A season after the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, there’s no getting around how lousy the team has been. With a record of 43 wins and 52 losses, the Red Sox entered the All-Star break in last place in the American League East — nine-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Baltimore Orioles and eight games out of the league’s final wild-card spot. Naive estimates of playoff probability, which treat every future game on the schedule as a coin flip, peg Boston’s chances of qualifying for the postseason at just 3.7 percent.For a team in such a predicament, the media’s attention usually turns to which players it should sell off at the July 31 trade deadline. Sure enough, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherington was asked Thursday about deadline plans, to which he responded:“We’re going to do whatever we feel gives the Red Sox the best chance to be as good as possible as quickly as possible. And we are not conceding 2014 with that statement. … We’ve put ourselves in this position, so the math is working against us a little bit. But stranger things have happened. We don’t see why we can’t win more games than most of the teams ahead of us.”That’s pretty standard fare; Boston wasn’t the only team in such straits to deny the obvious about its deadline-day status. But in Cherington’s case, such a statement might not merely be a case of brazen self-deception. Beneath the Red Sox’s terrible record, there might lurk a good baseball team.The baseball statistics website FanGraphs.com has a mechanism by which it projects — based on the talent of players — the number of wins above replacement (WAR) each team is likely to accrue over the remainder of the season. This process incorporates updated forecasts for each player (using the ZiPS and Steamer projection systems) and playing-time estimates from the site’s depth charts (which take injuries into account).By this measure, the four teams projected to produce the most WAR from the All-Star break onward are the Washington Nationals, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics and … Boston Red Sox.The first three teams on that list have won 58.4 percent of their games this season; Boston has won 45.3 percent. But, as Cherington alluded to, the Red Sox do have the talent to play better. Compared to their preseason (per-plate appearance) ZiPS and Steamer projections, Boston’s batters have produced 4.7 fewer WAR than would have been expected before the season, and that doesn’t even take into account injuries suffered by Will Middlebrooks, Shane Victorino and Mike Napoli during the season. (Interestingly, all of the Red Sox’s WAR shortfall has come on the position-player side; the team’s pitchers have exceeded expectations by 1.8 WAR.)A study by sabermetrician Phil Birnbaum showed that teams frequently see their players’ performances vary wildly around projections due to chance alone. In Birnbaum’s data, there were 1.5 teams per season from 1960 to 2001 who, through simple bad luck, undershot their “true” talent by the equivalent of 11 wins per 162 games — a hypothesis the FanGraphs numbers are asking us to believe about this Red Sox team. (Note as well that Major League Baseball had 17 percent fewer teams per season over the span of Birnbaum’s data than it has today, so the number of teams falling short because of luck in a 30-team league is even larger than the study’s seasonal average.)Birnbaum’s “luck-adjusted” wins from the previous season track much more closely with a team’s wins in the following season than its actual wins from the previous season, which attests to the value of projections that attempt to filter out random variance. That’s a big reason why FanGraphs’ projections expect Boston to post the seventh-best record in the major leagues from today onward, despite its poor record to date. It’s also why, after adjusting for the Red Sox’s projected talent level (instead of treating future games like coin flips), FanGraphs’ playoff-odds report bumps their postseason probability up to 6.6 percent.It’s always possible that in the roller-coaster world of the Red Sox, last year’s World Series winning squad might be the outlier sandwiched between two terrible seasons. But the best public sabermetric projections available agree with Cherington — this team is much better than its record would have us believe (even if it’s still unlikely to make the playoffs).
