World Cup Crib Notes Day 8

England and Uruguay, two of the tournament’s strongest teams to lose their openers, play in what is essentially a must-win match for each side on Thursday, and is the pick of the day’s matches.Colombia vs. Ivory Coast: 12 p.m. EDTUruguay vs. England: 3 p.m. EDTJapan vs. Greece: 6 p.m. EDTIN BRIEFSee our World Cup predictions for the latest probabilities. IN DEPTHColombia versus Ivory Coast should be a slightly better match than England versus Uruguay, according to the method we’ve been using to identify each day’s best match (calculating the harmonic mean of each team’s Soccer Power Index rating). But they’re also much more mismatched: Colombia ranks fifth in SPI among the 32 World Cup teams, while Ivory Coast ranks 17th. England and Uruguay rank ninth and 11th, respectively, so while there will be a bit less quality on the pitch according to SPI, it should be a closer contest.FiveThirtyEight’s SPI-based model gives England a 37.3 percent chance of winning, compared to 33.9 percent for Uruguay. Colombia, meanwhile, has a 54.2 percent chance of beating Ivory Coast, and just a 25.7 percent chance of losing. We touted England’s opener, against Italy, as likely to be one the group stage’s most competitive matches; England-Uruguay could be just as close.This match wasn’t supposed to be a must-win for the pre-tournament co-favorites in Group D. Uruguay and England each started the Cup with a more than 60 percent chance of making it through the group. Then, disaster struck: Each team lost its opener: England 2-1 to Italy and Uruguay 3-1 to Costa Rica.England and Uruguay each can blame bad luck for their poor starts, though the true culprit may be failure to succeed at the twin soccer skills of finishing and goalkeeping. TruMedia, which provides soccer stats to ESPN based on Opta’s match-logging, estimates how many goals a team should score, using the location of the shots it takes and a model based on where those shots are taken and how successful they are. (There are other, similar models of expected goals.)By TruMedia estimates, instead of losing 2-1, England should have expected to score 1.32 goals against Italy and yielded 1.01. And Uruguay could have expected to lose 1.32-1.27, instead of 3-1, to Costa Rica. (There are no fractional goals in soccer, but this is a probability-based model, so it shows how teams could have expected to do, on average, given the shots they took and allowed.)Those are two of the worst results for teams in their Cup openers this year, relative to expectations. Two teams other than England that produced better scoring opportunities than their opponents also lost: Ghana, against the United States; and Algeria, against Belgium. And two teams other than Uruguay lost by even more than expected based on scoring chances: Greece, against Colombia; and defending champion Spain, against the Netherlands. That new way of looking at Colombia’s 3-0 defeat of Greece might mean Thursday’s other two matches will be closer than they appear, since Colombia is heavily favored against Ivory Coast and Japan is favored against Greece.Then again, this method may just identify teams that are better at creating and denying opportunities than they are at finishing and keeping balls out of the goal. Maybe Wayne Rooney and Raheem Sterling weren’t unlucky in going a combined 0 for 7 on shots against Italy — maybe they’re not good finishers. And the same goes for Spain, eliminated from the knockout stage after scoring just one goal against an expected total of 3.43 goals in its two matches.The last World Cup showed that some teams that struggle to finish and to deny opponents shots in their openers rebound later in the tournament. Spain lost its opener to Switzerland in 2010 despite producing and allowing shots that should have given it a 0.34-goal win, on average. Spain won its next six matches, and the World Cup. But other sides that fit the profile didn’t produce better results in their second and third matches: France, Cameroon and Algeria all looked primed to improve yet exited the 2010 tournament without a win. England and Uruguay must try to channel Spain’s 2010 improvement. The side that doesn’t likely only gets one more match in this tournament.YESTERDAYCONMEBOL, the South American Football Confederation, is the only confederation with a winning record against Europe’s UEFA at the World Cup, 87-78-48 all-time. And not much has changed this year. On Wednesday, Chile became the third South American team to beat a European side in four tries in Brazil, eliminating defending champion Spain with a 2-0 win.Goalkeeper Iker Casillas is a legend in Spain, but he has had a nightmare tournament, making crucial errors that both of Spain’s first two opponents converted for goals. In 2010, Casillas stopped 15 of 17 shots on goal, captaining Spain to its first World Cup title. Casillas was excellent again at Euro 2012, making 15 saves of 16 shots on goal, as Spain successfully defended its European championship.Casillas has faced 14 shots on goal in two games at the 2014 World Cup. Seven found the back of the net.Spain’s problems aren’t just in goal. Diego Costa scored on 27 of 54 shots on target (50 percent) in La Liga play during the 2013-14 season, better than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Costa steered Atlético Madrid to the title.In Brazil, Costa has four shots in two games, with one on target. Against Chile, he finished with 20 touches before being subbed off. In Atlético’s league games last season, Costa averaged 39 touches per 90 minutes.But let’s not blame Spain’s offensive woes all on Costa; he wasn’t alone in his inability to penetrate Chile’s defense. Chile finished with 33 clearances, the most by a team to beat Spain in the World Cup since clearances have been tracked (starting in 1966). Defense, plus Spain’s critical errors, has Chile in the World Cup knockout stage for the second consecutive tournament, with Spain’s golden generation on the outside looking in. — Zachary Singer, statistics analyst, ESPNOFF THE PITCHWe’re projecting Japan versus Greece as Thursday’s lowest-scoring and one of its closest matches, 1.1-1.2. It turns out these countries have a pretty symbiotic relationship when it comes to their trade, according to OECD trade data from 2012. Japanese exports to Greece are unsurprisingly dominated by cars and car parts (which, with a small percentage of other machinery such as computers, made up about 65 percent of the exports). Greece reciprocates with a healthy dose of refined petroleum (36 percent of exports), as well as a wide range of food, including everything from pasta and chocolate to seafood and olive oil. Greece may not be able to match Japan’s $179 million in exports, but its $126 million isn’t too shabby, either. — Hayley MunguiaFURTHER READINGBrazil’s Presidents Are More Maradona Than PeléWorld Cup Players You Need to Know: Mexico Goalkeeper Guillermo OchoaSportstorialist World Cup Edition: Ghana Wore It Best; Alexi Lalas Wore It … Not the Best read more

