Former NFL Star Darren Sharper Pleads Not Guilty In

Darren Sharper, a former safety in the NFL, pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he drugged and raped two women he met at a West Hollywood night club, while the emergence of a new accuser in Florida left him under investigation in five states.Lawyers for Sharper, who played in the NFL from 1997 to 2010 primarily with the Green Bay Packers, said they would prove that any sexual contact Sharper engaged in was welcomed.”All of these were consensual contact between Mr. Sharper and women who wanted to be in his company,” said attorney Leonard Levine.But a prosecutor pointed out the many investigations against Sharper in places including Tucson, Ariz.; Las Vegas and New Orleans, and asked a judge for $10 million bail.The judge rejected that as excessive, though increased it from $200,000 to $1 million.”The court considers these crimes quite serious and has to protect the public,” Superior Court Judge Renee Korn said.Sharper, wearing a gray suit and black T-shirt, showed up  to court with his lawyers and a bail bondsman who immediately arranged to post his bail.The judge ordered Sharper to remain in Los Angeles, stay away from nightclubs and not be alone with any woman he did not know before October, when the first allegations emerged.The judge set a court date for April 15 to schedule a preliminary hearing. Korn rejected a bid by defense attorney Blair Berk to shut down the release of information in the case.”We’re asking to litigate this in a court of law, not by Twitter feed and entertainment shows,” said Berk.The latest allegations surfaced in a Miami Beach police report released Thursday. It was filed Jan. 19 – more than a year after the alleged attack. No charges have been filed but Detective Vivian Hernandez said the investigation remains open.The report states that the accuser and two friends went to a club in the fall of 2012 and met Sharper and another man. All five left the club at approximately 4 a.m. and Sharper drove them all to his condo. The victim admitted to being extremely intoxicated.The victims’ two friends told her the next day that she went into a bedroom with Sharper and he closed the door behind them. The friends said they heard her telling Sharper ”No, no. Stop, I don’t want to.” They began knocking on the door, entered the room and attempted to take the victim home. The victim can’t remember what she said except that she wanted to sleep.The victim said she awoke around 9 a.m. to find her pants off and Sharper having sex with her. She said she asked ”what’s going on” and Sharper got up and put on a pair of shorts. Sharper told her they didn’t have sex. He then walked her to her car in a parking garage.The victim said she went to be examined a week later. She made the police report after a friend saw that Sharper was arrested for sexual battery.If convicted in the California case, Sharper could face more than 30 years in state prison.Sharper was selected All-Pro six times and chosen for the Pro Bowl five times. He played in two Super Bowls, one with the Packers as a rookie and a second with the Saints. read more

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With 300 Million In Play Floyd Mayweather Is Right

No bag can hold the money Floyd Mayweather will make in two weeksWhen you consider the almost incomprehensible financial windfall for this one fight, Floyd Mayweather is right: He and Manny Pacquiao are facing off at the right time. That’s what the money says, and money talks.Five or six years ago, when they were likely at the peak of their physical powers, a Mayweather-Pacquiao bout might have produced a more technically sound fight than what we will see in a fortnight. But they would not have earned the money they stand to gain from this fight.For example, on Monday, according to the The New York Times, promoter Bob Arum will transfer into a Pacquiao bank account $50 million. That’s a down payment, minus the IRS’ 30 percent cut.Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Productions, would not share specifics about his boss’ pay. But he said, “I will tell you this. Floyd Mayweather’s check will be a lot more than $50 million. And then it goes from there.”According to the contract, Mayweather is to receive 60 percent of the revenues to Pacquiao’s 40 percent. When all the pennies are calculated, both men will make more than $100 million, win or lose, which almost means no one loses. It will rank as the highest grossing fight in history, by double.That would not have happened six years ago. But the boxing public is so thirsty now, as the sport struggles with an identity, for star power, that the meeting of the two biggest names in the game is the uber fight of recent times.“This is a unique situation, the confluence of time and event — the two biggest fighters in the world coming together,” Ken Hershman, the president of HBO Sports, said to The Times.Ironically and significantly, the fight began to take shape after Mayweather and Pacquiao ran into each other at a Miami Heat NBA game in January. Mayweather set up another meeting the next day at his hotel and the richest fight in history was on.“We’re both bigger names than we were five, six years ago,” Mayweather said at his gym in Las Vegas on Tuesday. “We’re meeting at the pinnacle of our careers. The time is right.”Mayweather made about $105 million in two fights last year, bolting him to the world’s highest paid athlete status. To keep all the money straight for this fight, The Times reported, rivals HBO (Pacquiao) and Showtime (Mayweather) are co-producing and co-distributing the pay-per-view event in a rare agreement. They have created a central accounting system.“They distribute the revenue in accordance with the contracts of the two fighters, so that there is no side money,” Arum said. “We felt that this was the most reasonable way to go. It’s the way we’ve done it to prevent the accusations that we usually get, that this promoter is stealing from that promoter.”All revenue from the fight — the foreign broadcast rights, closed-circuit income from bars and theaters, ticket sales, sponsorships, merchandise sales and so on — goes into the pot. That will be about $130 million.A pay-per-view audience of three million at $89.98 would generate an estimated $270 million. Under the deal, according to The Times, cable companies and satellite providers will receive 30 percent to 40 percent of gross pay-per-view revenues, depending on the level of marketing each does.When the revenue is combined, the two fighters could divide around $300 million for a 12-round fight that will take less than an hour.“The demand is what’s driving the revenue,” Ellerbe said.There are more financial dynamics, but you get the point: A lot of money will be generated through this fight, money levels they would never have reached if they had fought six years ago.See why Mayweather says the timing is right? read more

