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Football

Alabama vs Tennessee Prediction, Game Preview


Alabama vs Tennessee prediction and activity preview.


Alabama vs Tennessee Broadcast

Day: Saturday, Oct 24
Game Time: 3:30 ET
Venue: Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN
Network: CBS

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Alabama (4-) vs Tennessee (2-2) Game Preview

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Why Alabama Will Win

There’s very little stopping this offensive equipment at the second.

The Tide may have stalled late a couple of times in the 2nd halves of blowouts, but when it is go time, this matter has been amazing.

The large performs are there with a passing activity that hit the 417-property mark in just about every of the very last two video games – and 435 yards from Texas A&M just before that – and the floor sport has been pounding out massive, gashing operates at will behind a line that’s offering all people time to work.

The Tennessee offense has unsuccessful to strike the 300-yard mark in every of the previous two online games.

The ground match has been inconsistent with -1 hurrying garden from Ga 1 week, and a very hot mess of a overall performance against Kentucky the week following. It hasn’t been near to sharp enough to retain up with what the Tide are carrying out.

CFN Experts Picks: College or university

Why Tennessee Will Win

The Alabama defense stepped it up in the second fifty percent last week in opposition to Georgia, but it hasn’t accurately been a rock.

It’s been stunningly terrible on 3rd downs, the secondary has authorized 250 yards or extra in every single of the 4 video games, and the operate defense hasn’t been Bama-like about the past handful of weeks.

It has not been as good it stood be, but Tennessee has the line to hold its personal. It’s been decent at keeping defenses out of the backfield – at minimum, it did other than for the loss to Ga – and general there was balance early on in the season.

Defensively, the line is finding into the backfield and the secondary is second in the SEC in yards permitted. But to pull this off, it’s likely to acquire a thing funky.

The return game will have to appear up with a massive engage in, the turnover margin has to go the right way, and the staff has to acquire edge of just about every doable prospect.

It was acquiring near very last 12 months …

CFN Specialists Picks: NFL

What is Heading To Materialize

The Vols had been pushing.

Tua Tagovailoa was out with an ankle trouble, the Vols were being driving deep midway though the fourth quarter down 28-13, and Jarrett Guarantano was about to get in for a touchdown from the one particular, and then ….

He fumbled, it was scooped and scored the other way by Bama’s Trevon Diggs, and that was it. But the crew place up a struggle in the rivalry recreation.

This yr, watch for the Volunteer defense to pitch a great activity and preserve the Bama offense from taking about early on, but Guarantano – if he will get the nod for the entire sport – and the O will not retain tempo in the next half.

Alabama is additional relentless than ever. The streak in the series goes to 14 straight.

Alabama vs Tennessee Prediction, Line

Alabama 40, Tennessee 20
Bet on Alabama vs Tennessee with BetMGM
Alabama -21, o/u: 64.5
ATS Assurance out of 5: 2

Will have to See Ranking: 3.5

5: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
1: Hubie Halloween



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Football

Penn State vs Indiana Prediction, Game Preview


Penn State vs Indiana prediction and sport preview.


Penn Condition vs Indiana Broadcast

Date: Saturday, October 24
Recreation Time: 3:30 ET
Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, IN
Community: FS1

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Penn Point out (-) vs Indiana (-) Activity Preview

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Why Penn Condition Nittany Lions Will Earn

The Nittany Lions will not have star LB Micah Parsons (opting out) or RB Journey Brown (clinical fears), but they even now have a complete load of wonderful talents on a authentic, are living Massive 10 championship contender.

The offensive line must be just behind Ohio State’s and Wisconsin’s when it comes to blasting absent for the working game, Pat Freiermuth is back as a single of the nation’s major limited ends, and the defensive entrance will be a rock.

Indiana has the offensive weapons, but can the offensive line maintain the Penn State defensive front out of the backfield? Can the Hoosier defensive front get into the backfield? Penn Condition will earn on the strains.

CFN Professionals Picks: Higher education

Why Indiana Hoosiers Will Acquire

The passing match should really be marvelous.

There’s expertise in the Nittany Lion secondary, but the go protection got blasted for large yards game after activity, finishing 13th in the Massive 10 in go defense. Previous year, IU bombed away for 371 yards in the 34-27 Nittany Lion earn, and now the offense ought to be even far more explosive.

If Stevie Scott and the floor match can get performing suitable absent, and if Penix is ready to acquire off and continue to keep the chains going, The Hoosiers should really be in a position to continue to keep up.

CFN Authorities Picks: NFL

What is Going To Materialize

Penn Condition will get pushed.

Penix will be excellent, the IU offense will perform, and it will not be sufficient as the Nittany Lions create sufficient explosive performs to conquer a surge of Hoosier details late in the initially 50 %.

Penn Condition will grind away as it normally takes about early in the fourth quarter in a sneaky-enjoyable activity.

2020 Huge Ten Preview
Significant 10 Schedules, Get Totals | Massive 10 Overview
Major Ten Keys Offense | Large 10 Keys Defense

Penn Point out vs Indiana Prediction, Line

Penn Condition 27, Indiana 17
Bet on Penn Point out vs Indiana with BetMGM
Penn State -6.5, o/u: 58
ATS Self esteem out of 5: 2.5

Should See Score: 3

5: Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
1: Hubie Halloween



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Basketball

Will The Best Teams Make For The Best World Series?


In honor of the start out of the 2020 Earth Series, we commit almost this full episode speaking about baseball. We initial crack down how the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays created it to the Slide Common. The matchup favors the Dodgers — our design offers them a 69 per cent prospect to gain the Planet Series. There definitely is tension on them to conclude a 32-12 months championship drought, as perfectly as on stars like Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts to verify their value when it definitely counts. But the Rays have to have many extra things to go suitable for them to acquire: They need their bullpen to continue to keep them out of difficulty as an alternative of bailing them out of issues, and they need Randy Arozarena to preserve hitting home operates at an remarkable charge. All our hosts adore the Rays’ design of perform but remain unconvinced that their underdog narrative is as scrappy as Tampa helps make it seem. What the hosts are confident of is that this year, lastly, belongs to the Dodgers. (While they also admit that their predictions have not been all that correct this year.)

But there are other concerns remaining questioned about this Globe Sequence, including no matter if the Rays’ low-budget technique to crew-developing is interesting or in fact relatively harmful to gamers — and even to baseball fandom alone. As this is FiveThirtyEight, we are unsurprisingly supporters of performance-driven determination-earning on the section of entrance workplaces. While the Rays are an extreme case in point of what smaller-market groups have to do in get to contend yr in and year out, it’s not like the Dodgers aren’t also working with sabermetrics. The Rays’ results participating in Moneyball is a lot improved for Tampa’s supporters and the league as a complete than if the Rays resigned by themselves to consistent disappointment — as compact-industry, midtable teams in the English Leading League do. The alternative to the resentment some followers are experience most likely isn’t a misguided type of player-club loyalty on the element of the Rays. It’s baseball house owners opening up their textbooks and exhibiting us all which groups are maximizing their performance out of necessity, and which are actually currently being low cost.

Last but not least, in the Rabbit Gap, Neil requires a look at how dwelling-discipline edge has (or has not) changed over the program of 2020. The results are inconclusive. Baseball and soccer, which experienced the use of their stadiums but fewer followers, remained quite close to their avenge dwelling successful percentages at total capability. The NBA and the WNBA, which competed in bubbles, noticed clearer distinctions in favor of household workforce victories, regardless of enjoying at neutral web-sites. Is home-area gain all about content amenities? Is it more psychological? We would require to wait for an additional pandemic to absolutely shut down sports activities in order to accumulate more sample knowledge, so we hope this stays a mystery for a superior extended though.