The Seattle Mariners Cant Catch A Postseason Break

26Atlanta Braves10.0011+1.00 The interesting part of the playoff probability curve typically ranges from around 81 wins (where a team would have practically no shot at the postseason) to 96 wins (where a team is practically guaranteed at least a wild-card slot). A team’s chances of making the playoffs at each win increment between those extremes depends largely on the luck of the draw — specifically, how many games were won by the other teams in the division and the league.The the introduction of a second wild card has made the biggest difference for good teams on the edge of the playoff bubble. (Think teams sitting in that 86-to-91-win zone.) Under a single-wild-card system, a hypothetical team in this group should only make the playoffs about 38 percent of the time. With two wild cards, that probability jumps up to 62 percent.But back to the Mariners. For each franchise, going back to 1998,3Treating teams that changed cities or names, e.g. the Montreal Expos becoming the Washington Nationals, as one team. I used the above formula to calculate the yearly probability that it would make the playoffs based on how many games it won. Then I summed up the probabilities to measure how many playoff appearances a given team should have collected over that span, compared to how many appearances it actually made. 11Washington Nationals2.402-0.40 29Chicago Cubs3.705+1.30 3Boston Red Sox10.609-1.60 21San Diego Padres2.503+0.50 19Detroit Tigers4.705+0.30 Despite their recent winning streak, the Seattle Mariners are unlikely to make the postseason. Our Elo simulations project Seattle to finish with a respectable 87 wins, but the team still has a comparatively slim 34 percent chance of making it to a wild-card game. So unless their hot streak persists for a few more weeks, the Mariners will probably extend their MLB-record playoff drought to 15 seasons. This set of circumstances — Seattle winning a good amount of games but failing to make the playoffs — is nothing new: Although the Mariners have hardly been uniformly great during their drought, no franchise has had more bad luck keeping it out of the playoffs over the past couple decades, given its yearly records.1Note that I am not considering how lucky or unlucky a team was to attain the record that it did; I’m treating teams’ records as a given. So I’m ignoring factors like injuries, cluster luck and timing, all of which are significant enough to strongly influence a team’s postseason probability.Since they tied the all-time MLB record for wins in a season with 116 in 2001, the Mariners have assembled a handful of competitive teams, winning between 85 and 93 games in a season five times since. (This doesn’t include 2016, when they’re likely to do it again.) None of those seasons are good enough to guarantee a playoff spot, but each should have given the team a reasonable chance to back into a wild card or steal a weak division. And yet, Seattle has nothing to show for those seasons. To determine just how unlucky the Mariners have been in this regard, I looked at how many wins are typically associated with making the playoffs using data since 1998, the last time MLB expanded.2To produce the graph, I performed a logistic regression between making the playoffs and the number of wins a team achieved in the regular season. Since MLB added a second wildcard spot in 2012, I also included a variable for the presence of the second wildcard. 