turnaround for the Spartans will be to regain a positive turnover ratio as that proved to be an issue for his team. He also noted that though his team could be young heading into 2017, they have several veteran leaders like senior offensive lineman Brian Allen, senior linebacker Chris Frey and senior running back Gerald Holmes.He added that between several off-the-field issues this past offseason, his team will have to battle through some adversity. But he believes they are up to the task.“There will be challenges along the way,” Dantonio said. “But we established ourselves as a championship program inch by inch. There was nothing ever given to us. And that’s how we’ve handled it. That’s how we’ve taken it. We have to go back to that mindset, understand that things don’t come easy.”D.J. Durkin, MarylandDurkin began his time speaking about the opening of the Cole Field House, a new facility his team will begin utilizing as early as this week. He later talked about how big of a recruiting class this current group of freshmen is for the Terrapins, and how he’s found success over his first two seasons recruiting by not only selling the product of Maryland, but by involving his players in the process of hosting prospects at the school.Kirk Ferentz, IowaNow the longest-tenured head coach in the FBS after the surprising retirement of former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, Ferentz discussed what it meant to have known Stoops when the two were at Iowa (Stoops a player, Ferentz the offensive-line coach) and to have maintained that friendship throughout their years of coaching. Turning to the players on his team, Ferentz said he feels confident in the depth he has at the tight end position and went so far as to list a pair of tight ends he figures will have starting roles in 2017. Urban Meyer, OhioRead here.Day TwoP.J. Fleck, MinnesotaA month before his inaugural season as head coach of Minnesota, Fleck — beaming with excitement and energy — talked about how honored he is to be joining the Big Ten as a first-year head coach and how excited he is to kick off the season. In addition, he spoke about the opportunity he had to hire former Ohio State co-offensive coordinator Ed Warriner to be his offensive line coach.“Ed has brought a ton of knowledge to our offensive room,” Fleck said. “He’s a phenomenal recruiter, wonderful person, and just brings a plethora of knowledge. Anytime you can hire an offensive coordinator at The Ohio State University, bring him up, be a part of an experience he’s had and bring him a part of your program, you jump on it.”Pat Fitzgerald, NorthwesternComing off only his second-ever bowl win in 11 seasons with Northwestern, Fitzgerald addressed how his team built up momentum towards the end of the last season and carried that into their win at the Pinstripe Bowl. He also looked ahead to his team’s opener against Nevada — a team with a new coach, quarterback and overall offensive scheme. Lastly, he was asked about the school’s plans to build new facilities for athletics.“This is for our program, from the standpoint of university support, one of the last few pieces of the puzzle we really need,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re far from the finished product in Evanston, and now to have the Walter Athletic Complex and Ryan Field and Hutcheson Field and Wilson Field and the indoor all the great facilities we’re about to have give us a chance to compete for a recruit maybe we never had an opportunity to get.”James Franklin, Penn StateSpeaking as the coach of the reigning Big Ten champion Nittany Lions, Franklin began by talking about how important it was for a team as young as his squad was last season to gain valuable experience playing in both the Big Ten Championship Game as well as the Rose Bowl. He said gaining that experience should help it going into 2017 when it is bound to receive more national recognition and no longer be viewed as the sleeper it was the past season.Franklin also said that though he has junior running back Saquon Barkley and redshirt junior quarterback Trace McSorley on his team, it is not those guys who get him the most excited.“I would make the argument the thing we’re most excited about on both sides of the ball but specifically on offense is the offensive line,” Franklin said. “Saquon Barkley has done some great things so far, but to think about him having a chance now this season to play behind what I make the argument we feel like has got a chance to be one of the better offensive lines in the Big Ten, there’s so much value in that.”Jeff Brohm, PurdueThe third new head coach to speak at the media days, Brohm said even though the Boilermakers are coming off a 3-9 season, he believes there is talent on the roster and a fire in the players to be competitive in 2017. He talked extensively about the offensive side of the football, saying he expects his team to play exciting football with a strong group of running backs and several junior college transfers at the wide receiver position to help spark the team. Defensively, he believes Purdue boasts a strong group of linebackers and a stout defensive line that should help to create the same run-stopping defense he had last season while he was the coach at Western Kentucky. Mike Riley, NebraskaRiley began his podium session addressing the quarterback situation in Nebraska with Tommy Armstrong no longer around to guide the Cornhuskers behind center, and instilling confidence in his new quarterback, redshirt junior Tanner Lee — who sat out last season per the NCAA transfer rules after arriving from Tulane.