What we’re seeking at this 7 days:



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Basketball

What To Watch For In One Of The Most Intriguing World Series Ever


After a big comeback in one league’s championship series — and an even bigger comeback that wasn’t in the other — the World Series is finally set, with the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers meeting up for Game 1 tonight in Arlington, Texas. Here are some of the biggest factors that jump out as we look ahead to the Fall Classic:

These are legitimately the two best teams in baseball …

Sorry to burst anyone’s bubble, but the World Series doesn’t always feature MLB’s two best teams. (Scandalous, I know.) In this case, though, it’s hard to argue that we aren’t seeing the true cream of baseball’s crop on the game’s biggest stage. During the regular season, Tampa Bay and Los Angeles each had the best records in their respective leagues, which is only the fourth time that has happened in a World Series matchup since the wild-card era began in 1994. (The other series that fit the description came in 2013, 1999 and 1995.) That used to occur every year, of course — by definition — but it’s only happened a little over 25 percent of the time since the League Championship Series was introduced in 1969.

According to our team rankings, the Dodgers and Rays also rank first and second in Elo rating, respectively. That makes this only the ninth time that baseball has seen a college-football-esque No. 1-vs.-2 championship matchup in the past 35 years:

No. 1-vs.-2 World Series matchups like this are rare

World Series matchups since 1985 featuring MLB’s Nos. 1 and 2 teams in our pre-series Elo ratings

YearNo. 1 TeamNo. 2 TeamWinner (Series Record)
2020DodgersRays???
2016CubsIndiansNo. 1 (4-3)
2013Red SoxCardinalsNo. 1 (4-2)
2007Red SoxRockiesNo. 1 (4-0)
2004CardinalsRed SoxNo. 2 (4-0)
1999BravesYankeesNo. 2 (4-0)
1995IndiansBravesNo. 2 (4-2)
1991BravesTwinsNo. 2 (4-3)
1989AthleticsGiantsNo. 1 (4-0)

Source: Retrosheet

… but the Dodgers are pretty sizable favorites.

In the list above, the No. 1 team actually lost just as often as it won — sometimes in an unexpected sweep, even. Weird things can happen in baseball’s postseason … but don’t necessarily count on that this time around. With a gap of 45 Elo points separating them from the Rays, the Dodgers are the 15th-biggest favorite in World Series history and are tied for the fifth-biggest since 1969:

The biggest World Series mismatches (on paper)

Biggest gap in pre-series Elo ratings for World Series teams, 1969-2020

FavoriteUnderdog
YearTeamElo RatingTeamElo RatingElo GapOutcome?
1970Orioles1606Reds1538+68Win (4-1)
1998Yankees1602Padres1546+56Win (4-0)
1975Reds1602Red Sox1547+54Win (4-3)
1990Athletics1583Reds1529+54Loss (0-4)
2020Dodgers1609Rays1564+45???
1984Tigers1573Padres1527+45Win (4-1)
2011Rangers1586Cardinals1546+39Loss (3-4)
1986Mets1581Red Sox1543+38Win (4-3)
1985Cardinals1570Royals1532+38Loss (3-4)
1988Athletics1575Dodgers1538+37Loss (1-4)
2006Tigers1555Cardinals1518+37Loss (1-4)
1971Orioles1599Pirates1562+37Loss (3-4)
1995Indians1604Braves1570+34Loss (2-4)
2016Cubs1589Indians1556+33Win (4-3)
2009Yankees1589Phillies1557+33Win (4-2)

Source: Retrosheet

Again, this being baseball, some of the biggest underdogs ended up winning. (Cincinnati’s sweep of the 103-win Oakland A’s in 1990 has to go down as one of history’s most stunning routs, and the Reds were the underdog by just a bit wider Elo margin than the Rays are currently to the Dodgers.) Accordingly, our prediction model gives Los Angeles a 69 percent chance of winning its first title since 1988 — big by baseball standards, but far from a sure thing.

The matchup is a fitting commentary on team-building in 2020.

The Dodgers had baseball’s third-largest payroll this season, according to Baseball-Reference.com’s salary data, trailing only the Houston Astros and New York Yankees. The Rays, meanwhile, had baseball’s third-smallest payroll, ahead of only the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates. Going back to 1998 — when MLB expanded to its current 30-team structure — that 25-spot difference in salary ranking between L.A. and Tampa Bay is the biggest for any World Series:

Rich team, poor team

Biggest gap in MLB payroll ranking between two World Series opponents since 1998

Higher-Paid ClubLower-Paid Club
YearTeamPayroll RkTeamPayroll RkDiff.Rich Club Win?
2020Dodgers3Rays2825???
2003Yankees1Marlins2524
2007Red Sox2Rockies2523
2010Giants9Rangers2617
2008Phillies12Rays2917
2014Giants5Royals2116
2013Red Sox3Cardinals1512
1998Yankees2Padres1412
2016Cubs8Indians1810
2015Royals12Mets2210
2018Red Sox1Dodgers98
2017Dodgers4Astros128
2004Red Sox2Cardinals108
2001Yankees1D-backs87
2009Yankees1Phillies76
1999Yankees1Braves76
2002Giants10Angels155
2019Nationals4Astros84
2006Cardinals11Tigers143
2000Yankees1Mets43
2012Tigers7Giants92
2011Cardinals12Rangers142
2005Astros11White Sox132

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Traditionally, these big salary mismatches haven’t gone well for the poorer team. Of the 10 most lopsided battles on the list above, nine were won by the club with the more expensive talent — the only exception being the 2003 World Series, in which the then-Florida Marlins outdueled the favored Yankees in six games.

But in a larger sense, the Dodgers and Rays both tell us about where the sport has headed over the past few decades. When Tampa Bay made its big leap into contention in 2008, “Moneyball” (the book) was only 5 years old, and the use of analytics for team-building was still more the province of small-market teams like the Rays than big-market ones like the Dodgers. Tampa’s general manager back then? A 31-year-old former financial analyst named Andrew Friedman — who happens to now be the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations.

Not coincidentally, the Dodgers typify the way big-market clubs have subsumed the lessons learned by smaller teams scraping for every edge. Where the late-2000s Rays had Ben Zobrist, Los Angeles now has an army of multi-positional fielders; where ex-Rays manager Joe Maddon was hailed for helping reintroduce the defensive shift to baseball, no team in the regular season shifted more in 2020 than the Dodgers. To the credit of Tampa Bay’s current brain trust, it still managed to build an exceptional all-around team on a shoestring budget. But the Dodgers built one of those, too — while paying Clayton Kershaw, Mookie Betts, Justin Turner and Kenley Jansen more than the Rays’ entire roster combined.

The Rays are relying on slick defense, timely pitching — and the Randy Arozarena Show.

The Rays were not an elite pure hitting team in the regular season, and they’ve struggled to consistently get on base in the playoffs — among the eight teams that made the division series, Tampa Bay ranks seventh in postseason batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. Only three regular Rays hitters have an OPS over .780 in the playoffs: Ji-Man Choi (.952), Manny Margot (.967) and — of course — ALCS MVP Randy Arozarena (1.288). Arozarena’s seven home runs set a new rookie record and are tied (behind Nelson Cruz in 2011, Carlos Beltran in 2004 and Barry Bonds in 2002) for the second-most ever in a single postseason. But the Rays have arguably relied too much on Arozarena and the long ball; 72 percent of their runs in the playoffs have come via the home run, the largest share ever for a pennant-winner going into a World Series, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Tampa Bay could stand to get more from some of its flagging hitters — most notably second baseman Brandon Lowe, who carries a dismal .366 postseason OPS after posting a .916 mark during the regular season. But the Dodgers’ pitching won’t be easy to overcome. Among division-series contestants, L.A. pitchers easily have the best fielding independent pitching (FIP) this postseason, with the second-best rates of strikeouts and home runs allowed. Though Arozarena also had great numbers (1.023 OPS) in limited playing time during the regular season, he’ll probably regress to the mean some in the World Series. Will his teammates pick up the slack?