24Colorado Rockies1.402+0.60 27Minnesota Twins4.806+1.20 15Miami Marlins1.001+0.00 1Seattle Mariners4.202-2.20 16Philadelphia Phillies4.805+0.20 17Texas Rangers5.806+0.20 18Milwaukee Brewers1.702+0.30 7Cleveland Indians5.705-0.70 8Chicago White Sox3.603-0.60 30St. Louis Cardinals9.8012+2.20 10Tampa Bay Rays4.404-0.40 Unluckiest MLB franchises since 1998 4Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim8.207-1.20 14Kansas City Royals2.002+0.00 20Pittsburgh Pirates2.603+0.40 9Cincinnati Reds3.503-0.50 22Los Angeles Dodgers6.507+0.50 23Arizona Diamondbacks4.505+0.50 13Baltimore Orioles2.202-0.20 25New York Yankees14.1015+0.90 6New York Mets4.804-0.80 2San Francisco Giants7.606-1.60 28Houston Astros4.706+1.30 5Toronto Blue Jays2.001-1.00 Source: Lahman Database TEAMPREDICTED PLAYOFF APPEARANCESACTUALDIFFERENCE 12Oakland Athletics8.308-0.30 Most teams are within a playoff appearance or so of their actual numbers, but the outliers on either end are striking. The most unlucky franchise in baseball is the Mariners, who should have earned 4.2 playoff appearances since 1998 but instead have managed only two (and none since 2001). None of the reasonably strong Seattle teams scattered over the past 15 years have yielded a postseason appearance, with the two 93-win squads (in 2002 and 2003) standing out as the largest outliers — both should have been good enough to make the playoffs about 87 percent of the time under normal circumstances. Although Seattle’s home division, the American League West, has also averaged the most wins per team-season4I calculated this on a per-team, per-season basis because divisions don’t always have the same number of teams. of any division since 1998, the West’s winners haven’t been especially strong (they’ve averaged only the third most wins of any division’s winners), which suggests the Mariners can blame only part of their misfortune on their closest competition. Likewise, my model didn’t find the yearly strength of the American League as a whole to be a significant factor in depressing Seattle’s playoff probability either.Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, the St. Louis Cardinals have been baseball’s luckiest team in terms of gaining extra postseason berths. And no season better exemplifies this than 2006, which saw the Cards win the World Series despite posting a mere 83 wins and +19 run differential. Given that resume, they would have been predicted to have only a 1-in-40 chance of making the playoffs. But even disregarding that 2006 team, every single one of the 11 St. Louis squads with more than a 50 percent postseason probability in my model went on to make the playoffs, including five times when the Cardinals’ chances were under 90 percent. And that’s on top of repeatedly harnessing improbable streaks of luck to achieve those records in the first place.Maybe the Cardinals have found another way to harness their devil magic. But the Mariners’ bad fortune is probably mostly random. With the margins for making a playoff spot as thin as a few games, an ill-timed loss here or there can be enough to turn a promising season into October misery. Although Seattle’s luck will turn around eventually, you’ll have to forgive the team’s fan base if they’re skeptical after years of heartbreak. read more

5 Black Athletes Who Would Have Had Prolific Careers

Len BiasThe night after being selected by the Boston Celtics with the No. 2 pick in the NBA Draft, Maryland’s Len Bias collapsed in a dormitory room on the College Park campus and was pronounced dead some time later at a local hospital. Just as shocking to many was the cause of death: his heart essentially burst because of a cocaine overdose. Bias, a 6-foot-8 All-American forward with a brilliant, explosive skill set and unconquerable desire, was destined to be among the league’s premier players and history makers. The story goes that Hall of Fame Celtic Larry Bird had said he would attend the Celtics’ summer league that year just to see Bias, 22, play in person. read more