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Are The Warriors Ruining Basketball

VIDEO: How the Cavs can push back in Game 3 Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Jun. 6, 2017), we discuss the Nashville Predators’ win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. That series is now tied 2-2. Next, the Golden State Warriors are running roughshod over the Cleveland Cavaliers, which has some complaining that the NBA’s competitive balance is out of whack. We dig into league commissioner Adam Silver’s latest remarks on the matter and discuss whether the rise of the Warriors is a good thing or a bad thing for the NBA. Plus, a significant digit on an untethered ascent of El Capitan.Check out the following links to the topics we discussed.Pekka Rinne had a great Game 4 to help the Predators even things up.FiveThirtyEight’s NBA predictions say that the likelihood of the Warriors winning the series is 97 percent.In an interview with ESPN’s Mike and Mike, NBA commissioner Adam Silver fought back against claims that the Warriors have disrupted the league’s competitive balance.FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring and Kyle Wagner teamed up to break down Steph Curry’s return to form in this year’s NBA finals.Deadspin’s Albert Burneko writes that despite last year’s Cavaliers’ comeback, a Warriors victory feels inevitable this year.Is the superteam era ruining the NBA? Sports Illustrated’s Lee Jenkins investigates.Significant Digit: 3,300, the number of feet that Alex Honnold climbed on his route up El Capitan, the famous climbing wall inside Yosemite National Park. He did it all without a rope. Honnold has become the first free solo climber to scale the route. read more

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LeBrons Legend Didnt Need Reinforcing But He Did It Anyway

LeBron doesn’t go quietlyMost points per game in NBA history when facing elimination* RkPlayerGamesPoints/G 3Kyrie Irving531.2 2Michael Jordan1331.3 1LeBron James2234.1 There’s a reason why James has made seven consecutive NBA Finals, with an eighth appearance potentially awaiting the result of Sunday’s Game 7.1The only players in NBA history who made more Finals than that in a row are all Red Auerbach-era Celtics: Bill Russell (10), Tommy Heinsohn (9) and Sam Jones (9), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He makes life extraordinarily hard for opponents when they’re trying to close out his teams. Even after seeming to run out of gas late in Game 5, James showed few signs of fatigue on Friday, logging 46 minutes and saving some of his best plays for the fourth quarter (even after pulling up limping with an apparent ankle injury at one point).James got a little bit of help, in the form of George Hill (20 points on 58 percent shooting) and a bench that outscored Boston’s reserves 36-23, even as three of Cleveland’s other starters — Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and JR Smith — combined for only seven total points. (Love exited with a concussion just five minutes into the game, and is questionable to play on Sunday.) But down the stretch, it was all LeBron: He had an astonishing usage rate of 48.8 percent in the fourth quarter. Although James carrying an undermanned squad to the Finals is nothing new, watching it play out in real time seldom ceases to amaze.Meanwhile, the Celtics dug a hole for themselves on the scoreboard in the second quarter, following a nice start powered by an aggressive Jaylen Brown. They eventually mounted a late charge — but one that could never quite overcome LeBron’s heroics. After a star-making 24-point performance in Game 5, Jayson Tatum played more like a rookie in Game 6, and Boston’s usually staunch defense allowed an astronomical 120.3 points per 100 possessions during the second half. Even granting that Boston’s defense tends to be much, much worse on the road than at home, Brad Stevens has some things to iron out ahead of Game 7.Either way, Friday’s result helped extend one of the oddest series in playoff history, in terms of home-road splits. Between Cleveland and Boston, the home team has won each of the first six games in this East final, by an average margin of 16.7 points per contest. I know home-court advantage means a lot in the NBA playoffs… but this has been ridiculous. Since the postseason expanded to 16 teams in 1984, only one other seven-game series saw the home team win each game by a bigger margin: The 2008 clash between the Spurs and (New Orleans) Hornets, where the home team won the first six games by an average of 18.2 points.In that series, the Spurs broke the stalemate with a road victory in Game 7, so we’ll see if LeBron and the Cavs can overcome the Celtics’ home court magic to do the same. All that hinges on that outcome is an entire era of NBA history, LeBron’s future in Cleveland, one of the great playoff home-court performances ever and a potential passing of the torch to the next generation of Eastern Conference stars. (You know — no big deal.) And given the way this series has played out so far, nothing on Sunday should come as a surprise to us, no matter who comes out on top.Check out our latest NBA predictions. When you’re already arguably the greatest player in NBA history, it’s tough to find new ways to add to your legend — but LeBron James somehow managed that feat Friday night, as his Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics 109-99 to force a seventh game in the Eastern Conference finals. In a do-or-die contest, all James did was score 46 points, snag 11 boards and hand out 9 assists, padding his numbers as the NBA’s all-time postseason leader in points per game when facing elimination (according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group): 4Wilt Chamberlain2331.1 * Among players with a minimum of five such gamesSource: ESPN Stats & Information read more