The men’s bonus for being named to the final 23-player World Cup roster was $55,000 each; the women earned $15,000 each. Sponsor appearance15.0 Friendly wins$18.9K INCOME SOURCELLOYD/SOLO 2015 EARNINGS NT salary72.0 USSF World Cup victory75.0 Lloyd and Solo: $240,019 eachDempsey: $428,022Howard: $398,495Dempsey is pocketing almost $200,000 more than Lloyd; Howard gets almost $160,000 more than Solo. How can that be? (U.S. Soccer declined to comment for this story.)While the men’s team’s bargaining agreement with U.S. Soccer is confidential, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl discovered some figures before the 2014 World Cup that would account for at least some of the disparity:The men’s shared bonus for qualifying for Brazil totaled $2 million. The women’s total qualifying bonus for Canada was $300,000. The men played 16 qualifying games, whereas the women played only five, but that is still a difference of $125,000 per game vs. $60,000 per game. NWSL salary54.0 In addition to the share of ticket revenues for home friendlies, the men earned $1,500 per game in the three-match send-off series leading up to the World Cup. The women earned $1,350 per game, and only if they won them. The men earned bonus money for every point earned in the World Cup group stage, as well as $5,500 for each group-stage match for which they were rostered. The women earned no such bonuses.The caveat here, of course, is that the women draw a salary for playing on the national team, while the men are only paid by U.S. Soccer for participation in camps, friendlies and tournaments. If the women’s salaries were replaced with the men’s bonus figures for friendlies, players would have earned $109,600 in 2015, nearly $40,000 more than their $72,000 national team salary — and that’s before we include any other bonuses or fees they’d receive for being named to tournament rosters and other non-game events.3The men’s national team did earn a salary from U.S. Soccer for a period of time, because of the lack of a professional domestic league in the United States from 1984 to 1996.While U.S. Soccer is not responsible for FIFA prize money, it’s worth noting that the men’s prize money for losing in the round of 16 amounted to $9 million. The women’s prize money for winning the whole tournament was $2 million. If we distribute these totals evenly across the 23-player rosters, Lloyd’s and Solo’s earnings increase to $326,976 each. Dempsey’s and Howard’s, meanwhile, increase to $819,326 and $789,799, respectively. The 2014 men’s World Cup generated approximately $4.8 billion in revenue for FIFA. Revenue for the 2015 Women’s World Cup have yet to be reported but will certainly be much lower.On top of the specific financial disparities laid out above, the women’s inability to specify what kind of field surface they play on, when such consideration is offered to the men, is surely a sore spot, one that blew up in December when the USWNT boycotted a friendly over concerns about the quality of the artificial turf at Honolulu’s Aloha Stadium.Another footnote in the memo of understanding concerns travel arrangements. The women’s national team is booked to fly economy for the majority of its travel, while the men exclusively fly business class.Granted, the women’s and men’s national teams both collectively agreed to these respective compensation structures — and since the men are neither salaried by the federation nor play in a league owned and operated by the federation, it could be argued that their compensation should be distributed differently than the women. But it is interesting to observe the discrepancies in areas where one would assume they would be equitably compensated. Also, the USWNT players’ complaint to the EEOC could expose the lack of transparency by U.S. Soccer relative to the revenues the women’s national team generates, which may have artificially depressed the players’ market value.The court will decide whether U.S. Soccer’s memo of understanding with the players union is a valid labor agreement at the end of May; dates for potential action on the EEOC complaint have yet to be determined. Regardless of either outcome, it appears that the U.S. women’s national team has a real case regarding the gender pay gap. Negotiations for their next collective bargaining agreement will continue all year, and the likes of Lloyd and Solo intend to leverage their recent success for better treatment by their employers. Olympic qualifying bonus15.0 Ticket revenue22.9 World Cup roster bonus15.0 This is an itemized breakdown of the projected non-salary earnings for Lloyd and Solo in 2015, based on all the data contained in the memo of understanding. When it comes to shared bonus pools, we assume the money is being divided evenly among all players on the roster. However, that may not be true, as there is no language in either the collective bargaining agreement or the memo of understanding that would stipulate even distribution. In fact, based on comments Solo made in her 2013 memoir, veteran players may get a larger share of the bonus pools.Below we compare Lloyd’s and Solo’s estimated 2015 earnings with Dempsey’s and Howard’s earnings for 2014, when the U.S. men’s team lost in the World Cup’s round of 16. The men’s earnings are based on U.S. Soccer’s financial statements for fiscal year 2015 (which ran from April 1, 2014, to March 31, 2015).2Women’s earnings are projected estimates for fiscal year 2016, which ran from April 1, 2015, to March 31, 2016. Subtotal without salaries240.0 The U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup title in 2015 — an achievement never equaled by a U.S. men’s team — but the glory doesn’t come with full benefits. On Wednesday, five women’s team players filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming that the U.S. Soccer federation engaged in wage discrimination by paying the women far less than the men.The complaint, filed by Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan, says the men’s team takes home far more than the women’s team for no discernible reason other than being male. After the filing, the soccer federation issued a statement wherein it highlighted its support for women’s soccer in the United States and