NHL Coaches Are Pulling Goalies Earlier Than Ever

When teams are down two goals or more, the change is dramatic. During the 2014-15 season, the Florida Panthers pulled their goalie an average of 59 seconds earlier than they had during the previous season. The Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks all did so at least 45 seconds sooner. Across the NHL, teams down two scores pulled their goalies with about 2:10 remaining, almost half a minute earlier than they had the previous season.Hockey analytics lovers want coaches to pull goalies earlier for one simple reason: Mathematically, it’s a no-brainer. In fact, academics have argued for a more aggressive strategy as far back as 1976, when Detroit Red Wings fan and Stanford Ph.D. Donald Morrison created a model showing that teams had the best chance to win if they pulled their goalie with about two and a half minutes remaining when down one goal. “If you pull the goalie with two and a half minutes to go, you have a 19 to 20 percent chance of tying the game,” Morrison said when we called him last month. If a coach waits until the minute mark, the chances drop to 17 percent.In the past few years, hockey analytics practitioners have harped on the issue. University of Florida associate professor Andrew Thomas, co-founder of the hockey analytics site War-on-ice.com, built a pulled-goalie app that tells teams when to yank somebody out of net. And a pair of Canadian professors put together a series of papers claiming that a more aggressive strategy would pick up an additional point and a half over 82 games, on average, compared with the current practice. In 2014-15, both the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings missed the playoffs by just 2 points.Given that some observers called the offseason after Colorado’s 2014 series with Minnesota the “Summer of Analytics,” it’s not hard to connect the dots to what seems to have happened next. (Although no team representative would explicitly confirm the theory to us.2Representatives from the Predators, Avalanche, Canucks and Rangers all declined or ignored interview requests.) The Panthers, Hurricanes and Maple Leafs — three of the teams that pulled their goalies much earlier last season than they had in the past — hired analytics researchers before the 2014-15 season. At this point, all but a select few hockey franchises have full-time analytics staffers, and Thomas himself was just scooped up by the Minnesota Wild. “They might be telling teams that 100 percent of research [about pulling the goalie] suggests that you should be [doing it] earlier,” said Brian Macdonald, director of analytics for the Panthers.While the average amount of time coaches wait to pull the goalie is dropping, many teams are still much more conservative than they should be. “It’s easy to pick round numbers like one minute,” Macdonald said about teams’ temptation to wait until an easy checkpoint. The optics of pulling the goalie — a volatile proposition that could lead to more lopsided scores — play a role in keeping coaches from doing what the numbers suggest they should. “One reason that teams have not adopted is similar to why NFL coaches may not go for it on fourth down: When it goes wrong, it looks bad,” Macdonald said.Chris Wells coaches the St. Lawrence University women’s hockey team, which usually leads the NCAA in minutes played with a pulled goalie, and he believes as much, too. He admits that he might change his thinking if the scrutiny were higher. “There’s not a lot of talk radio going on about St. Lawrence women’s hockey,” he said. “Would my mindset be different if I was [coaching in the NHL]? Probably.”But for now, in a league with traditions as thick as playoff beards, any progress is good progress. When we called up Morrison to ask about his initial research, his first words were telling: “So my 40-year-old piece still has some legs, huh?” During the 2014 NHL playoffs, Patrick Roy did something unusual for a guy who holds the postseason record for wins by a goalkeeper: As the coach of the Colorado Avalanche, he started pulling his net minder much earlier than traditional strategy suggested he should. In Game 1 against the Minnesota Wild, Roy yanked Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 remaining.With 13.4 seconds to go, the Avs’ Paul Stastny tied the game, and he then scored the game-winner seven and a half minutes into the first overtime. In Game 4, Roy pulled Varlamov with 2:34 to go. The Avs lost, but Game 5 saw another early pull — at the 2:22 mark, seconds after killing off a two-minute penalty — and a second OT win. In Game 6, Roy called off Varlamov with 2:45 left, and the team promptly gave up a couple of empty netters. On average, the coach pulled Varlamov 50 seconds earlier than he had during the regular season, and about 90 seconds earlier than coaches in the rest of the league.Although Roy and the Avalanche lost the series in seven games, he was a trailblazer. Since then, to the glee of NHL analytics types, pulling a goalie with several minutes to go when behind by a goal has become standard practice for some teams. It took decades of work, but the statheads have finally bent the league to their will. Teams are now willing to lose if it will help them win.The night after Game 5 of the Avs-Wild series, Anaheim Mighty Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau pulled Jonas Hiller with 2:26 remaining while down two goals. His team tied the game in regulation and then won in overtime. Boudreau credited Roy for the inspiration: “I have to thank Patrick Roy. If he didn’t start pulling the goalie so early all year, I don’t think any of [us] would have.”But the early goalie-pulling trend wasn’t simply a phenomenon of the 2013-14 playoffs. It accelerated during the 2014-15 season. The Nashville Predators pulled their goalie with an average of 1:50 remaining when they were down a goal, 48 seconds earlier than they had done the previous season. League-wide, 18 teams had an average pull time of more than 70 seconds remaining when trailing by a goal. Between 2007 and 2011, just a single team pulled its goalie with more than 70 seconds remaining in the game, on average.The chart below shows average pull times1Because exact goalie pull times are not listed in NHL box scores, we used the first on-ice event with a pulled goalie as a proxy. We used the nhlscrapr package in R to obtain the data. over the last eight seasons, along with 95 percent confidence limits. When trailing at the end of games, teams were more aggressive during the 2014-15 season than ever before, willing to risk a more lopsided defeat for a better chance at winning. read more