“The good thing for Tanner and us is he has played in college football games. And the other part of it is he’s been with our team for about a year,” Riley said. “His entry has been impressive in just the simple fact that he became a good teammate. Became immediately well liked and through time became very well respected, enough so to be elected at one of our — not our seasonal yet, but our offseason captains for our offseason conditioning program.”Looking toward the defense, Riley talked about his hire of Bob Diaco as the defensive coordinator, citing Diaco’s 3-4 defensive scheme as a reason for hiring him (Riley also claimed to be a 3-4 defensive coach). He also discussed losing senior cornerback Chris Jones and the challenges in replacing him, mentioning senior defensive back Joshua Kalu as a candidate to shift from safety — his position last season — to cornerback. Chris Ash, RutgersThe former co-defensive coordinator for Ohio State and now Rutgers head coach began by expressing his disappointment in his first season coaching the Scarlet Knights went as the team finished 2-10 overall and 0-9 in conference play.“It wasn’t fun,” Ash. “Been asked a lot about it. It was awful. But we’ve moved on. It’s behind us and we’re a lot better football team today because of what we went through a year ago. We went through a lot of adversity a lot of tough times, a lot of challenges. Brought our football team closer together.”Entering his second season, Ash said he expects his secondary to again remain the strength of the team, but noted that in order for it to be as dominant as it was last season, the defensive line will have to step up to put enough pressure on the quarterback to force the opposing offense to make mistakes. Jim Harbaugh, MichiganWrapping up Tuesday morning’s media sessions with the coaches was Michigan’s khaki-wearing head coach. Harbaugh spoke extensively about taking his team to Rome, saying that it helps to put the “college” back in college football.“It’s a chance to have the whole world be your classroom. And not all learning is done in a classroom or on a football field. It’s out there living, out there seeing and doing,” Harbaugh said. “It’s incredible to connect with somebody from a different country, to see something you’ve never seen before, taste food you’ve never tasted or hear a language that you’ve never heard and then experience it together as a team.”Looking ahead to the year in front of him, he said that while his team has lost several key players, he is excited to see the continued development of his juniors — the first class he brought in as head coach — and believes they will be ready to step up in 2017. He added that redshirt junior Wilton Speight is currently tied for first with redshirt senior John O’Korn for the starting quarterback position as it stands today. read more

Sadie Hartley murder Accomplice feared bunny boiler murderer would kill her too

first_imgIn one of the notes seen by the Sunday Mirror, she wrote: “All she (Williams) needed to do would be to contaminate something I ate with prawns and remove my EpiPens. Then add a ‘suicide’ note confessing & she’d maybe have got away with this.”Walsh said she believed the speed of Williams’ arrest in the wake of the brutal murder prevented her from carrying out the plot.Then, in a bizarre attempt to bring levity to an apology to Kevin Walsh, 58, she said: “Sorry to mess your life up. Hope you can see the lighter side of it.”The two women were convicted of murdering Ms Hartley, 60, at her home in Helmshore, Lancashire, after scheming for 18 months in a bid to carry out the “perfect murder”.Jailing both for life – Williams with a minimum term of 30 years and Walsh a minimum term of 25 years – at Preston Crown Court, Mr Justice Turner said the “unimaginable ferocity” of the murder of the “loving mother” was like the “slaughtering of an animal”. Williams immobilised Ms Hartley with the stun gun, then used an eight-inch carving knife to stab the semi-paralysed mother of two through the face and neck, inflicting more than 40 stab and slash wounds in the attack on January 14.The killer’s arrest three days later was caught on camera by documentary makers who were following Lancashire Police at the time.In the clip, Williams is woken up by officers storming into her bedroom as she slept at 3am. The killer is seen sitting bolt upright, her face blank.The footage is due to be broadcast as part of the ITV programme The Murder Of Sadie Hartley on September 1. All she (Williams) needed to do would be to contaminate something I ate with prawns and remove my EpiPensKatrina Walsh letter 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. Sadie Hartley, left, was shot with a 500,000-volt stun gun before being stabbed to death by Sarah Williams, top right. Her accomplice was Katrina Walsh, bottom right Sadie Hartley, left, was shot with a 500,000-volt stun gun before being stabbed to death by Sarah Williams, top right. Her accomplice was Katrina Walsh, bottom rightCredit:PA The accomplice of “bunny boiler” Sarah Williams reportedly feared the murderer would kill her too by lacing her food with prawns.Katrina Walsh is said to have believed Williams, who stabbed love rival Sadie Hartley to death after shooting her with a 500,000 volt stun gun, would frame her as the suspect in a murder-suicide plot.Walsh’s paranoia was revealed as footage emerged of the moment Williams was woken in her bed by police and arrested over the businesswoman’s murder.In letters sent from prison while awaiting trial, Walsh, 56, told her ex-husband that she suspected Williams, 35, would trigger her life-threatening allergy with shellfish and hide her medication before leaving a note admitting killing the mother of two.last_img read more