On the other side of the ball, the Rays have relied on their defense to make plays and get the key out at the right moment. Tampa’s pitchers have stranded a playoff-high 85.5 percent of runners on base, and only the Astros had a larger gap than the Rays have had between their ERA (3.36) and FIP (4.65) in the postseason. Both of those stats tend to regress to the mean as well — though we’d also expect the quartet of Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Nick Anderson and Ryan Yarbrough, who combined for a 3.69 regular-season FIP, to do better than their collective 5.75 postseason mark. The real question is how much they can limit the damage from an L.A. lineup that led the majors in regular-season scoring and produced an .850 OPS against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, with four regular hitters (Corey Seager, Kiké Hernández, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson) above .970 in the series.

This is another major chapter in Clayton Kershaw’s complicated story.

After losing his lone start of the NLCS, it looked like 2020 might be the latest in a long line of postseason disappointments for Clayton Kershaw. But L.A.’s comeback gives him another shot at redemption. And one start shouldn’t define his playoffs as a whole, anyway. Over the entire postseason, Kershaw is 2-1 with a 3.32 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 19 innings … pretty solid numbers, all told. (For comparison, he had a 3.31 FIP during the regular season.) That’s kind of par for the course, though: Kershaw has not been as bad in the playoffs as we’re often led to believe — he has the same career postseason FIP (3.74) as legendary money pitcher Jack Morris, for instance — yet he has also faltered in some pretty high-profile games. His legacy is complicated, without a doubt, and that fact is certain to come into play sooner or later in this World Series.

Perhaps the bigger postseason question for Kershaw is just how many prime chances he’ll have left to win a ring after 2020. Though he had his best season in three years according to WAR per 162 games, Kershaw will be 33 next season, an area of the aging curve in which pitchers typically see their strikeouts drop and their FIPs rise. And while the Dodgers should still be plenty good next year, more than a few familiar faces from this current quasi-dynasty are set to be free agents after this season, including Pederson, Hernández and Turner. (Kershaw himself has a contract that expires the offseason after next.) It’s hard not to think that this is one of the last, best championship opportunities remaining for the Kershaw-era Dodgers.

It should be a very good World Series.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Dodgers and Rays’ combined .692 winning percentage is the highest for any World Series in history. That’s in part due to the fact that league-leading records will be more extreme in a smaller sample — and the 2020 season was baseball’s shortest since 1878. But these teams also look good if we look at metrics that are theoretically regressed to account for such a short schedule. If you take the harmonic mean of both teams’ Elo ratings in each World Series, this matchup shows up as the 13th-best in history and the third-best since 1953:

This World Series matchup looks good on paper

Best World Series matchups based on the harmonic mean of pre-series Elo ratings, 1903-2020

FavoriteUnderdog
YearTeamElo RatingTeamElo RatingHarmonic MeanWinner
1942Cardinals1613Yankees16051608.8Cardinals
1911Athletics1605Giants15911597.8Athletics
1906Cubs1635White Sox15621597.5White Sox
1910Cubs1595Athletics15891591.8Athletics
1909Pirates1611Tigers15721591.3Pirates
2018Red Sox1600Dodgers15821591.2Red Sox
1943Cardinals1610Yankees15731591.1Yankees
1953Dodgers1597Yankees15851590.9Yankees
1935Cubs1597Tigers15781587.5Tigers
1939Yankees1622Reds15531586.9Yankees
1931Athletics1589Cardinals15841586.6Cardinals
1995Indians1604Braves15701586.5Braves
2020Dodgers1609Rays15641586.4???
1912Red Sox1592Giants15801585.8Red Sox
2019Astros1593Nationals15791585.6Nationals

Source: Retrosheet

That also squares with the thrills both teams have already provided so far in the postseason. If the twin seven-game league championship series were any indication, we should be in for a treat as the Rays and Dodgers take the field over the next week or so.

Check out our latest MLB predictions.





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Football

NFL Predictions, Schedule, Game Previews, Lines, TV: Week 7


The Week 7 NFL predictions, Television schedules, recreation previews, fantasy players to enjoy, and match times.


Outcomes So Considerably: SU 60-27-1, ATS 46-42, o/u: 53-35

Week 7 Fearless Predictions, Video game Previews 
CFN Fearless Predictions & Activity Previews

All outlined match instances EST. Click on on every single activity for activity preview & predictions when they come all over the week.

Thursday, October 22

NY Giants at Philadelphia

– NY Giants at Philadelphia Prediction, Preview
8:20 FOX and NFL Network
Line: Philadelphia -3.5, o/u:
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Sunday, Oct 25

Cleveland at Cincinnati

– Cleveland at Cincinnati Prediction, Preview
1:00 CBS
Line: Cleveland -3.5, o/u: 51.5
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Dallas at Washington

– Dallas at Washington Prediction, Preview
1:00 FOX
Line: Dallas -3, o/u: 49
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Detroit at Atlanta

– Detroit at Atlanta Prediction, Preview
1:00 FOX
Line: Atlanta -3, o/u: 56.5
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Carolina at New Orleans

– Carolina at New Orleans Prediction, Preview
1:00 FOX
Line: New Orleans -7.5, o/u: 51
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Buffalo at NY Jets

– Buffalo at NY Jets Prediction, Preview
1:00 CBS
Line: Buffalo -12.5, o/u: 48
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Green Bay at Houston

– Eco-friendly Bay at Houston Prediction, Preview
1:00 FOX
Line: Inexperienced Bay -3.5, o/u: 56
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Seattle at Arizona

– Seattle at Arizona Prediction, Preview
4:05 FOX
Line: Seattle -3.5, o/u: 55
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San Francisco at New England

– San Francisco at New England Prediction, Preview
4:25 CBS
Line: New England -2.5, o/u: 45.5
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Kansas Metropolis at Denver

– Kansas City at Denver Prediction, Preview
4:25 CBS
Line: Kansas Town -9, o/u: 48.5
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Tampa Bay at Las Vegas

– Tampa Bay at Las Vegas Prediction, Preview
4:25 CBS
Line: Tampa Bay -3, o/u: 53.5
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Pittsburgh at Tennessee

– Pittsburgh at Tennessee Prediction, Preview
4:25 CBS
Line: Pittsburgh -1.5, o/u: 52.5
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Jacksonville at LA Chargers

– Jacksonville at LA Chargers Prediction, Preview
8:20 NBC
Line: LA Chargers -8, o/u: 49
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Monday, October 26

Chicago at LA Rams

– Chicago at LA Rams Prediction, Preview
8:15 ESPN
Line: LA Rams -5.5, o/u: 46
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Do The WNBA’s Most Improved Players Keep Up Their Success?


The 2020 WNBA season was unlike any other, in its bubble on the campus of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. In just 74 days of games, we saw A’ja Wilson outduel Breanna Stewart for Most Valuable Player, Courtney Vandersloot and Sue Bird set single-game assist records, and many other players surprise us with their improved performance from a season ago. One of the biggest of those surprises was the performance of Atlanta Dream guard/forward Betnijah Laney.