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How Much Is Winning the NBA Draft Lottery Really Worth

The rags-to-riches tale is a cultural archetype, but so is its reverse: the reminder to be careful what you wish for. Social science journals are full of cases of sweepstakes winners who wound up no happier in the end. Sometimes winning the lottery doesn’t work out so well for NBA teams, either.The Portland Trail Blazers weren’t blessed by winning the prize of the first draft pick in 2007 and choosing Greg Oden. The Washington Wizards won the lottery and took Kwame Brown in 2001; had they stayed in their expected position, they might have gotten Pau Gasol instead.1The Wizards had the third-worst record in the league the prior season; Gasol went third in the draft.That’s not to say that the 13 NBA teams2There are 14 picks in the lottery; however, the New York Knicks have traded their pick to the Denver Nuggets, who also have a draft choice of their own. that will vie for the first pick in Tuesday night’s draft lottery would be better off losing out. Drafting in the NBA isn’t quite as unpredictable as it is in the NFL. The first pick, in particular, produces a high rate of return. But the impact of winning the draft lottery is not quite as impressive as you might assume.It’s tempting to go through something like the following thought process: The league’s superstar players, like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, are worth perhaps worth $40 million per season or more. Imagine having the chance to employ the next LeBron for a decade. That’s a $400-million player up for grabs based on the bounce of a few ping-pong balls!Things rarely work out so smoothly, however, and there are three gigantic problems with this analysis. First, drafting is an imperfect science: Durant, for example, was the second pick in 2007, behind Oden.3Obligatory Sam Bowie/Michael Jordan reference. Second, even if a player produces a lot of value, you’re still going to pay him something. Third, the player may not stay around long enough to win his team a title: Instead, teams are guaranteed control of their first-round picks for only five years.The difference between the Milwaukee Bucks winning the lottery Tuesday night (they have the best chance of doing so) and falling to the fourth pick probably amounts to the equivalent of around $11 million in long-term profits.4Throughout this article, I’m using terms like “profit” and “return on investment” in a particular way. They refer to the value that a player’s wins would take to acquire on the free-agent market, which we assume to be $1.75 million per win, inflating at 3.5 percent annually. Does winning an extra game actually produce a gain of $1.75 million in a team’s marginal revenue? Some studies suggest that market value and marginal revenue are fairly close in the NBA — perhaps more so than in other sports, like baseball. It may also depend on whether a team makes the playoffs, or what sort of market it plays in, along with other factors. This is beyond the scope of the analysis. That’s not chump change, but it’s World Series of Poker money — not Powerball dough.The NBA draft lottery was instituted in 1985. I looked up how many wins (as measured by Basketball-Reference.com’s win shares)5Past research using different measures of player value, like that by Arturo Galletti, has come up with similar results each player chosen in the first round since then produced during his first five NBA seasons,6Note that I count the first five NBA seasons whether or not the player participated in them. That means if he missed a year due to injury or other reasons he is counted as producing zero value. based on the slot where he was selected.7Totals for seasons shortened by a labor dispute are prorated to 82 games. The analysis accounts for the fact that the most recent selections, such as the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, have not yet seen five seasons.8I accomplished this by averaging the win shares for all draft picks who’ve seen a given number of seasons since their selection, and then summing the total. For instance, there have been two seasons since Davis was selected No. 1 overall. Thus, the win-shares average for No. 1 picks in their second NBA season includes Davis. But the average for the third season, and years beyond that, does not.The average number of wins produced by draft selections Nos. 1 through 309The NBA draft currently has 30 first-round picks, as there are 30 NBA teams. However, my figures include (for instance) the 30th overall selection for all drafts dating back to 1985, even when that pick occurred in the second round. appears in the graphic below. The pattern is fairly nonlinear: No. 1 overall picks have produced an average of 33.9 wins in the five seasons following their pick, as compared to 22.3 for No. 2 overall selections. It takes a logarithmic curve, with a fairly sharp uptick for the No. 1 overall pick, to do an adequate job of fitting past years’ results.With a bit more work, we can translate wins into dollars. In particular, during the previous NBA regular season, a total of $1.78 billion was paid to players who weren’t still on rookie-scale contracts. Collectively, those players produced just over 1,000 win shares. That implies that the market rate for a win in the NBA is about $1.75 million.The players on rookie-scale contracts were bargains by comparison, coming at a cost of about $900,000 per win last season. (For much more detail on how rookie contracts work, see Larry Coon’s salary cap FAQ.)But how much does the price per win vary based on where a player was chosen in the draft?The next chart compares the market value produced by the