across the globe. It did not address the specific allegations of pay discrepancy. The complaint also contains the minutes from a federation meeting in which the budget shows the federation expects the women’s team to produce more revenue than the men’s team in fiscal years 2016 and 2017.Based on our findings — using financial statements released by the soccer federation for fiscal year 2015, along with the USWNT’s collective bargaining agreement and memo of understanding released in court after the federation sued the players union over an earlier negotiating dispute — top men’s players earned almost twice as much as top women’s players from the federation during their respective World Cup years, despite the women’s victory in 2015 and the men’s early knockout elimination in 2014.We compared the differences in how male and female players are compensated by the federation under similar working conditions — namely, preparations for and participation in the 2014 FIFA men’s World Cup in Brazil and the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada. Because not every member of a national team is paid the same, and to properly compare apples to apples, we focused on two similar sets of players from the women’s and men’s national teams — Lloyd and Solo for the women, and Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard for the men. Here, we have two major goalscoring threats and two veteran goalkeepers who played every minute (or, in Dempsey’s case, all but three minutes) of their respective World Cups.The first thing we need to do is set aside the salaries that Lloyd and Solo earn, because USWNT compensation works a little differently than setups across the world. Typically, a club pays a player a salary, and a national federation compensates the player for caps and other appearances. For the USWNT, however, it’s the federation that pays the club salary; the women then draw a second salary for their national play — a departure from the U.S. men. (If you think this arrangement is odd, you’re not wrong. The National Women’s Soccer League is owned and operated by the federation, which pays the club salaries for national team players to offset costs for club owners.)In the case of Lloyd and Solo, this salary totaled $126,000 in 2015 — $72,000 for falling into the “Tier I” salary bracket (reserved for veterans who also were named to the 23-player World Cup roster) and an additional $54,000 for playing in the NWSL.1Should a player wish to play for a club outside the U.S., she forfeits that portion of the salary. In 2015, however, all national team players did play in the NWSL.Now that we have salaries separated out, we can see from the collective bargaining agreement and memo of understanding that the women’s national team is paid in a similar fashion as the men: appearance fees for U.S. Soccer sponsors; bonuses for qualifying for major tournaments (along with bonuses based on tournament finishes); a share of ticket revenues in friendlies played on U.S. soil; and bonuses for winning those friendlies. The USWNT also earned a $1.8 million bonus for the Victory Tour, 10 friendly matches played in the U.S. from August through December of last year. Victory tour bonus78.0 For each friendly, including the send-off series, the men earned between $7,500 and $14,100 per win, based on the FIFA ranking of the opponent. They earned between $5,000 and $6,500 for draws and $4,000 for a loss. The women earned $1,350 for wins, receiving no bonus for draws or losses. Total366.0
Lolo Jones, the track star who lives on Twitter, wishes she did not have a false start on her Tweet to former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand, who was paralyzed on the football field.LeGrand, whose profile does not indicate that he is confined to a wheelchair, apparently jokingly challenged Jones to a race, and that sparked Jones’ response that read: “Get Checked for a concussion. Clearly, you’ve been hit in the head. . . Cos you arnt beating a track athlete. . . ”That’s when Twitter went wild. Soon, Jones realized her gaffe when someone Tweeted to her: “You know he’s a quadrapalegic now?’“No. Dnt know. Sry. Dont know every football player,” Jones replied. “He challenged me to a race and I responded. . . ”Then she Tweeted: “I’m gonna get murdered for that Tweet. When I had no clue who that dude was. Just responding to any athlete who challenges me to a race.”Even later, Jones acknowledged that she was “getting trashed by tons of people.”Give her credit for trying to minimize the damage and not let it just fade away. She sent a statement to Yahoo! Sports that read: “I’m truly sorry if I offended anyone by my tweet. When Eric challenged me to a race earlier all I knew was that he was a football player, but certainly had no idea he had become paralyzed from a football injury. I thought I was tweeting in good fun like I always do with the many athletes who challenge me to races.”LeGrand has been magnanimous, Tweeting: “Sorry for all this crazy stuff being said. Much respect for you” and “this is wild did not know this was going to happen. You have a supporter in me for sure.”Since being paralyzed two years ago, he has stood on his own, led the the Rutgers football team onto the field for a game in 2011, been given the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPYs, vowed to walk again and been an quite a brave and inspiring man.You can bet Jones will do a little more research when tempted with an aggressive response. Or, at least, that’s the hope.