In 2019, Laney had averaged a then-career-high 5.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game for the Indiana Fever, but a few weeks before teams reported to Bradenton this year, the team cut her. A week later, the Atlanta Dream signed Laney, hoping she could bring defensive energy and versatility.

Laney did that and much more, defying the preseason scouting reports that labeled her an offensive afterthought. She started all 22 games for the Dream and averaged 17.2 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game en route to winning the 2020 WNBA Most Improved Player award.

The MIP award has been given out since 2000, when New York Liberty forward/center Tari Phillips won the inaugural award. Since then, there have been co-MIPs once (Connecticut’s Wendy Palmer and Indiana’s Kelly Miller in 2004), and only one player has won the award multiple times (Leilani Mitchell in 2010 with New York and in 2019 with Phoenix).

But what, exactly, does a player have to do to be Most Improved? And do winners usually use the award as a springboard to even better performances in the next season, or do they regress to their previous level of performance? To answer those questions, we compiled data from Her Hoop Stats on all 22 award winners in their MIP season and the seasons directly before and after.

What is the profile of a Most Improved Player?

Most Improved Players tend to win the award relatively early in their careers. On average, MIPs are in their fourth WNBA season, but eight of the 22 winners (36 percent) have been second-year players.

During their winning season, Most Improved Players played an average of 29.5 minutes per game and averaged 12.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. In 2001, Houston Comets guard Janeth Arcain was the iron woman of this group, averaging 36.0 minutes per game, while Erin Buescher in 2006 (19.6 minutes per game) remains the only player to win the award while averaging less than 20 minutes per game.

On average, winners played 13.4 more minutes per game than in the previous season and recorded 7.5 more points, 2.7 more rebounds and 1.0 more assists. Every MIP increased her statistics in all four categories except for Indiana guard Shavonte Zellous in 2013, whose 1.7 assists per game equaled her 2012 average.

Almost all MIPs got better in every major category

Change in per-game stats for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player from the year before winning the award to the winning season

SeasonPlayerMinutesPointsRebs.Assts.
2020Betnijah Laney+7.5+11.6+0.7+2.3
2019Leilani Mitchell+15.5+8.4+1.6+1.7
2018Natasha Howard+13.9+8.9+4.0+0.3
2017Jonquel Jones+14.4+8.6+8.2+0.9
2016Elizabeth Williams+23.0+8.6+4.9+0.8
2015Kelsey Bone+5.8+6.1+1.0+0.6
2014Skylar Diggins-Smith+8.8+11.6+0.6+1.2
2013Shavonte Zellous+9.0+7.2+0.7+0.0
2012Kristi Toliver+7.9+6.3+1.3+2.0
2011Kia Vaughn+20.0+8.0+5.3+0.8
2010Leilani Mitchell+16.0+6.9+1.4+1.6
2009Crystal Langhorne+14.2+7.2+3.9+0.5
2008Ebony Hoffman+13.6+6.2+3.8+1.0
2007Janel McCarville+7.0+5.9+1.3+0.3
2006Erin Buescher Perperoglou+10.6+6.4+2.6+0.4
2005Nicole Powell+16.7+6.4+1.3+1.3
2004Wendy Palmer+10.5+4.3+2.2+0.4
2004Kelly Miller+16.8+4.6+1.6+1.7
2003Michelle Snow+15.3+5.3+4.0+0.8
2002Coco Miller+21.4+7.6+3.1+2.2
2001Janeth Arcain+5.5+10.1+0.5+1.0
2000Tari Phillips+21.1+9.7+5.9+0.6
Average+13.4+7.5+2.7+1.0

Source: Her Hoop Stats

Increased playing time can account for some of the increased production, but MIPs were also generally more efficient on offense. Winners’ effective field-goal percentage increased by an average of 4.2 percentage points, while their player efficiency ratings rose from 13.0 in the previous season — slightly below the league average of 15.0 — to well above average at 18.8. Some winners, such as Arcain and Laney, took on much larger offensive roles, but on average, winners’ usage rates increased by less than 3 percentage points, and five winners actually had lower usage rates than in the previous season.

Finally, offensive and defensive ratings — which indicate the number of points a player scores and allows, respectively, per 100 possessions — have risen steadily since the WNBA’s inception in 1997, making them less informative measures of player effectiveness for this analysis. However, the winners’ net ratings — the difference between their offensive and defensive ratings — show that these players have been an average of 12 points per 100 possessions better in their MIP-winning season than in the season prior.

This year’s candidates

Laney’s minutes increased only modestly from 2019 to 2020 (+7.5) compared to previous award winners, but her leap from 5.6 points per game in 2019 to 17.2 in 2020 was tied with Skylar Diggins-Smith’s 2014 surge as a member of the Tulsa Shock for the largest increase ever among Most Improved Player award winners. She also recorded the largest increase in assists (2.3), narrowly beating out Washington’s Coco Miller (2.2) in 2002, and the second-largest increase in usage rate (9.4 percentage points) behind Arcain (13.0 points) in 2001.

Yet Laney did not run away with the award, winning just 25 of a possible 47 votes (53 percent). Washington’s Myisha Hines-Allen, who got 21 votes, was also doing unprecedented things in the WNBA bubble. One season removed from playing fewer than eight minutes per game, Hines-Allen was named to the All-WNBA Second Team and averaged 17.0 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 29.9 minutes per game.

Had Hines-Allen won the award instead of Laney, she would have had the largest increase in points per game (14.7) of any winner and the second-largest increases in minutes, rebounds, assists and effective field-goal percentage.

How do MIPs fare the following season?

For the most part, players who won the Most Improved Player award performed at the same level the following season. Their average minutes (-0.9), points (-1.1) and rebounds (-0.4) per game all barely decreased, while their assists per game held steady.

However, those averages could obscure dramatic changes in individual performance, if about half of winners continued to improve their performance while the other half returned to their previous level of performance. Instead, most winners saw their performance plateau in the season after winning Most Improved Player. Fifteen of 21 winners averaged within five minutes per game of their average the season before, and 17 averaged within 4 points of their average in the previous year. Fourteen increased or decreased their rebounding by less than one per game, and 15 did the same in assists.

Some surges were easier to maintain than others

Change in per-game stats for the WNBA’s Most Improved Player from the year of winning the award to the subsequent season

SeasonPlayerMinutesPointsRebs.Assts.
2019Leilani Mitchell+0.2-3.3-0.2+1.4
2018Natasha Howard+5.7+4.9+1.8+1.1
2017Jonquel Jones-8.0-3.6-6.4+0.2
2016Elizabeth Williams-3.1-1.5-0.9+0.2
2015Kelsey Bone-13.6-9.3-2.6-1.1
2014Skylar Diggins-Smith-3.0-2.3+0.2+0.0
2013Shavonte Zellous-3.9-3.7-0.6+0.4
2012Kristi Toliver-1.5-3.4-0.6-1.5
2011Kia Vaughn-5.2-3.7-1.7-0.2
2010Leilani Mitchell-3.4-3.7-0.5-0.9
2009Crystal Langhorne+4.3+4.3+1.8+0.2
2008Ebony Hoffman-1.1-0.5-1.9-0.3
2007Janel McCarville+5.2+3.3+0.6+1.0
2006Erin Buescher Perperoglou+8.1+1.6+2.2+1.2
2005Nicole Powell-2.8-1.1+0.3+0.0
2004Wendy Palmer+2.1+0.6+0.2+0.1
2004Kelly Miller-1.2+0.0-0.7-0.7
2003Michelle Snow-1.4-0.3+0.0-0.2
2002Coco Miller+4.2+3.2+0.2+0.0
2001Janeth Arcain-1.1-7.1-0.3-0.2
2000Tari Phillips+1.2+1.5+0.0+0.2
Average-0.9-1.1-0.4+0.0

Source: Her Hoop Stats

One recent exception to this rule is Seattle Storm forward Natasha Howard. Howard won Most Improved Player along with a WNBA title in 2018, averaging 13.2 points and 6.4 rebounds with a player efficiency rating (PER) of 22.2, 12th-best in the league. The following season, with Seattle stars Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird sidelined by injuries, Howard took her game to an MVP level, ranking in the top seven in the WNBA with 18.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and a 24.0 PER.