Does A Close Daytona 500 Finish Mean Parity Has Come To Nascar

If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Hot Takedown Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (Feb. 23, 2016),1Note for you Hot Takedown diehards: We’ll be posting the podcast to the site on Wednesdays from now on, but the pod will continue to be released on Tuesday evenings. we ask why Canadian hockey teams have failed to win the Stanley Cup for the past 20-odd years and whether that makes them unlucky or just bad, we make our first foray into the world of Nascar and wonder why Daytona 500 finishes are only getting closer, and we explain how Anthony Davis’s 59/20 game was a throwback to another era of the NBA. Plus a significant digit on Rachel Banham, the Big Ten basketball player ripping up the college game.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Links to what we discussed are here:In 2013, Nate Silver looked into why Canadian hockey teams were in the midst of a Stanley Cup drought.Neil Paine wrote about championship droughts, and how they’re sometimes not as bad as they seem.David Smith on why Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the most likely driver to win the Daytona 500.If you’re looking for a motorsports analytics fix, here is Smith’s Motorsports Analytics website.Paine put Anthony Davis’s great game in historical context.Zach Lowe asked whether the Golden State Warriors should sign Kevin Durant.The Warriors should give the ball to Steph Curry more, according to Ben Morris.Significant Digit: 2. That’s the number of 50-point games Minnesota’s Rachel Banham has produced this month.CORRECTION (Feb. 24, 2:53 p.m.): Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misidentified the driver predicted by David Smith to win the Daytona 500. It was Dale Earnhardt, Jr. not David Earnhardt Jr. More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS read more

OSU mens soccer heads to Kentucky for battle of redhot teams

OSU sophomore forward Marcus McCrary (19) during a game against Penn State on Sept. 20 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU tied 1-1. Credit: Ed Momot / For The LanternThe Ohio State men’s soccer team is prepared to head back on the road to battle an equally hot team Wednesday night, as the Buckeyes await a showdown with Kentucky at 7 p.m. in Lexington, Kentucky.Just like the Scarlet and Gray, which stands at 6-4-2 overall, the Wildcats are on a five-game winning streak, which makes OSU senior defender Liam Doyle expect a high-powered matchup.“Kentucky’s a good team. They move the ball and they have willing runners,” Doyle said. “I think they’re very similar to us, which makes it such a good matchup.”The Buckeyes are aware of the Wildcats’ style of playing and know well what the team has to do to take out Kentucky: defend.“We’re a very strong defensive team,” senior midfielder Zach Mason said. “First and foremost, we try to make it very difficult for the opposition and when you do that to some very good opponents, they tend to get frustrated and open themselves up.”Mason said the team will take every opportunity given to it to try to grab a win in any way possible.Doyle also said that if the team continues to do what it is currently doing, it could beat anyone.“It’s going to be a tough game and we’re just going to continue to do what we do,” Mason said.The opposing teamThe Wildcats are entering Wednesday’s match coming off a 4-1 victory over Evansville, extending their winning streak to five games and overall record to 7-2-1.Sophomore forward Stefan Stojkovic leads the team with five goals and one assist on the season, followed by junior midfielder Napo Matsoso with four goals and five assists and freshman forward Xahne Reid with three goals and four assists.Senior goalkeeper Callum Irving has played all but 11 minutes of the season and has a goals-against average of 0.78, with 22 saves overall.Froschauer repeats Big Ten honorsOSU redshirt senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer has been named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for the second consecutive week.Froschauer is coming off a season-high seven-save performance against Indiana on Saturday night, which was the fourth shutout of his career. Froschauer is tied for third in the Big Ten with a total of 39 saves.“I’ve had the luxury to step in here to be playing in front of some great goalkeepers,” Mason said. “I think that’s huge for team morale and team mentality knowing that we can rely on someone to save us when we need them.”What’s next?The Buckeyes are scheduled to return home to face Wisconsin at 2 p.m. on Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. read more