The narrative that analytics poseurs are doing inferior jobs in front offices compared to ex-players and coaches who really know how to evaluate talent has made its way to the NBA.Last month, ESPN columnist Chris Broussard wrote a piece examining recent trends in the hiring of NBA general managers. Broussard questioned whether “stats guys” were advancing in front offices at the expense of “basketball lifers.” He quoted two anonymous NBA executives who expressed the idea that analytics is taking too large a role in front offices and that “analytics guys” who haven’t played or coached don’t really understand the game.But the data on performance by NBA general managers over the last 20 seasons suggests that stats-oriented GMs aren’t any worse than regular GMs. They actually may be a bit better.One of the anonymous executives in Broussard’s article compared the new breed of analytics hires to amateur stock-pickers, whereas to this executive’s mind ex-players were gimlet-eyed veteran portfolio-managers. The other executive said, per Broussard:“Most of them have zero basketball education because they have never played or participated in the sport; they have only observed the sport. To sum it up: Basketball guys are highly offended that uneducated [in a basketball sense] analytics guys are masquerading as basketball guys but haven’t been taught, trained or educated by any basketball professors or gone to any basketball classes.”It’s not accurate to characterize all analytics-focused GM hires as uneducated in traditional basketball. Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors, Ryan McDonough of the Phoenix Suns and Rob Hennigan of the Orlando Magic are all young GMs who rely on analytics. They also spent years inside NBA organizations working as scouts and talent evaluators. Their credentials are legitimate. But if we play along with the false dichotomy of “basketball guys” versus stats analysts, we should expect general managers who played or coached in the NBA to have better results than those who come from backgrounds as scouts or agents.On one point at least, the narrative is right: Of the 23 general managers NBA teams have hired in the last four off-seasons, 18 neither played nor coached in the NBA.1Masai Ujiri was hired twice in that time period by Denver in 2010 and then Toronto in 2013. That’s very different from how it used to be: In the 15 years prior, non-coaches and non-players comprised only 33 of the 81 GM hires. The chart below shows a clear trend toward nontraditional GM candidates:Once they’re hired, GMs still have to perform. The most basic criterion by which to judge GMs is their tenure with a team. While some owners have more patience than others, GMs generally need to put winning teams on the court to remain employed. If ex-player GMs were much better than former scouts or agents, we would expect them to be employed for longer stints. Instead we see this:This is a Kaplan-Meier survival plot, an illustration of what share of a population survives at a given time, and it shows that GMs who were former players or coaches tend to have slightly shorter tenures than GMs who were neither. Note, however, that the difference, as measured by a Cox Proportional Hazards model, is not significant.But employment status is merely a reflection of a GM’s success, or lack thereof, in producing a winning team. We can also measure GMs by what their teams do on the court. GMs who never played in the NBA are slightly worse in improving winning percentage, but they inherit better teams.2I used the team’s winning percentage at the end of a GM’s third season to allow time for rebuilding. (It’s harder to add five wins to a playoff team than it is to a lottery team.) GMs who were players or coaches have inherited teams with an average winning percentage of .410; GMs who are outsiders started working for teams with a .490 winning percentage. That partly explains why in the third year of their tenures, basketball lifers had increased their teams’ winning percentages by 5.7 percent on average, as opposed to 2 percent for outsiders. But that difference is not statistically significant, and more outsiders’ teams made the playoffs (63 percent vs. 48 percent).Good GMs and bad GMs come from all different backgrounds. For every Jerry West or Danny Ainge, there’s an Elgin Baylor or M.L. Carr. Seven of the last 18 NBA championships were won by teams whose decision-makers neither played nor coached in the NBA.3Exactly who those seven were: That’s almost exactly in line with the 42 percent of team seasons those non-players have overseen in that time period.Of course, none of the scouts who’ve won NBA titles as GMs would be described as dilettantes masquerading as having advanced degrees in the game of basketball. The war between old-school basketball guys and new-school analytics guys in front offices is largely a fiction, a product of a shift in the way general managers are being hired in the league.While it is too early to assess the tenures of Hennigan, McDonough and other young GMs, and indeed too early to assess the full impact of advanced metrics on the NBA, it is clear that, on average, former NBA players do not have some magical insight that makes them better GMs.
New Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer’s staff continued to take shape Thursday as the addition of Temple University wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator Zach Smith was announced. Smith, who spent five years coaching under Meyer at Florida as a quality control assistant and a graduate assistant from 2005-2009, comes to OSU after helping lead the Owls to a 9-4 record in 2011 and a 35-17 win against Wyoming in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 17. Smith oversaw a receiving unit that compiled 1,648 yards this past year. Two members of Temple’s special teams unit — junior punter Brandon McNamus and junior running back Matt Brown — received All-Mid-American Conference honors in 2011. “Zach has done a terrific job as wide receivers coach at…Temple,” Meyer said in a press release. “I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to work with him again. Ohio State is going to benefit from his coaching and his abilities as a recruiter.” A Dublin, Ohio, native and grandson of former Buckeyes coach Earle Bruce, Smith also served as wide receivers and special teams coach at Marshall during the 2010 season. “It is really, really a dream come true,” Smith said in a press release. “I grew up watching Ohio State, my grandfather coached here and I always dreamt of doing it, too. Plus, I have an opportunity to work with coach Meyer again. I was able to spend five years on his staff at Florida, and now working with him again is another dream come true for me.” Current OSU head coach Luke Fickell and his staff will remain in their positions through the Buckeyes’ Jan. 2 appearance in the 2012 Gator Bowl against Florida. Meyer’s staff will take over after.