Who might win MIP in 2021?

Several players had stat lines in 2020 close to the average for a pre-MIP season and could be poised for a breakout in 2021. Here are a few of those candidates:

Kennedy Burke, Indiana Fever: In her first season playing in new head coach Marianne Stanley’s system, the second-year guard averaged 7.2 points and 1.1 assists in 18.3 minutes per game. Burke had 23 points and 17 points in two games against the WNBA champion Seattle Storm, showing that she can be a scoring threat against even the toughest defenses.

Te’a Cooper, Los Angeles Sparks: The rookie guard averaged 7.0 points and 2.0 assists in 17.2 minutes per game this season and could see much more playing time if the Sparks don’t retain one or more of Chelsea Gray, Seimone Augustus and Riquna Williams, who are all unrestricted free agents this offseason. (Cooper must also re-sign with the Sparks, but the team has exclusive negotiating rights.)

Lauren Cox, Indiana Fever: The No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 draft had an underwhelming rookie season, playing in only 14 games and averaging 3.6 points and 3.3 rebounds. If she’s fully healthy next year after missing time this season because of COVID-19 and a knee injury, she and young center Teaira McCowan could be the nightmare for opponents that many have been anticipating since Cox was drafted.

Sophie Cunningham, Phoenix Mercury: Like Cooper, Cunningham could be poised to play more minutes next season depending on what Phoenix general manager Jim Pitman decides about free agent guards Diana Taurasi, Shatori Walker-Kimbrough, Shey Peddy and Yvonne Turner. Cunningham averaged 5.0 points and 0.8 assists this season, but she scored nearly 2,200 points in her college career at Missouri and is a much better 3-point shooter than her 23.5 percent accuracy this season suggests.



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Nick Saban, Postponed Games, Bowl Ties


What I think, know and consider about the university football planet, Nick Saban’s wellness, what bowls should really presently be performing, and postponed online games, all in the latest College Football Cavalcade.


Sorry if this column sucks, it’s not my fault …

More than the last couple of months the column didn’t use the mask more than its nose and used a absolutely worthless face defend with an opening on the base. Past week it used a ineffective neck gaiter, and there was not any social distancing, so the SEC fined it $100,000. This week’s effort is far a lot more accountable.

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BREAKING News …

Nick Saban examined detrimental a 3rd time for the coronavirus and was on the sidelines for previous week’s earn over Georgia.

Seriously asking, how lots of normally takes were thrown out before settling on that as the AFLAC advert?

Whilst the odds could possibly be frustrating that a person will not die from staying infected by COVID-19, the investigate is setting up to trickle out that you and your critical organs truly really do not want this factor no make a difference what.

So when it arrives to men and women obtaining this, it’s not the time to try building humorous take place.

Nick Saban is a soccer coach.

It doesn’t subject how many moments his teams have overwhelmed your team, or how surly he is, or how one-minded his concentration could possibly be. It is not kosher to do something but wish him great overall health heading ahead although hoping almost everything definitely is great.

These coaches – like Saban, Les Miles, and to a much lesser age extent, Jeff Brohm, Dan Mullen and Mike Norvell – are older. They have people. They are just goofy soccer fellas with outsized value mainly because they mentor a foolish activity.

No subject how exhausted you are of losing to somebody, do not be an obnoxious dillhole if a fellow human is strike with an infectious illness.

Or, explain to the coaches they have to answer a problem about anything other than football if they never comply

Who desires the COVID-19 outbreaks to cease in the two college soccer and the NFL?

You reported sure, but I really don’t rather feel you. Let us try out this again.

Who would like to cease groups from having this? Are you done with teams having to postpone games and change all-around schedules and ideas to get a season in?

You have to hit soccer packages – both of those faculty and pro – where it genuinely hurts.

Soccer people today and coaches do not care about income – fines aren’t heading to do the job. They care about two points: 1) becoming equipped to do the soccer stuff, and 2) wins.

Certainly nothing else matters to soccer coaches, and if they say in any other case, they are fully lying. You really don’t get to turn into an elite football mentor devoid of sacrificing in just about anything else that ordinary individuals keep expensive. You have to ma….

BREAKING Information …

Nick Saban examined unfavorable a 3rd time for the coronavirus and was on the sidelines for last week’s acquire in excess of Ga.

Frightfully sorry, sir. ESPN and the other sporting activities networks are demanded by regulation to update you each 45 seconds or so on the affliction of Nick Saban’s availability to coach against Ga, and the glitch someway seeped into the column.

Where was I? Enable me test this a person a lot more time. Do you definitely want to quit the virus from currently being an challenge for football teams? Just one word …

Forfeit.

Here’s how it will work. Everybody receives independently examined, and if a few or a lot more gamers, coaches and/or staff members users take a look at favourable, the plan receives put on maintain in situation there have been wrong positives. Then you independently check once more, and you wait around until the last feasible moment to make confident the effects have been precise, and if they were …

Forfeit, and the players or coaches who examination favourable – just after a third time to make confident there isn’t a false result – are performed for the period, no wiggle home.

No postponing online games. No shuffling close to every person else’s agenda. No trying to be all philosophical or comprehension. Forfeit. Loss. Loser. On the file without end, just can’t make it up, nuclear button is pressed.

Think you me, you toss it out there to any head football mentor that constructive tests equal a reduction, and you view just how rapidly all that (bleep) receives locked down triple tricky, and

BREAKING Information …

Nick Saban examined destructive a third time for the coronavirus and was on the sidelines for very last week’s earn above Georgia.

CRAP, sorry. I’ll get that fastened.

No just one likes to speak about it, but even the most player-helpful head soccer coaches have whole authoritarian rule.

You really do not like it, Player X? Wonderful – that is totally great. Opt out. Go do something else. Your mentor is not heading to chance forfeiting a recreation mainly because you want to consider your girlfriend to Applebee’s.

You never like it NFLPA? Hey, we’re all just trying to defend your guys.

Plenty of with the nice-nice when it comes to this issue. Dangle the forfeit phrase more than everyone’s heads, and this matter is solved toot-sweet.

What Bowl Games Must Do
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Future: How the 2020 Bowl Period Should Function





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Aaron Rodgers Has A Bad Day, The Titans’ Offense Keeps On Chugging, And The Bears Continue To Confound


sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, sports editor): Week 6 is in the books save for two games to be played today: the regularly scheduled Monday Night Football matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and Arizona Cardinals AND the rescheduled game featuring the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs. Fun fact: After tonight, Kansas City will have played six games this season, and only two of those will have been on Sundays.

The Chiefs and Bills face big tests in their matchup, as other top-tier teams did this weekend — with varying outcomes. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans stayed undefeated, though they took very different routes to get there, while the previously unbeaten Green Bay Packers were trounced by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Let’s start with the Packers: How surprised were you by that loss?

joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): I was shocked by how poorly Aaron Rodgers performed after his Hingle McCringleberry touchdown celebration was taken away from him.