Team clown has Buckeyes eyeing regular season title

The No. 23 Ohio State women’s soccer team (13-4-1, 7-2-0) has received a lift this season — on and off the field — from a self-proclaimed “clown.” Junior forward Paige Maxwell leads the Buckeyes in goals and points, with nine and 19, respectively. Maxwell said her self-confidence and personality have translated into on-field success this season. “I pretty much keep a loose attitude,” Maxwell said. “I’m loud, sometimes obnoxious, but there’s a goofy side to me, and that’s how I deal with things. I’m kind of the clown of the team.” A native of Medina, Ohio, Maxwell credited her team for allowing her to bring out her jokester mentality. “I’m comfortable in my own skin,” Maxwell said. “When I’m in a comfortable environment, just my personality shines even more because I feel comfortable. Life’s funny, it can’t be taken too seriously.” Maxwell’s career at OSU got off to a fast start as she led the Buckeyes in goals her freshman season, with eight, and was selected as the team’s offensive MVP. A knee injury set Maxwell back her sophomore season — she started only eight games for OSU but still led the team in goals, with six. “Last year, I was really hurt and I was in a lot of pain, so my place last year was coming off the bench, and I’d try to do what I could,” Maxwell said. “This year I definitely think I add a different attribute to the team. I’m older, so everything comes with more experience and just especially the time, with this being my third year here, you keep learning things.” Of Maxwell’s nine goals this season, four have been game-winning scores, including overtime goals against Penn State and Northwestern. Maxwell’s ability to find the back of the net at the right times this season has been crucial for a Buckeye team looking to earn at least a share of its first Big Ten title in program history. OSU coach Lori Walker said Maxwell’s personality has played a role in the forward’s clutch performances. “Paige is the kind of player who was built to have responsibility on the field,” Walker said. “We know she’s got a pretty positive attitude about everything. Her outlook on life is pretty upbeat, and so it takes a lot to rattle her confidence. If she misses one shot, we know it’s not going to roll over into the next. She’s pretty consistent in that way.” Chance to clinch The Buckeyes missed an opportunity to clinch a share of the conference title when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Indiana (6-11-1, 2-7-0) on Sunday. They play Friday against Michigan State (9-5-4, 3-3-3). A win over the Spartans would clinch OSU at least a share of the Big Ten title and potentially an outright title, should Penn State (9-8-1, 7-2-0) suffer a loss or earn a draw against Michigan (10-3-4, 5-2-2) on Sunday. If both OSU and Penn State lose or draw this weekend, Wisconsin (10-4-4, 7-1-2) would earn the conference crown. Walker said she’s trying to keep her team focused on beating Michigan State. “We were a little unfocused last week, and that was the sense that we had with the Indiana game, … that we were kind of looking ahead to things,” Walker said. “I think they learned their lesson. All we’re worried about right now is each day, and playing good soccer is our No. 1 priority, and just our work rate has gotten us to where we are.” read more