INDIANAPOLIS — Aaron Craft doesn’t get beat often. The Ohio State sophomore guard and Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Ten has earned a reputation for stifling whoever he’s guarding. But when the Buckeyes traveled to Ann Arbor to take on Michigan Feb. 18, Wolverine freshman guard and Big Ten co-Freshman of the Year Trey Burke scored Michigan’s final two buckets. The last one, which came with 11 seconds remaining on a drive to the basket that Craft couldn’t cope with, sealed the Michigan win. Craft’s teammate, sophomore forward Jared Sullinger said OSU’s point guard took the Michigan loss personally. It showed Saturday as the Buckeyes thrashed Michigan, 77-55, in a Big Ten Tournament semifinal game. Third-seeded OSU advances to play top-seeded Michigan State in Sunday’s championship game. Burke was held to just five points on 1-of-11 shooting and committed a career-high eight turnovers. Craft was draped all over the Michigan freshman for most of the afternoon. He drew a charge on a fast break in the first half, continually poked the ball away, and harassed Burke, who was coming off a 30-point performance against Minnesota, all night. “I think you’ve got to give Craft some credit,” said Michigan senior guard Zack Novak. “His on-ball defense was pretty good today.” Craft wasn’t so eager to take the praise though. “Stopping a great player like (Burke) especially with how he was feeling in the game yesterday, it was definitely a team effort tonight,” Craft said. “Just trying not to make it about me against him because that’s not what it’s about.” But Sullinger said Craft’s defensive performance was special. The Buckeyes’ big man and Burke both went to Northland High School and have been playing with each other since grade school. In all of that time, Sullinger said Burke was never as bothered as he was Saturday. “Never,” Sullinger said. “I’ve never seen him that frustrated. I’ve never seen him have this many turnovers. I’ve never seen him shoot this poorly. I’ve never seen that happen and I think Craft frustrated him. You got to give most of the credit to Craft.” Burke wasn’t the only Wolverine to struggle either. As a team, the Wolverines shot just 31 percent from the field, and their 55-point output was more than 11 points below their season average. After the game, the Buckeyes were adamant that the defense was a complete team effort. “Team defense is the biggest thing,” Sullinger said. “Whoever has the best defense that night is going to win the game. We could care less about offense. As long as we keep defending our butts off on the defensive end, we’re fine.” Sophomore guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. said that team defense mentality was apparent. He said his defense on sophomore guard Tim Hardaway Jr. who is Michigan’s second-leading scorer, allowed Craft to avoid helping off of Burke, and the Buckeye big men hedging off of screens eliminated the penetration into the key. “My team came to me before the game started and they said it was going to start with me and I had a big job to do and I had to stop Tim Hardaway,” Smith Jr. said. “I pretty much got off to that in an early start and that helps Aaron. He doesn’t have to help off of his guy as much, which frustrated Trey Burke today. It made him have to force a lot.” Hardaway Jr. made just three of 10 shots from the floor and totaled 13 points. OSU coach Thad Matta agreed with Smith Jr. “This game was definitely was about our defense. We had great activity on the ball and off the ball,” Matta said. “I thought we had great communication challenging shots.” And when OSU defends like that, Michigan coach John Beilein said OSU is as good of a team as he’s ever seen. “I’ve seen some really good teams, this being I think my 20th year as a Division I coach, and played some really good games,” Beilein said. “That’s as good of a game as I’ve ever seen a college team play. Talking about Ohio obviously.” The championship game between OSU and MSU tips at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
LOS ANGELES – Don’t tell Ohio State its opponent in the Elite 8 is a No. 9 seed, the lowest seed to reach the NCAA Tournament’s quarterfinal round since Virginia Commonwealth University did it two years ago as a No. 11. Don’t tell the No. 2-seeded Buckeyes the Shockers of Wichita State are a mid-major, with a roster full of lowly heralded recruits, none of which likely have a future in the NBA. And don’t tell OSU a second-consecutive berth in the Final Four is all but assured, or that its 11-game winning streak will most definitely reach 12. The Buckeyes, following a 73-70 win against No. 6 seed Arizona Thursday, and Wichita State, after a 72-58 defeat of No. 13 La Salle, will meet at the Staples Center in Los Angeles Saturday at 7:05 p.m. Thad Matta’s squad is the clear favorite heading into its bash against Gregg Marshall’s start-ups with a spot in Atlanta on the line. But OSU’s players aren’t thinking like that. “I think we’re not going to overlook anybody at this point. The fact that they’re in the Elite 8 just means that they’re a really great team,” said sophomore guard Shannon Scott. “Even though they don’t come from a great conference, or what their seed is in the tournament, they’re a great team.” The Shockers knocked off No. 8 seed Pittsburgh in their opening bout before upending No. 1 seed Gonzaga, 76-70, in the tournament’s third round. At this point, Wichita State likely isn’t going to sneak up on anybody, certainly not the Buckeyes. “They definitely, like I said, deserve to be here. They’ve played really good basketball, outplayed everyone they’ve played so far,” said junior guard Aaron Craft. Don’t call Wichita State a “Cinderella,” either. The Shockers have won 25, 29, 27 and now 29 games over the last four seasons. “They’re a great team. They have a lot of talent,” said sophomore forward Sam Thompson. “They’re playing their best basketball of the season just like we’re playing our best basketball of the season.” The players that make up Wichita State’s roster might not have