Salfino (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight contributor): I was shocked by Rodgers being so bad, too. But Rodgers is saying they needed a thorough whipping. What’s he going to say, though?

neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): If this is the Bucs’ defense, Tom Brady will feel at home compared with his late-era Pats teams. They DOMINATED defensively.

Salfino: Rodgers was thoroughly abused. And it was shocking to me after watching the Bucs’ game last week, against Chicago, that the Packers couldn’t lay a glove on Tom Brady. Maybe the Bears’ pass rush is that good.

joshua.hermsmeyer: It was Rodgers’s third game this season with an off-target throw percentage of 16 percent or more, so perhaps those throws were bound to catch up to him.

sara.ziegler: Rodgers also seemed to be suffering from not having a good No. 2 option to throw to.

neil: They had been making due without Davante Adams, though — then he comes back and Rodgers struggles badly.

Salfino: I figured those struggles in prior weeks were due to the absence of Adams. But maybe he’s just feasted against bad defenses mostly.

sara.ziegler: They’re clearly missing Allen Lazard. (My Iowa State reference for the week, guys.)

neil: Gotta sneak that in somehow.

Salfino: Sara, what’s the break-even point on soybeans?

neil: 😂

sara.ziegler: LOLOL — if I didn’t know that before last week, I sure do now.

neil: I do think we have to acknowledge that the Bucs’ D might also be good. It didn’t look amazing against the Chargers or Bears, but otherwise it has had some pretty impressive games — none better than this one.

sara.ziegler: And Brady played well! Nice to see the Tom-to-Gronk connection restored.

neil: Gronk got his jersey filthy and everything.

Salfino: Rob Gronkowski’s play was more shocking to me than the Packers’ performance. I thought he was basically an in-line blocker now. He sort of looked like the Gronk of old.

And Ronald Jones gives Brady a running threat, which I think he needs now. Jones seems explosive. He looks like a second-round pick suddenly.

neil: Ronald won the Jones-vs.-Jones RB matchup decisively Sunday.

sara.ziegler: We haven’t talked about the Steelers much this year — I had been a little suspect of their opposition up to this week. But they beat a Browns team that was itself coming off a good win. What do you guys make of the Steelers so far this year?

neil: They seem like you might have expected the best-case scenario to be going into the season: still a great defense, and a much-improved passing game with Big Ben back.

Salfino: I think that the Steelers are generating enough points to mask the obvious fact that Ben Roethlisberger is no longer the same QB. This is not remotely an explosive passing offense, despite a lot of wide receiver talent.

neil: I’m not sure it needs to be, though. He just needed to be better than Mason Rudolph and Duck Dodgers (or whatever his name was) for them to improve a lot.

Salfino: Sure, the passing game is much improved from last year, though it’s much worse than it was in 2018.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Part of the lack of explosion comes from Ben’s inability — or lack of desire — to run play-action. The Steelers are once again last in the league in the best play type in football.

neil: Why do you think that is, Josh? Just that it clashes with his QB style?

joshua.hermsmeyer: Some have speculated that he doesn’t like to turn his back to the defense. And honestly, I can’t really blame a QB for that. But play-action is a lot to give up.

Salfino: Maybe this is meaningful regarding play-action? (Note that this is old data.)

I’ve been wondering if there’s a difference in play-action under center vs. in shotgun. I can’t imagine that play-action works as well in shotgun.

neil: You’re right this season, Mike:

According to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, the average QBR for play-action under center is 76.2; for shotgun, it’s 65.1. (With the usual caveats about sample size and selection bias, etc. etc.)

Salfino: If only I weren’t color blind:

neil: Intuitively, it makes sense. Although the quality of the runner doesn’t seem to improve play-action effectiveness, the credibility of the threat to run in general does.

(And the time you have to recover if you overcommit.)

Salfino: In shotgun, a defense with the run would seem to me to be in wait-and-see mode. Again, intuitively.

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Steelers would be pretty scary if they did run more play-action, so I think their division-mates are quite happy they don’t run more of it.

sara.ziegler: OK, so are you buying or selling the Steelers going forward?

Salfino: I’m buying their defense. The Steelers offense is still at least fine. To me, they’re the rich man’s Bears.

neil: Yeah. I’m selling if the question is whether they are Super Bowl favorites now. But they look solid.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Our model has them as the fourth-best team in the league, and I think that’s about right. Though I have some nagging worries about Baltimore at No. 2 if their passing offense doesn’t improve.

So the Steelers could ascend.

Salfino: I can see the Steelers either beating every team (except the Chiefs) or losing to them. To get to be a real favorite, Roethlisberger and their passing game needs to find their 2018 form.

neil: The Tennessee game on Sunday should be VERY interesting.

sara.ziegler: What a good segue, Neil.

neil: Haha

I aim to please!

sara.ziegler: The Titans had to withstand a furious comeback from the Houston Texans to win in overtime and stay undefeated. Are the Titans actually any good?

Salfino: What do we make of the Titans’ insane red-zone efficiency? What do you do when a stat that screams regression refuses to regress?

neil: Derrick Henry probably helps with that. But traditionally, that stat does regress pretty hard to the mean.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Agreed, I wouldn’t expect it to continue. But to me the biggest crack in the Titans’ armor is their defense: They’re allowing 6.2 yards per play, 28th in the league.

Salfino: Arthur Smith has to be the hottest coordinator in the league when it comes to the coaching carousel, right?

As Josh says, their offense is carrying them.

neil: Kind of like the anti-Steelers, who are 5-0 more because of their defense.

(Although I think the Titans’ D is worse than the Steelers’ offense is middling.)

Salfino: They’re also lucky — tied for seventh in point differential.

sara.ziegler: Well, I’ll ask the same question I did with the Steelers: Are you buying or selling the Titans?

joshua.hermsmeyer: I’m buying the Titans, even if they have a system QB. Their offense does everything just right in my view.

sara.ziegler: Interesting!

Salfino: I always buy the good offenses, and I think the Titans — with the tandem of Henry and Ryan Tannehill — are very good on offense. But the injury to tackle Taylor Lewan is a problem. Fox’s Jay Glazer says he tore his ACL.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Yikes.

neil: Oooof. Yeah. And Ryan Tannehill playing well is so important to them going forward. Gotta protect him — he has the third-lowest sack rate of any QB this year.

Salfino: Tennessee’s OL is so good. They’re the new Cowboys.

And look at Tannehill’s sack rate historically. This has been transformative. Sacks are basically punts.

sara.ziegler: Gotta admit, I was not expecting you all to be so high on the Titans.

A team that almost loses to the Vikings does not seem great to me! (The Seahawks excluded.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: LOL

neil: I can no longer make excuses for the Vikings. My goodness.

sara.ziegler: My self-care in 2020 is not watching Vikings games.

Salfino: Are the Vikings in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes? Kirk Cousins had a terrible first half. They may be heading for a divorce.

sara.ziegler: Anyway, let’s talk about the one-loss teams that won this week: the Baltimore Ravens and the Chicago Bears. We expected the Ravens to be in roughly this position; we, uh, did not expect that of the Bears. What is going on in Chicago?

neil: I would love to credit Nick Foles, but it’s really just the defense. This is the same Bears Formula as ever.

Salfino: I think these teams are very similar, along with the Steelers. I don’t really believe in any of their offenses, which seems crazy given how the Ravens are scoring. It’s just that Baltimore’s passing game is practically nonexistent.

neil: I guess Foles has a positive VOMiT: Value Over Mitch Trubisky.

sara.ziegler: OMG

Salfino: That’s Undefeated in 2020 Mitch Trubisky.