player against his rookie-scale contract figures, using the following assumptions. First, the market rate for an NBA player is increasing at 3.5 percent per year.10This is the assumption embedded in the annual growth rate of the NBA rookie salary scale. Second, teams pick up their option for each first-round pick for the player’s third and fourth seasons (this assumption might seem dubious — we’ll test it in a moment), and they make the players a qualifying offer before his fifth seasons, which comes to represent his annual salary during that year.11This would make the player a restricted free agent, with the team that drafts him having the right to match any counteroffer. As my Grantland colleague Zach Lowe has noted, these matching rights are usually enough to deter counteroffers, although often NBA teams and players will seek to agree to long-term contract extensions to avoid the brinksmanship. Another complication, which I’ve ignored for this article, is that players chosen with the 10th pick or higher in the draft are sometimes eligible for larger salary increases if they’ve met certain other criteria. Third, the team is paying the player the maximum amount allowed under the rookie scale in the NBA’s collective bargaining agreement.12The NBA’s rookie salary scale includes a tolerance range: Players may actually sign for anywhere between 80 percent and 120 percent of the recommended figure. In fact, most players sign for the full 120 percent, in part because this still usually represents a bargain for the team compared to what it would take to find a similarly talented player on the open market. Fourth, I’m using smoothed values for the wins produced by each pick based on our previous chart.In this analysis, the first overall pick produces about $63 million worth of market value during the first five NBA seasons after he’s drafted; by comparison, under our assumptions, his team would be obligated to pay him $35 million over five years. That means a discount of about $28 million for the team.The other first-round picks are also bargains by this measure, although the value diminishes the later a player goes in the draft. The fourth overall selection — the worst the Bucks could wind up with tonight — produces a profit of just under $18 million. The 30th and last pick in first round, held this year by the San Antonio Spurs, brings an expected profit of about $4 million.As I mentioned, these figures assume that an NBA team will employ a drafted player for five seasons. However, NBA teams are obligated to keep first-round draft picks for only two years. They have the unilateral option to extend the contract for a third and fourth year, and then to make the player a qualifying offer for his fifth season. This potentially gives the teams some option value in that they can extend their more successful picks on reasonably favorable terms, while cutting bait on the weaker players.To an extent, these options are more appealing in theory than in practice. One problem is that an NBA team must determine whether to offer a player his third- and fourth-year options a year ahead of time, or before he starts his second and third seasons. In practice, it’s quite rare for a team to fail to exercise its third-year option.I attempted to simulate this decision-making process. I assumed that an NBA team made a projection13More precisely, I ran a regression analysis on a player’s third-year win shares based on his first-year win shares and his draft position. of a player’s third-year value based on his win-shares total as a rookie and the draft slot where he was chosen. If the player’s rookie-scale contract salary was at least 20 percent higher14I built in this 20 percent cushion because, by forsaking a player before his third year, a team also forsakes its option value on him in the fourth and subsequent years. If you had a player who you expected to be worth just slightly less than what you were paying him in his third season, but he also had an outside chance of a breakout that could make him very valuable in his fourth and fifth seasons, you’d want to keep him. than his projected value for his third season, I assumed that the team dropped him. However, these conditions only applied to about 2.5 percent of draft picks. (A player basically has to be a complete and utter disaster to get dropped: This algorithm would have the Cleveland Cavaliers failing to pick up their third-year option on Anthony Bennett, the first overall pick in last year’s draft, for instance.)The fourth-year option represents more of a real choice. A team still has to decide on it a year in advance. But it has two years of player performance to evaluate, and not just one. Meanwhile, the player may be improving slowly — if he’s still improving at all15The average first-round pick sees his win shares improve by 68 percent between his first and second seasons, but just 18 percent between his second and third seasons and only 3 percent between his third and fourth seasons. — while he’s due for a hefty raise under the rookie pay scale. I assumed that teams would drop players whose fourth-year salaries were projected to be at least 10 percent higher than their value in that season, and found they would fail to extend 28 percent of players16The 28 percent total is among players who weren’t already dropped before their third season. by these rules.Finally, a team gets to decide after a player’s fourth season whether to make him a qualifying offer for his fifth season. Using a similar method, I found that about 32 percent of players who hadn’t been dropped after their third or fourth seasons would be let go at that point.17I’m no longer including a 10 or 20 percent fudge factor to account