been McDonald’s All-Americans or top-100 players coming into college, but to Matta, high recruiting rankings don’t always translate into success on the hardwood. “I’ve had the privilege of coaching two national players of the year, and neither one of them were top 75 high school players out of high school,” Matta said, speaking of former Xavier star David West and former Buckeye All-American Evan Turner. There’s parity in college basketball right now, according to Matta, meaning the so-called “mid-majors” can at times be just as talented as the apparent “elites.” “As I go out recruiting every year, I can’t tell the difference between the 20th player and the 120th player in the country,” Matta said. “That doesn’t mean a whole lot to me in terms of your ranking of the recruiting class and all that stuff.” On the court, the Shockers like to get out and run, and play a style not consistently seen by OSU in Big Ten play. “They’re extremely deep,” Matta said. “They’ve got guys that can do a lot of things from shooting the ball to driving the ball. They’re sound in terms of-very sound in terms of their execution.” Wichita State (29-8) is led by two 6-foot-8 forwards, Cleanthony Early, a junior averaging 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, and Carl Hall, a senior averaging 12.7 points and seven rebounds a contest. Senior guard Malcolm Armstead, though, has been his team’s go-to player so far in the tournament, dropping 48 points through three games. OSU (29-7) got off to a slow start in its Sweet 16 game against Arizona, falling into a double-digit deficit midway through the opening half. Getting out to a quick start against the Shockers could be paramount for the Buckeyes. “We really have to come ready to play from the jump. I feel like yesterday we came out kind of slow, timid, but then after coach talked to us a bit, we really got going,” Scott said. The end of games, however, is where OSU has made its mark in the tournament. A 3-pointer by Craft with 0.5 seconds left against Iowa State sent the Buckeyes into the Sweet 16 and a 3-pointer from Ross against Arizona with two seconds left catapulted OSU into the Elite 8. It’s surprised some that it wasn’t junior forward Deshaun Thomas, the Big Ten’s leading scorer, hitting those buzzer beaters. OSU’s players haven’t been shocked by it, though. “We have a lot of confidence in a lot of guys on the team,” Craft said. “I have confidence in a lot of guys to take that shot. So last week it happened to be me, yesterday it happened to be LaQuinton, it could be someone else tomorrow.” It’s still Thomas out of all the Buckeyes that concerns Marshall the most. “He’s a bad-shot taker and a bad-shot maker,” Marshall said, noting that the statement was a compliment. And it was Thomas, in opposition from his teammates and coaches, who was the one pointing out what no one Friday seemed to: that OSU is the favorite, and Wichita State the heavy underdog. “They’ve got nothing to lose,” the junior forward said. And if OSU is everyone’s pick to advance, is there a pressure to not be the one that lets the low seed continue to dance? “I don’t think that’s really important to us,” Ross said. “We don’t want to get knocked off by anybody-Syracuse, Louisville, Indiana, Michigan, any of those teams-so we’re taking Wichita State like it’s a Big Ten game or any other game.” If that’s the case, OSU should fare well tomorrow. The Buckeyes haven’t lost “any” game since Feb. 17 and hold the nation’s longest current winning streak. A win against the Shockers would put OSU in its third Final Four since 2007.
Ohio State fans wait for the Buckeyes to arrive at Ross-Ade Stadium for the game against Purdue on Oct. 20. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes faced off against Purdue on Oct. 20 in Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. The Buckeyes lost 49-20, making their overall record 7-1. Photos by Casey Cascaldo.
Away from the storms Friday will be a relatively cool and fresh day for most of the country with some sunshine.London is expected to see a high of 21C (70F), Cardiff 18C (64F) and Manchester, Glasgow and Belfast 17C (63F).Saturday and Sunday are expected to be similarly fresh, although a weather front will bring rain for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales on Sunday. Waking up at 8:30 and finding out school is flooded is the best news— Henry Mason (@HenryM150699) September 16, 2016 11:19AMMan stuck in flood water Severe delays due to train collision and derailment at Waford. On way to Jo’s funeral #hopewegetthere— Steph McCahill (@smccahill) September 16, 2016 The landslip near Watford Junction stationCredit:PA A spokesman for London Midland said: “There is a train derailment at Watford Junction – it is the 6.19 service from Milton Keynes to London Euston.”It happened near the tunnels at Watford Junction station.”He said that because of where the incident happened, there will be disruption to services in and out of London Euston for at least most of the morning.Flash flooding hits south-eastIt comes after flash flooding hit parts of the south-east as thunderstorms washed away the recent heatwave, dumping almost half a month’s rain in a few hours. Some pictures of the light show overnight: Another train travelling in the opposite direction “gave a glancing blow” to the derailed train, Network Rail said.The incident caused major delays to services in and out of London Euston. Flooding in Maidenhead High Street after downpours hit parts of the South EastCredit:Dan Monroe/PA Wire “The showers and thunderstorms are going to carry on for quite some time moving slowly north and eastwards, remaining around London through the morning and all afternoon in East Anglia.”They will eventually clear off to the east, but it will be cool behind them. While it won’t be any colder than average it is going to feel a lot cooler than it has been.” 12:07PMPeople should remain vigilant Morning rush hour traffic makes its way along the M25 in heavy rainCredit:Peter Macdiarmid/LNP 9:29AMDriver ‘reported hitting something’ @VirginTrains my sisters funeral is in Streatham London at 12.15. There’s no way I will make it.