It’s funny how there seems to be an NFL rule that when the Bears are good, their defense has to carry them.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Even their defense hasn’t been dominant, though. They’re sixth in yards per play allowed, which is good, but it doesn’t explain that 5-1 record. They’ve just been weirdly lucky, and it’s why I think they’re the most fraudulent five-win team in the league (small group, but still).

Salfino: That’s quasi-dominant, Josh. It passes for dominant in 2020. The key for them is that they get pressure without blitzing. Their four-man rush is the best in the game. This makes playing defense much easier.

neil: The Bears and Bills stand apart among the potentially fraudulent one-loss teams, for sure.

Bears: Bad offense, good defense. Bills: Bad defense, good offense.

sara.ziegler: Interesting comparison to the Bills, Neil. I found this tweet from Aaron Schatz instructive:

neil: If the Bears and Bills merged their best parts, they might be Super Bowl favorites. If they merged their worst parts, they’d be the Jets.

sara.ziegler: Hahahahaha

Salfino: That’s an interesting tweet. At this stage of the season, I think I’d rather be predictably good than descriptively good (by wins and losses). Maybe this is nerdy.

neil: Never too nerdy!

Salfino: What do you guys think about that question? Is it better to be 5-1 on paper or in the standings now?

neil: I agree that it’s better to be good in the predictive stats now. Get me at least halfway through the season with good descriptive stats, though, and I’m in decent shape.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Aaron is right, I guess, that wins are better than losses, but I agree with Mike. I’d much rather be the team coming up than the one that knows it’s just been barely getting by and gotten all the good bounces.

That seems like a special kind of hell in the NFL.

neil: Although I will say the flip-side — 1-5 but good on paper — isn’t a nice place to be either.

Salfino: Is there a team like that?

neil: The Texans? LOL.

(No.)

Salfino: The Texans are another one of the good-offense, no-defense teams. This is a 2020 trend.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Maybe the Texans are substantially better than their record, but who knows.

neil: The Patriots are probably the best sub-.500 team.

sara.ziegler: The Patriots game was the other big surprise to me this week.

neil: We’re definitely not used to seeing the Patriots lose at home to a team like Denver.

sara.ziegler: They’re under .500! 2020 is wild.

Salfino: The Patriots are not good on offense. What’s happened to them after playing Seattle in Week 2 has been shocking. Cam Newton’s throwing was ghastly. They lost without giving up a TD after being 39-0 when that happened under Bill Belichick.

neil: That is a shocking stat. (Not that they had been so good, but that they couldn’t continue it Sunday.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: I wanted them to pass more, but as I look at their numbers, their pass EPA per play for the game was -0.35 vs -0.04 per rush. They threw short and did so ineffectively, which is pretty hard to do.

Salfino: And Denver’s defense was banged up and bad. Cam was throwing the ball into the ground 5 yards in front of his receiver, 10 yards away.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Makes you wonder if he’s fully healthy.

neil: That’s what I was thinking, too. Though he wasn’t exactly the reason they won vs. Vegas earlier, either.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Cam is a special player. He can pass you into the red zone and then run the ball in all by himself from there. But when he’s off, he really looks off.

sara.ziegler: It does seem like the messy schedule of the past couple of weeks might have caught up with the Patriots.

Salfino: That’s a good point, Sara. Who knows what we make out of this season of stops and starts.

neil: If any coach would have prepared a team to deal with the COVID craziness, you’d think it would be Belichick. But this seems to be bigger than even he can manage through.

In fact, maybe the “make a new game plan for each opponent” strategy is the wrong one for 2020, given that you might not really know who the next opponent even is!

joshua.hermsmeyer: That’s a really interesting point, Neil. I think you’re right.

Salfino: Good point. Especially with a new QB. And really a new offense. They probably don’t have that requisite mastery of all their plays.

neil: Either way, Tom definitely won the breakup on Sunday.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.





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The NHL Says ‘Hockey Is For Everyone.’ Black Players Aren’t So Sure.


As Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly sat in the penalty box during a game at Chicago’s United Center in February 2018, he listened as a group of white fans chanted “basketball, basketball, basketball” in his direction. The Blackhawks fans taunting Smith-Pelly, who is Black, were making their position clear: Hockey isn’t for everyone, and it’s especially not for Black people.

Willie O’Ree, who became the NHL’s first Black player in 1958 when he took the ice for the Bruins in a game against the Montreal Canadiens, faced racist abuse throughout his career. When Toronto Maple Leafs forward Wayne Simmonds was on the Flyers in 2011, he had a banana hurled at him by a fan during an exhibition game in London, Ontario. After Washington Capitals forward Joel Ward knocked the Bruins out of the 2012 playoffs with a Game 7 overtime winner, he faced a barrage of racist abuse by Boston fans on social media. When New York Rangers prospect K’Andre Miller, who is Black, participated in what he must have believed would be an ordinary question-and-answer session with fans on Zoom earlier this year, he was repeatedly abused with racist taunts. In a candid Players’ Tribune essay, former Calgary Flames forward Akim Aliu, who is Nigerian, detailed instances of racist abuse that he suffered during his playing career — from teammates and from his own coach.

The list of racist incidents in hockey is too long to detail in full, and it’s not limited to the professional game — they are depressingly common at the youth level, too. After the incident in Chicago in 2018, Smith-Pelly reflected on how little has changed since O’Ree broke the color barrier more than 60 years ago.

“[O’Ree] had to go through a lot, and the same thing has been happening now, which obviously means there’s still a long way to go,” Smith-Pelly told the AP. “If you had pulled a quote from him back then and us now, they’re saying the same thing, so obviously there’s still a long way to go in hockey and in the world if we’re being serious.”

The hockey world was forced again to confront its own reaction to racism this summer. When players on the Milwaukee Bucks decided not to take the court for an NBA playoff game on Aug. 26 in protest of the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, they inspired other players across sports to do the same. In doing so, they made it clear to league officials, team owners and a nation confronting police violence against Black people that they believe Black lives matter. But as basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls and tennis balls were put away in protest, hockey pucks conspicuously were not.

Hours after the Bucks refused to play, and after players in other leagues joined that protest — the intention of their collective action unequivocal — skaters from the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning gathered at center ice at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto for the beginning of Game 3 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series as if nothing were happening outside of the NHL’s two playoff bubbles.

While play stopped in other leagues that day, the NHL didn’t move its slate of games, instead choosing to acknowledge what Kenosha police did to Blake with a 27-second “moment of reflection” before the Bruins and Lightning game while the jumbotron lit up with the words “End Racism.” Even that short display was more than the league spared for a game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Dallas Stars later that evening, which proceeded without any acknowledgement at all.

“You can’t keep coming to the minority players every time there’s a situation like this,” said Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild.

Dave Sandford / NHLI via Getty Images

Not everyone associated with the NHL remained silent, of course. A number of current and former players tweeted messages of support to the Bucks and the NBA more broadly. Some white players took that stand, including retired goaltender Roberto Luongo, but nonwhite players were at the forefront, including San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane, who is Black, and Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, who is of Filipino descent. Aliu tweeted his support to NBA, WNBA and MLB players, and he asked the NHL, “where you at?” Dumba, who was the first NHL player to take a knee during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner when he did so before a game in August, even took to the airwaves in Vancouver to explain that the onus to speak out against racism should not always fall on Black players and players of color.