for a player’s future option value because a team has no guaranteed way to keep a player after his fifth year.We can now re-run our estimates of the net value of each draft pick excluding both the win shares associated with the dropped players and the cost of their contracts. You’d expect this to increase the profitability associated with the picks, since the teams are dropping precisely those players they expect to produce a negative return on investment. It does increase the profitability, but the difference isn’t all that great — the net value associated with the average first-round draft pick improves by 18 percent. Most of the improvement in profitability comes from selections chosen late in the first round. That’s because they’re due for proportionately larger pay increases under the league’s rookie pay scale and should be dropped more often.My revised estimates of the net profitability associated with each first-round draft pick are in the table below. To be clear, these are general estimates built from how all draft picks have performed since 1985, and don’t say anything in particular about Andrew Wiggins, or other projected top picks this year.18The figures represent a team’s projected net profit from the 2014-15 through the 2018-19 NBA seasons; the values will increase in the future if NBA salaries continue to rise. For readability, figures are rounded to the nearest $50,000 increment.The first overall draft pick is worth about $30 million by this measure, compared to $23.5 million for the second pick, $20.5 million for the third pick and $18.8 million for the fourth pick. The 14th selection — the last lottery pick — is worth about $12 million, while the final overall pick in the first round is worth $7.3 million.But these figures only estimate the profit associated with a player during his first five seasons. What happens after that?Usually teams aim to act proactively before getting to that point, especially for their most talented players. They’ll try to extend those players’ contracts.These options become pretty complex. To go through a full empirical analysis of the profit or loss associated with these extensions and long-term deals would require an article with even more footnotes than this one. That may be a challenge that we’ll undertake in the future.In the meantime, let’s try a slightly gentler approach. I looked up the players whose rookie seasons came 10 years ago (in the 2003-04 NBA season) or later and found who produced the most win shares over their first four NBA seasons. Did they turn out to produce happy endings for the teams who originally drafted them? Here are the top 15, in order:Chris Paul (Hornets): Traded to the Clippers after he made clear to New Orleans that he wouldn’t sign an extension with them.LeBron James (Cavaliers): Took his talents to South Beach.Blake Griffin (Clippers): Signed through 2016-17. This could turn out happily, but it’s too early to say.Dwyane Wade (Heat): This has to be considered a big success based on what he and the Heat have accomplished so far, though going forward Wade may not be worth as much as he’s paid.Dwight Howard (Magic): Forced a trade to the Lakers.Kevin Durant (Sonics/Thunder): Extended through 2015-16. This has to count as a smashing success, even if the Thunder never win a title.Brandon Roy (Trail Blazers): Signed an extension with Portland, but the contract turned into a disaster after injuries robbed Roy of his game. The Blazers eventually used their amnesty provision on him.James Harden (Thunder): Preemptively traded to Houston, in part because the Thunder wanted to avoid a massive luxury tax bill.Al Horford (Hawks): Signed an extension — in what initially looked like a pretty good deal for Atlanta — but he’s since missed most of the 2011-12 and 2013-14 seasons with injuries.Chris Bosh (Raptors): Signed one extension and then to South Beach he took his talents.Kevin Love (Timberwolves): One more guaranteed year on his deal and then he reportedly wants out of Minnesota.Andre Iguodala (76ers): Now we’ve begun to reach those players who are fine NBAers, but probably worth something near the maximum NBA salary and not a lot more than that.Marc Gasol (Grizzlies): See above.Derrick Rose (Bulls): Signed an extension, which looked to have plenty of upside for the Bulls — but his injuries mean it could turn into a problem for them instead.Deron Williams (Jazz): Forced a trade out of Utah. His performance has regressed in Brooklyn and the trade is looking like a blessing in disguise for the Jazz.Get the drift? These players produced a ton of surplus value for their teams during their first three or four or five seasons. Those rookie-scale contracts are really favorable to NBA teams.However, we’ve already accounted for the profit a team achieves on a player over his first five seasons. And after that, things get much dicier. The attrition rate is high. Players can leave in free agency, or force a trade, or get hurt, or perform at a perfectly decent level but not necessarily any better than what they’re being paid. And this is a list we’ve formulated with the benefit of hindsight, knowing exactly how valuable the players were during their first four seasons.After winning the draft lottery, a team essentially needs to get lucky three times over in order to have a storybook ending. First, it has to draft the right player. Next, it has to convince him to stay in town. Finally, he has to play up to his new contract. The odds are that something will go wrong. In 1997, the San Antonio Spurs chose Tim Duncan at No. 1 and went on to win four NBA titles with him on the roster. None of the teams to make the first overall pick since has won a championship. read more