Most boys leave primary without basic numeracy and literacy skills figures show

first_img Nick Gibb, schools standards minister, said: “We want to build a country that works for everyone so that all children, regardless of background or ability, have the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”That’s why we have introduced a more rigorous curriculum, raised the standard we expect pupils to achieve by age 11 and placed more emphasis on phonics in the teaching of reading.”Thanks to this focus on raising standards and the hard work of teachers, the majority of pupils have performed well in this year’s tests.”We will continue working with the sector to build on that success and further develop the primary assessment system.” Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said the gap between boys and girls was a ‘major cause of concern’ and partly explained by too much focus on ‘Hermione Granger’ type girls and female dominated classrooms in primary.The former headteacher said: “The gap between boys and girls is of major concern. It is starting at an early age and it is evident all the way through to university.“Girls tend to mature more quickly and they also tend to dominate more at primary schools. They tend to get more encouragement for their way of learning in environments where the vast majority are female teachers.“A lot of primary schools are dominated by Hermione Granger-type girls – a delight to teach and eager to please. But this is happening at the expense of boys.” Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, right, with Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, left, and Daniel Radcliffe, centre, as Harry Potter 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. Nick Gibb, the schools standards minister, said most students performed well in this year’s testsCredit:REX Features There was a roughly eight per cent difference in success between the genders – the largest since 2012 when 29 per cent of boys and 21 per cent of girls failed to get level 4s under the old system.Experts said girls outperform boys at a young age as they tend to be more eager to please and there are fewer male role models for boys to aspire to.Nick Gibb, the school standards minister, said fresh efforts to raise standards through a new ‘rigorous curriculum’ meant most students “performed well” in this year’s tests.The proportion of all students achieving the expected standards went from 80 per cent to 52 per cent under the new system as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) branded the new tests “deeply flawed” and threatened to boycott them.New grading systemThe new 100 mark is seen as equivalent of the old level 4b. But the DfE argues the marks are “broadly similar but are not equivalent to an old level 4b.”“However, given the curricula differences, there is not a direct equivalence between the new expected standard and level 4b there is not a direct equivalence between the new expected standard and level 4b in previous years.“When a new curriculum and tests are introduced, evidence suggests that  results will initially be lower but that they are likely to rise more quickly than normal for a few years after their introduction while pupils and teachers become familiar with the new material,” the DfE said in a report on the KS2 results.Boys need single sex education in primarycenter_img Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, right, with Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley, left, and Daniel Radcliffe, centre, as Harry PotterCredit:AP  He said single-sex education in primary schools at state level could be a key to closing the gap.Mr McGovern explained: “Boys and girls develop at a different rate and this could play to boys advantage and narrow the gap.”Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said: “The case for a complete rethinking of assessment in primary schools is overwhelming – this deeply flawed system must not be allowed to do further harm to pupils and to teachers in 2017.“The National Union of Teachers calls for the suspension of current > arrangements for testing, and for the development of alternatives which can command public and professional support.“If the government is not prepared to make the changes needed, then the Union is prepared to work with other unions to boycott both KS1 and KS2 SATs.”Raising standards Nick Gibb The majority of boys leave primary school without having reached basic standards in reading, writing and maths, government figures reveal today.This year 11-year-olds faced tougher SATs exams after a government drive to improve standards. Girls rose to the challenge with 57.1 per cent reaching the expected standard compared to less than half of boys.For the first time pupils needed to achieve 100 in the Key Stage 2 exams rather than a level 4 under the old system.Department for Education data released showed 50.46 per cent of boys – or 149,872  of the 296,988 males who sat the exams – failed to meet the new standard.Meanwhile 42.89 per cent of girls did not reach the bar – representing 122,276 of the 285,028 who sat the exams.Widening gaplast_img read more