Big Ten titans clash as Ohio State mens basketball hosts Michigan State

The Big Ten is widely regarded as one of the best conferences in men’s college basketball right now, and two of its top teams will square off in Columbus Saturday. Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta said during a Friday press conference that he considers the Big Ten to be as competitive as it has been since his arrival in Columbus, Ohio, in 2005. Also considering that MSU is a perennial Big Ten power, it may be safe to expect a tight battle on Saturday when the No. 3 Buckeyes host No. 11 Michigan State. OSU (21-3, 9-2 Big Ten) is riding a six-game winning streak into the game against the Spartans. MSU (19-5, 8-3) is on the Buckeyes’ heels as the No. 2 team in the Big Ten standings. MSU senior forward Draymond Green, the No. 8-leading scorer in the Big Ten with 15 points per game and the No. 1-leading rebounder with 11 boards per game, has helped the Spartans stay close to OSU in the conference standings. It will take a team effort to keep Green from hurting the Buckeyes, Matta said Friday. “Everybody’s got to be involved because… (Green) is a tremendous basketball player,” Matta said. “There’s so many things he can do that can affect the outcome of a game. For us guarding him, it’s going to take five guys out there.” Matta said that OSU sophomore forward Deshaun Thomas will be assigned to defending Green, but that doesn’t mean he expects the Spartans player’s production to be curtailed. “It’s funny,” Matta said, “just watching Michigan State play and all the different guys that have tried to guard (Green) and who has had success and who hasn’t had success.” With or without Green on the court for MSU, which has advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 14 consecutive seasons, a game against coach Tom Izzo’s traditionally strong Spartans program is tough for most teams in country. “If you look at Michigan State and the job coach Izzo has done… he took over a program that had had success and has really taken it to another level,” Matta said. “(I knew) eight years ago when I got here that (MSU) was one of few programs that was probably going to stand the test of time that we were going to have to compete with.” In his eight season leading OSU, Matta boasts a 6-5 overall, regular-season record against the Spartans. In the team’s last meeting, the Buckeyes defeated the Spartans, 71-61, on Feb. 15, 2011. Sophomore forward Aaron Craft said he remembered the win against MSU as one of the most physical games OSU played during its 2010-11 campaign. Craft said the team will be ready for another physical matchup in Saturday’s game. “(MSU is) a great team. Every year, they seem to always find a way to win,” Craft said. “This year, we’re just going in with the understanding that … we just need to find a way to continue to stay connected out there.” The Buckeyes and Spartans will tip their first of two regular season meetings at 6 p.m., Saturday, at the Schottenstein Center. read more

Mens Volleyball No 14 Ohio State fights injuries ahead of matches against

Then-sophomore outside hitter Reese Devilbiss hits the ball over the net during the final set of No. 3 Ohio State’s match against No. 8 Penn State on Jan. 28, 2018 in St. John Arena. The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions in straight sets (25-19, 25-15, 25-17) to pick up their fifth win of the season. Credit: Aliyyah Jackson | Senior ReporterWhen the No. 14 Ohio State men’s volleyball team steps onto the court in St. John Arena this weekend, it will look significantly different than it has this season. The Buckeyes (3-4, 0-1 MIVA) will take on Saint Francis University (4-3) and Lincoln Memorial University (5-2) without their top two setters — freshman Luke Lentin and senior Sanil Thomas — and the nation’s top scorer: sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes. Thomas and Lentin join junior setter Andrew Hillman, who hasn’t played this season after he sustained an injury during fall training, ensuring the Buckeyes will need to be creative in order to fill the setter position moving forward. Head coach Pete Hanson said junior libero Chase Moothart and freshman libero Parker Mikesch are two players who will fill some gaps for the Buckeyes. “You don’t need a whole lot out of everybody, you need a little bit from each guy,” Hanson said. “We’re just kind of that team right now because we’ve got some young guys playing.” Hanson said having older players on the court will help Ohio State play as a cohesive unit. One of the oldest players on the court, redshirt senior libero Aaron Samarin, said he tries to take ownership of his role as a leader with the new faces on the court. “[I] try to make them feel more comfortable,” Samarin said. “I know they have a lot of energy, and I think if we try to control that and focus it more on comfort and confidence in their play, then we’ll see a lot of positives.” On Friday, the Buckeyes will face a Saint Francis team coming off a 3-1 victory against McKendree. The Red Flash are led by redshirt freshman outside hitter Michael Fischer, who has tallied 102 kills and four aces. The Buckeyes have only lost one of the 34 meetings between the Red Flash since 1993. On Saturday, the Buckeyes will take on Lincoln Memorial, which beat Queens in straight sets in their last match. Junior opposite hitter and setter Evan Cory leads the Railsplitters with 94 kills, 33 digs and 20 aces. This will be the first meeting between Lincoln Memorial and Ohio State in the two teams’ histories. Junior outside hitter Reese Devilbiss will return to the court this weekend after a two-week absence due to a concussion suffered in practice. “It’s been a long two weeks,” Devilbiss said. “It’s tough to see the guys go out there without you each match.” Hanson said he’s looking forward to having Devilbiss back this weekend. “Reese is a real steadying influence for us,“ Hanson said. “He’s the key to our passing and quite frankly, that was a part of our game that really went south on us.” Ohio State takes on Saint Francis at 7 p.m. on Friday and Lincoln Memorial at 8 p.m. on Saturday at St. John Arena. read more