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March Madness Crib Notes For Saturdays Games

Midwest RegionalNo. 8 Cincinnati vs. No. 1 Kentucky at 2:40 p.m. on CBSGodspeed, Cincinnati. Take your 6 percent win probability and make the best of it.No. 6 Butler vs. No. 3 Notre Dame at 9:40 p.m. on TBSButler’s already pulled off one upset this tournament, even though it beat a team with a worse seed. No. 11 Texas was slightly favored to beat the Bulldogs, but Texas flamed out as it did for most of the season. Butler has a bigger challenge ahead of it in playing Notre Dame, though. The Irish are favored to win 62 percent of the time, perhaps because of their offense, which was third in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy. Butler’s defense is also in the top-10, though, making this a matchup of contrasting strengths. South RegionalNo. 5 Utah vs. No. 4 Georgetown at 7:45 p.m. on CBSBoth teams were heavy favorites in their opening games, but Utah struggled to put Stephen F. Austin away. The FiveThirtyEight model says not to worry about that — the advanced metrics love Utah because of its great defense and efficient offense. The model says Utah should win this matchup 71 percent of the time.No. 14 UAB vs. No. 11 UCLA at 12:10 p.m. on CBSThis isn’t a basketball game, it’s a glass-slipper competition. Who will become Cinderella? The UCLA Bruins, which most talking heads said didn’t belong in the tournament, or the UAB Blazers, which put together the third-most surprising upset since 2011, according to FiveThirtyEight’s past models. This year’s model likes UCLA to win (67 percent favorite), thanks to UCLA’s strength of schedule during the regular season, and its higher offensive and defensive ratings. West RegionalNo. 10 Ohio State vs. No. 2 Arizona at 5:15 p.m. on CBSAs D’Angelo Russell goes, so go the Buckeyes. Bloodied but still breaking ankles, Russell led a furious charge as Ohio State came back against VCU to stage the upset. It won’t be so easy against Arizona, which has the third best defense in the country, according to Ken Pomeroy. That Arizona has the ninth-best offense probably won’t help the Buckeyes either; the Wildcats have an 81 percent chance of moving on to the Sweet 16.No. 14 Georgia State vs. No. 6 Xavier at 6:10 p.m. on TNTSomebody get Georgia State’s coach, Ron Hunter, a stool with some armrests. After his son, R.J. Hunter, hit the game-winning shot in Georgia State’s game against Baylor, Hunter tumbled out of his stool and right into a thousand highlight reels. The good news for Georgia State: Our model likes them in this game more than it did in the last (and our model gave them a decent shot on Thursday). The problem: The Panthers still only have a 30 percent chance of beating Xavier.No. 5 Arkansas vs. No. 4 North Carolina at 8:40 p.m. on TNTThis No. 5 vs. No. 4 matchups looks like it should be a taut contest based on the seeds. But the FiveThirtyEight model thinks North Carolina is twice as likely to win as Arkansas. The Razorbacks come from a worse conference, have a poor defense and struggled against No. 12 Wofford. Then again, North Carolina didn’t have a great game against Harvard, either. But the model takes the longer view — the fundamentals favor UNC. The teams that play on Saturday are the survivors of the wild opening day1Not counting the play-in games. of this year’s NCAA men’s tournament. No matter how many harmonic means, linear regressions and bootstrapped standard errors we applied to the data, we couldn’t find a way to make it say Saturday’s games would be as thrilling as Thursday’s were. But the data didn’t say that for Thursday either! It’s March Madness — there’s always a chance of chaos.Read on for more of what to look for in the NCAA tournament Saturday. East RegionalNo. 1 Villanova vs. No. 8 N.C. State at 7:10 p.m. on TBSNo team on Thursday looked better than the Wildcats, who devoured the sacrificial lambs of Lafayette. That victory — by 41 points — helped raise Villanova’s chances to win it all by 4.3 percentage points. They looked that good. N.C. State did not look great, needing a last-second shot to overcome a middling LSU squad. The model expects Villanova to run away with this one — the Wildcats are an 88 percent favorite. read more