— Steph McCahill (@smccahill) September 16, 2016 It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old Bill are warning: #thunderstorms, standing water, slippery roads, more rain. #DriveSmart y’all! ☔🌂🌧🌊— Surrey Police (@SurreyPolice) September 16, 2016 A yellow warning of rain is in place for much of England during Friday, rising to amber along a narrow corridor west of London where “exceptionally heavy, thundery rain” accompanied by hail is expected.Lightning strike near WokingSurrey Fire and Rescue Service said it had been called to reports of a house struck by lightning near Woking, while crews worked to pump water out of flooded premises across the county. Met Office meteorologist Martin Combe said 32.8mm of rain had fallen in just three hours in Farnborough, Hampshire – nearly half the 70mm average for September.He said: “The storms are quite slow moving so it means the amounts are starting to build up over time, so we may get higher figures and localised flooding. A train has derailed near Watford Junction station after striking a landslip caused by torrential rain, Network Rail said.A man was treated for a neck injury and a woman treated for chest pains after the 6.19 London Midland service from Milton Keynes to London Euston came off the track at around 7am. Transport for London said two Tube stations in west London were closed due to flooding, while there were reports of disruption on the M4.Fire chiefs advised motorists to avoid driving through flooded roads and turn around as pictures emerged of Maidenhead High Street resembling a swimming pool. Slow start to the day today on the train from Hemel! Still in the tunnel waiting to be evacuated pic.twitter.com/uIRXzjHxby— james campbell (@dessertdoctor) September 16, 2016 11:18AMLightning strikes Flooding at Didcot Parkway StationCredit:Michael D O’Shea/PA A spectacular lightning storm just north of WinchesterCredit: IslandVisions/BNPS Initially, all four lines of the West Cost main line were closed at the scene, but two were reopened at around 8am.Mr Frobisher added: “Our priority is to fully reopen the railway as soon as it is safe to do so. A full investigation into what happened will take place.”British Transport Police said officers were called to reports of a landslide at the Hunton Bridge Tunnel near Watford. They are working with fire and ambulance services at the scene. Campus junction in wgc town centre flooded again pic.twitter.com/p0qsZABL4Q— Terry Mitchinson (@EditorMitch) September 16, 2016 9:32AMTrains were ‘kissing each other’ Environment Agency flood risk manager Jonathan Day said they have teams out clearing river and stream grates of debris and will issue flood warnings and alerts where necessary.”Further rainfall is expected on Friday afternoon. This may cause some localised disruption to transport and impacts to property from surface water flooding,” he said.”Showers could also develop on Saturday afternoon in the far south east of England. People should remain vigilant and check travel arrangements as this could fall across areas already affected by Friday morning’s downpours.”Mr Day urged people “not to drive through flood water”, saying it is “often deeper than it looks and just 30cm of flowing water is enough to float your car”. Energy provider SSE said 1,273 homes across Basingstoke, Newbury, Reading and Bournemouth were left without power as a result of lightning. “Engineers are on site and train services are now running through the area but it will be some time before a normal timetable resumes,” he said. 10:50AMPassenger set to miss sister’s funeral 1609 Weather D Surrey Fire and Rescue Service said it had been called to rescue a man from a car stuck in flood water under a railway bridge on Portsmouth Road in Godalming at around 6.40am.They also attended a fire caused by lightning that struck a row of six garages on Beechwood Road in Knaphill at around 9.30am. Two motorbikes were damaged, and no-one was hurt in the blaze. There were reports of roads and properties being inundated across Surrey, Hampshire, Hertfordshire and Greater London as a band of torrential rain moved in from the Channel overnight, prompting the Environment Agency to issue a series of flood warnings.The weather front is due to send temperatures tumbling ahead of the weekend, just days after parts of the country baked in 34C (93F) heat. Virgin passenger Steph McCahill has been tweeting about her miserable experience trying to get to her sister Jo’s funeral in Streatham, south London: 9:59AMPassengers still in the tunnel 12:23PMDramatic footage of the storms Lightning strikes light up the skies over NewcastleCredit:Alan Wallace/North News There has been an incident at Watford Junction this morning. The extent of delays is not confirmed. So sorry for the delays all— London Midland (@LondonMidland) September 16, 2016 9:24AMBritons wake up to flooding British Transport Police said officers were working with fire and ambulance services at the scene.Passengers were advised to check http://www.nationalrail.co.uk for the latest updates on services.Francis Thomas from London Midland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the driver of the train “reported hitting something” which caused the train to derail.”This is the busiest piece of railway that carries freight and passengers in the whole of Europe, it affects anything that goes to the West Midlands, to the North West and Scotland – all train services have been affected this morning, it will take quite a long time to get the service recovered,” he added.”We have got extra staff on site assisting those passengers (on the train) and that is our focus – to look after those passengers, make sure they are all right and get them to their final destinations.”Mr Thomas said trains go in and out of London Euston every 90 seconds, and that he expects “there will be disruption until lunchtime, and possibly longer”. Martin Frobisher, route managing director for Network Rail, said a train hit a landslip caused by torrential rain, resulting in a small section of the train leaving the tracks a few miles north of Watford.The train remained upright and there are no reported passenger injuries, he added. @EastHerts Also outside Hert N station. It’s flooded. AGAIN! Dangerous for pedestrians & motorists. PLEASE sort it. pic.twitter.com/aliSyNYdgI— Karen Brinklow (@Precipus) September 16, 2016 Train has now terminated at Rugby. We’re not going to make the funeral. It’s pretty miserable.