Rat explosion threatens sooty terns on Ascension Island after cat cull

first_imgWhen the RSPB eradicated cat populations on a remote British island in 2002 it was considered a triumph in conservation, allowing endangered frigate birds and masked boobies to thrive.Hundreds of feral cats were trapped and put down or poisoned on Ascension Island, a UK Overseas Territory in the south Atlantic, while pet cats were neutered and registered, in an ambitious two year project part-funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.But the scheme appears to have had unforeseen consequences for populations of sooty terns, a small black and white seabird which is seeing worrying declines.Without hundreds of cats to keep down vermin populations, rat numbers have ‘exploded’, according to Dr Jim Reynolds of the University of Birmingham, and increasingly big rats have been eating sooty tern chicks and eggs. A sooty tern with its chick  A sooty tern in flight Credit:Steve Copsey Rats have boomed since the cat cull according to experts  Dr Judith Brown, Director of Conservation and Fisheries for the Ascension Island Government said rats had been seen attacking sooty tern chicks, but it was unclear how much they were responsible for falling populations.“Whilst the occasional sooty tern chick has been seen alive which appear to have been attacked by a rat there is no quantitative data as to how frequent this is and to what extent it impacts the seabird population.“Rats have been reported to scavenge abandoned eggs and dead chicks but the causes of abandonment and death are unknown. Potentially the availability of fish prey may impact the survival of the chicks.” The terns are already threatened, with populations declining by 84 per cent in the past 60 years.Dr Reynolds, of the Centre for Ornithology, believes that rats are attacking chicks which are already weakened by falling fish stocks, forcing them to turn to less nutritious squid.He has travelled to museums around the world looking for examples of stuffed terns from Ascension Island so that chemical traces in their feathers can be compared to modern terns to see how their diets have changed.“In the background are these dietary problems which have been around for 20 – 30 years, where chicks are weak because they are eating nutritionally poor food, but we now also have a new predator, rats, which we didn’t have before, and the problem is that they kill the terns at an early age,” said Dr Reynolds, whose team is planning to radio-tag rats to monitor their location.“There was a problem with domesticated cats escaping from human settlements and going feral and decimating seabirds, but after the 2002 programme there was a very successful recovery of frigate birds and boobies.“But since then we’ve noticed an explosion in rat populations. The removal of an apex predator has allowed a mesopredator to thrive. And they are moving away from the mountains towards where the seabird colonies are breeding.“Rats grow and grow and get bigger over time so where they would not have bothered terns in the past, now they are taking their chicks and eggs.” Ascension Island  Ascension Island is the most important tropical seabird nesting station in the South Atlantic, supporting but populations fell from 20 million to 11,000 because of cats and mice over the last 150 years.The feral cat removal took place between 2002 and 2004 and the island was declared cat free in 2006. Pet cats must be neutered and their details kept on a register.Before the cat eradication programme frigate birds and boobies had been driven off the mainland and only a handful of breeding pairs remained on a small offshore island.  But the seabirds have now reclolonised the island with more than 1500 pairs of boobies by 2015 and 335 frigate birds in the current breeding season.  10 out of 11 seabird species which had been driven off the island have since returned. Ascension Island center_img Steve Copsey Sooty tern numbers have declined by 84 per cent in the past 60 years Credit:Steve Copsey  Rats have boomed since the cat cull according to experts Credit:Alamy  A sooty tern in flight  Sooty tern numbers have declined by 84 per cent in the past 60 years  Dr Brown said that climate change was also increasing the abundance of invasive Mexican thorn plants and Guava, both of which provide food and shelter for rats, which could be adding to the problemHowever the RSPB has carried out successful projects eliminating rats to protect birds, such as on Henderson Island, part of the UKs Pitcairn Overseas territory, where rats were eating 25,000 petrel chicks each year.Jonathan Hall, our Head of Overseas Territories, said: “The rat problem is certainly something we are trying to look into at the moment.“There isn’t solid evidence about the level of rat predation or population level increases at the moment. But we have carried out rat eradication programmes in the past.2 A sooty tern with its chick  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.last_img read more