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Las Vegas Is A Terrible Place For An NHL Team

The NHL will expand to Las Vegas pending a $500 million fee for the new franchise, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. In 2015, Nate Silver explained why Las Vegas doesn’t make much sense for the NHL. This post was originally published on April 22, 2015. The original text is below. There ought to be more NHL teams in Canada, which has only seven of the 30 NHL franchises despite having about as many hockey fans as the United States.And there perhaps ought to be fewer in midsize American markets, especially those far from the Canadian border. According to my previous research, the six current NHL markets with the fewest number of hockey fans are Nashville, Miami, Raleigh, Columbus, Phoenix and Tampa. Those franchises lost a collective $51 million in 2013-14, according to Forbes.Now there’s momentum to place an NHL expansion team in Las Vegas, another idea that makes little sense.Our 2013 analysis estimated that there are just 91,000 NHL fans in metro Las Vegas. That’s tiny even by comparison to the six smallest NHL markets that I mentioned before, which have between 146,000 (Nashville) and 279,000 (Tampa) hockey fans. And it’s well below Seattle’s 241,000 or Quebec City’s 530,000 fans.But here’s another reason to be skeptical about Las Vegas: The city has had several professional sports franchises (albeit none from the four or five largest North American sports leagues), and it hasn’t supported them very well.Consider that the city’s Triple-A baseball franchise, the Las Vegas 51s of the Pacific Coast League, had the lowest attendance in the PCL last year.Or that the city’s professional hockey franchise, the Las Vegas Wranglers of the ECHL, disbanded earlier this year after years of middling attendance and an inability to find a suitable home arena.The Las Vegas Gladiators of the Arena Football League were relocated to Cleveland in 2007 after five seasons of attendance well below AFL averages. Las Vegas has a new AFL team this season, the Las Vegas Outlaws, but their attendance was poor in their first two games.You could make an optimist’s case for the NHL in Las Vegas. The number of fans will grow, undoubtedly, if the league places a franchise there. The city gets a lot of tourists (it has about 150,000 hotel rooms), which adds to the functional size of its population.1Although a lot of the tourists are from California and the American Southwest — hardly hockey hotbeds. And Las Vegas’s population is growing, although the rate of growth has slowed since the housing bust.But it’s asking a lot for Las Vegas to support a major league team when it’s struggled to support pretty much every minor league team that’s tried to play there. If the city has some positives, it also has some negatives, like irregular working hours, middling public transit and abundant competition for the entertainment dollar, which may depress sports attendance.To their credit, the backers of the Las Vegas NHL franchise, after a monthslong campaign, have gotten commitments from about 11,000 would-be season ticket holders. That sounds impressive until you consider that the Winnipeg Jets sold out their entire allotment of 13,000 season tickets in 17 minutes after the Atlanta Thrashers were relocated there in 2011. Hockey’s a bit more popular on the frozen tundra than in the middle of the desert.There is a much better case for an NBA team in Las Vegas. NBA avidity is already well above average there, based on the number of Google searches for NBA-related topics. The NBA, unlike the NHL, has had success in similar markets, like San Antonio and Oklahoma City. And the only sports team that’s consistently been a good draw in Las Vegas is a basketball team: The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels averaged almost 14,000 fans per game from 2009-10 through 2013-14.2Attendance data for the most recent college basketball season isn’t available yet. read more

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Mens gymnastics Jake Martin named Big Ten Gymnast of the Week

OSU redshirt senior Jake Martin competes during a meet. Credit: Courtesy of OSU AthleticsOhio State men’s gymnastics redshirt senior Jake Martin was named the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week following the 47th Windy City Invitational on Saturday. Martin, a captain of the team, now has the fifth highest all-around score in the NCAA this year with his performance.“I was very proud of Jake tonight, and how he competed,” Ohio State head coach Rustam Sharipov said on Saturday night.Despite it being his first meet since an Achilles tendon injury in 2016, Martin was the highest Buckeye scorer in the high bar (14.250) and floor (14.300). Martin excelled in the pommel horse, scoring the third-highest total in the meet with a tally of 13.800. He also averaged 13.450, 14.150 and 13.450 in the rings, vault and parallel bars, respectively. This is the third time in Martin’s career that he has been named the Big Ten Gymnast of the Week. read more