— Steph McCahill (@smccahill) September 16, 2016 Radio reporter Sarah Lowther, who was on the derailed train, said two trains were “kissing each other” in a tunnel.She spoke of a “Dunkirk spirit” on board as passengers helped one another, but said she was “worried” about the driver, who had a bad back after the crash.Speaking to Morning Money radio, she said: “The trees were taken down from the side of the rail line last year. Trees have roots, roots hold the mud … The mud had nothing to cling on to.”It was the first time I’ve actually flown on a train; when we came off the tracks I assumed the brace position.”Everyone is looking after each other with water and sugar but we’re worried about our driver.”A pregnant woman was on board who emergency services were trying to remove from the train, she added.Ms Lowther got on the train at 6.47am at Berkhamsted, which was hit by an “oncoming” train at 7.01am. 11:19AMHomes without power The train which his a landslide near Watford – taken by one of the passengersCredit:Adam Gray/SWNS.com
The Harry Potter film, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson He added: “It’s a horrible thing to happen and I’m just hoping for its safe return.“The real worry is that the thieves won’t realise what it is.“It’s a hard item to sell, especially as there is lots of awareness now.“But they stole some jewellery too and I’m scared they won’t realise what the card is, focus on the jewellery, and throw it away. “That unique piece of work could just be destroyed.” He has previously told how he has only read one Harry Potter book, adding that he bought the charity story “mostly to help raise money for people less fortunate, so that the money could go to good projects”. The prequel was written in 2008, during Potter-mania They are confronted by two “muggle” policemen after a high-speed motorbike chase but manage to escape on broomsticks.The story itself was later printed in a run of 10,000 copies which were sold in bookshops.In 2008, the Telegraph reported on how it became the “fastest-selling short story of all time when the entire print run was snapped up in a single day”.Anyone who knows the whereabouts of the postcard, or who has information about the break-in, is urged to contact West Midlands Police. The postcard, photographed in 2008 JK RowlingCredit:Lefteris Pitarakis Pc Paul Jauncey, investigating officer, said: “The only people who will buy this unique piece are true Harry Potter fans.”We are appealing to anyone who sees, or is offered this item for sale, to contact police.”Rowling shared the message with her 10 million Twitter followers, adding: “PLEASE DON’T BUY THIS IF YOU’RE OFFERED IT. Originally auctioned for @englishpen, the owner supported writers’ freedoms by bidding for it.” Its owner, who bought the story at a 2008 auction in aid of English PEN, was in Bangkok when he received a phone call from his sister to say there had been a break-in.Thieves stole three safes stored at the house, which contained jewellery with links to his late father and the ordinary-looking A5 postcard containing a story by JK Rowling.The businessman, who wished only to be known by his first name of Hira, said he believed the “horrible” crime was opportunistic, fearing the people who stole it would just throw it away. “I’m not a huge Harry Potter fan,” he admitted. “But I took good care of it. The card never came out of the box. “It’s shocking for this to happen.”Sold for £25,000 at the time, the postcard is now thought to be worth up to £60,000. West Midlands Police have appealed for information about the theft, which happened between April 13 and 24, in the hope that “the appeal goes far and wide among Harry Potter fans throughout the world.” Speaking from his Birmingham home, the 47-year-old owner, who runs an investment banking consultancy, said: “It’s a bit of a shock and it took a little while for it to settle in.“I was away on business in Bangkok with Steven Seagal when the house was broken into. “I had a phone call from my sister and that was it. I knew the safes had been taken.“They pulled out three safes and one of them had the prequel inside. I’m not sure if it was targeted to take the story. It seems more opportunistic.“It’s a one off item and I had responsibility for it.” At the time, he described how he felt he had snapped up a “bargain”.A representative of Steven Seagal has not yet responded to a request for comment. The story itself is set three years before Harry Potter’s birth, and features the schoolboy wizard’s father, James Potter, and godfather, Sirius Black, when they were teenagers. A unique handwritten Harry Potter story, bought at a charity auction for £25,000, has been stolen in a burglary, amid fears thieves will dispose of it without realising its worth.The 800-word prequel, written on a postcard by JK Rowling to raise money for charity, was taken along with jewellery from a safe in a house in Birmingham while its owner claims to have been away on a Bangkok business trip with Steven Seagal.Rowling herself has issued a plea to Harry Potter fans not to buy the work, which is the only handwritten copy in existence. PLEASE DON’T BUY THIS IF YOU’RE OFFERED IT. Originally auctioned for @englishpen, the owner supported writers’ freedoms by bidding for it. https://t.co/ljEQyyj9yY— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) May 12, 2017 It is one of series of spin-offs following the main seven Harry Potter novels, including West End play The Cursed Child 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.