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Smith Big Ten expansion Yes Adding just Notre Dame Not a likely

The months of rumors surrounding the Big Ten conference lately have turned the Midwest into the Hollywood of college football. There have been all sorts of rumors, most of them no more than “Brangelina” status.On any given day, a rumor runs rampant of Texas joining the Big Ten, which would certainly grant the conference galactic college football superiority over the SEC. On another day Missouri and Nebraska are apparently guaranteed to jump the Big 12 ship to the Big Ten. Occasionally, a “report” of Rutgers and Pittsburgh establishing the Mid-Atlantic region for the Big Ten leaks out into the mass media.It all makes me want to venture back into reading the comments pages regarding the LeBron free agent frenzy…But what you won’t see as a dish on the table of the Big Ten brass anytime soon is a scenario in which Notre Dame is the only team joining the Big Ten, thus making the Big Ten the Big…Doce? Uno Dos? The Great Flat Land Conference?In any case, Ohio State Athletic Director (and Notre Dame alumnus) Gene Smith told me as much recently when I asked him about the plausibility of the Big Ten just adding the Fighting Irish to the Big Ten. However, he also admitted he’s relatively clueless as to how the expansion process will play out.“I don’t think we’d (just add Notre Dame). We’re looking at something different,” Smith said. “I just don’t know. At the end of the day, we’re not looking to do just that.”Smith went on to point out a numbers notion that many might not know, as well as stating an argument that many would agree with in regard to Notre Dame shunning the Big Ten.If just Notre Dame joined, “it would be beneficial (to OSU) financially,” Smith said. “It would be beneficial with a championship-type setup for a game. Financially we’re pretty strong too, so we’ll contribute to them a little bit more than they will contribute to us because of (the Big Ten Network). And that’s what most people don’t understand.” But Smith said it’s not about money for Notre Dame, “it’s about something else.”What Smith means by “something else” is probably along the lines of Notre Dame’s love for its football independence. They reportedly snatch $15 million from NBC for the rights to broadcast football’s home games.But joining the Big Ten could hold greener pastures for Notre Dame. According to reports, the Big Ten handed out $22 million to each member last year. Joining the Big Ten would net increased exposure for all of the Fighting Irish’s athletic programs.Yet, Smith says the conference wouldn’t just add Notre Dame. And I actually believe him.But that doesn’t mean the conference won’t eventually net the Golden Domers. The Big Ten could swell to 14 teams, netting Notre Dame along with Missouri and Pittsburgh, or Nebraska and Rutgers, or Texas and Kansas.In any event, Big Ten conference commissioner Jim Delany has the ball in his court. How he plays his cards, especially with the Ace of Spades (Notre Dame) will be very interesting to see in the coming months and perhaps the coming years. read more

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NFL playoffs dreams alive for former Buckeyes

Ohio State will be well-represented as the NFL playoffs continue into their second weekend of action. Eight former Buckeyes are on the active rosters of teams that will play Saturday or Sunday in two of the four divisional-round games of the 2013 NFL playoffs.Former Buckeye linebacker A.J. Hawk and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett play for the Green Bay Packers, which will play the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday at 8 p.m. in San Francisco. The 49ers have four former Buckeyes on their roster: Right guard Alex Boone, linebacker Larry Grant, wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and strong safety Donte Whitner.On Sunday, two of OSU’s four 2012 NFL draft picks will line up against one another. New England Patriots safety Nate Ebner, who plays almost exclusively on special teams, will play against the Houston Texans and wide receiver DeVier Posey Sunday at 4:30 p.m. in Foxborough, Mass.The other four teams still remaining in the NFL playoffs – Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks and Atlanta Falcons – do not have any OSU alumni on their roster.Numerous Buckeyes played a significant role in their teams’ games in the opening round of the NFL playoffs.Of those Buckeyes whose teams are still standing, Hawk and Pickett each had two total tackles in the Packers’ win over the Minnesota Vikings, while Posey had two special teams tackles in the Texans’ win against the Cincinnati Bengals. In a losing effort, Vikings wide receiver Michael Jenkins caught three passes for 96 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Former Buckeye cornerback Antoine Winfield had four total tackles for the Vikings, while former Buckeye and current Cincinnati safety Nate Clements had nine total tackles for the Bengals.Defensive lineman Doug Worthington had one assisted tackle in the Washington Redskins’ Sunday loss to the Seahawks. read more

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