“You can’t keep coming to the minority players every time there’s a situation like this,” Dumba said on The Program. “The white players in our league need to have answers for what they’re seeing in society as well right now, too, and where they stand in making a change, doing good for the league. Because I know that there’s a lot of them that are good people — there’s a lot of good people in hockey. But the silence is as bad as the violence.”

After an evening of mostly silence from the league and its teams, the NHL and its overwhelmingly white workforce finally came around to the idea that players in other sports might be onto something.

Players in the Western Conference bubble faced the media on Aug. 27 to announce the postponement of games that day and the next, with a plan to resume play the following day. The announcement came from Vegas Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves and Avalanche forward Pierre Edouard-Bellemare, who are both Black, Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri, who is of Lebanese descent, and Dallas Stars forward Jason Dickinson and Vancouver Canucks forward Bo Horvat, who are both white. By all accounts, the action was led by the players and not the league.

There’s ample evidence that the NHL knows it has a racism problem. Its “Hockey Is For Everyone” campaign is proof of this; its slate of Black History Month commercials — which featured no Black players in 2020 — is proof of this; its mobile history museum, which tells the story of the Coloured Hockey League, an all-Black league that formed in Nova Scotia in 1895 and is responsible for the invention of the slapshot and the butterfly goalie stance, is proof of this; the white paper it produced in 2018 in conjunction with the Brookings Institution — which acknowledged that demographics in North America are shifting, that 44 percent of American millennials are not white and that the league needs to get better at reaching out to Black people and people of color — is proof of this too.

Hockey’s fan base isn’t very diverse

Share of major or casual American fans of a given sport who identified as a given race or ethnicity, according to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll

Non-Hispanic
SportHispanicBlackOther2+ RacesWhite
Hockey6.8%6.5%2.8%6.8%77.1%
Golf6.717.63.32.270.2
Baseball17.46.63.64.268.2
Football12.214.44.43.965.1
NASCAR12.816.72.34.064.2
Basketball18.624.35.55.945.6
Soccer46.79.37.32.634.1

Poll of 1,109 Americans was conducted May 5-11, 2020.

But the reality is that the league’s fans are overwhelmingly white, skew conservative and are more wealthy than fans of other professional sports leagues. As support for the Black Lives Matter movement had waned among white Americans, it’s fair to assume it was waning among the NHL’s largely white audience, too. And minority representation in the league remains minuscule: Less than 5 percent of the league’s players are Black or people of color, and it has hired only one Black head coach — out of 377 total coaches — in its 102-year existence.

Hockey fans aren’t very liberal

Among those who responded to the question, share of major or casual American fans of a given sport who identified with a given political affiliation, according to a FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll

Share identifying as…
SportA DemocratA RepublicanAn IndependentSomething else
Soccer41.0%23.1%30.1%5.8%
Basketball39.926.926.17.0
Football33.934.626.05.6
Baseball30.438.424.86.4
Golf23.138.631.86.5
Hockey22.135.436.56.0
NASCAR19.239.835.35.7

Poll of 1,109 Americans was conducted May 5-11, 2020.

A cohort of current and former Black players and players of color within the NHL isn’t waiting any longer for the league to act. Players including Kane, Dumba, Aliu, Kadri and Simmonds joined together to form the Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA) in June in an effort to end racism and promote diversity at all levels of the sport. Soon after the NHL balked at the opportunity to show its support for Black lives, the HDA issued a press release detailing how it intends to upend racial inequities in the NHL and hockey more broadly. The HDA’s plan begins with increasing the share of Black personnel hired by the NHL and its member franchises — at the executive level as well as in hockey-related and non-hockey-related roles.

In addition to increasing diversity in the league’s workforce, the HDA proposed that it should be tasked with selecting at least 50 percent of the NHL’s Executive Inclusion Council (EIC), a group of team owners, presidents and general managers whose mandate is to ensure diversity and inclusion efforts are taken seriously throughout the league. Doing so would “ensure that the voices of our Black, Indigenous and racialized players are heard and that they have an opportunity to help change the culture of the league.”

The HDA also asked the NHL to implement a mandatory anti-racism and unconscious bias training education program for all league employees. The HDA committed to funding social justice initiatives that target racism and provide justice for Black, Indigenous and racialized communities; grassroots hockey development programs that increase access and provide support to BIPOC players at the youth level; and anti-racism and unconscious bias education programs in amateur hockey leagues across North America.

Days after the HDA issued its press release, the NHL and the NHLPA (the league’s players union) responded with a joint press release announcing its plans to implement anti-racism efforts, which include mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all players and NHLPA personnel. The NHL and NHLPA also announced plans to work with the HDA to “establish and administer a first-of-its-kind grassroots hockey development program to provide mentorship and skill development for BIPOC boys and girls in the Greater Toronto Area,” with stated plans for a similar program based in the U.S. to come at a later date.

Notably, the NHL did not commit to concrete numbers regarding the hiring of Black executives, hockey personnel or non-hockey personnel, however, instead saying that it is “commissioning an outside audit of these efforts” while “working with The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) on a private assessment of our current employee pool.” Nor did it agree to allowing the HDA to select at least 50 percent of its EIC, which is majority white.

The NHL’s piecemeal commitment to the HDA’s proposal seems to have precipitated the end of the nascent working relationship between the two organizations. The HDA recently announced that it would operate separately from the NHL, stating that the league “is not prepared to make any measurable commitments to end systemic racism in hockey,” and that it “focused on performative public relations efforts that seemed aimed at quickly moving past important conversations about race needed in the game.”

Members of the Black Girl Hockey Club visit the NHL’s Black Hockey History Tour mobile museum in February 2019.

John Russell / NHLI via Getty Images

Current and former players aren’t the only forces putting pressure on the league to take diversity and inclusion seriously. Renee Hess, who founded the Black Girl Hockey Club (BGHC) two years ago as a support network for women of color who enjoy hockey, told The New York Times that the league needs to include more people of color on its new committees “so that true change can happen.” The BGHC recently launched its “Get Uncomfortable” campaign, which aims to develop “a comprehensive set of recommendations on how all entities involved in hockey, at all levels, can meaningfully contribute to the movement against discrimination and oppression of BIPOC communities in society.”

The campaign’s ultimate goals are to make hockey a welcome space for Black girls and BIPOC communities, increase diversity in employment at all levels of the sport and educate the hockey world on issues of social justice and allyship while centering Black women, women of color, BIPOC leaders and anti-racism experts. Kim Davis, the NHL’s executive vice president of social impact, growth initiatives and legislative affairs — who is Black and who has been instrumental in expanding the NHL’s “Hockey Is for Everyone” initiatives — told The New York Times that Hess is “bringing a new perspective to all dimensions of our inclusion efforts.”

Stopping racism in sports, let alone the broader world, is obviously no easy task. But there are tangible steps that the NHL could take to make the league, and the sport, more equitable and inclusive. One positive change the NHL could bring about is subsidizing equipment costs and league fees at the youth level. Hockey is among the most expensive youth sports to play — some families spend as much as $19,000 a year on equipment, league fees and travel. In the U.S., where the wealth gap between white and Black families is as wide as it was in the 1960s, that high barrier to entry is a big reason why hockey is mostly played by white people. And that lack of diversity and inclusion is mirrored in the racial makeup of the NHL, both on and off the ice.

When Jacob Blake was shot in the back seven times by Kenosha police, it didn’t register with white players, coaches or personnel inside the NHL’s bubbles until players in other leagues — and the Black players and players of color in their own league — forced it to register. When presented with a chance to show support for Black lives, most white people inside the NHL faltered. They remained silent until it became clear that their silence was untenable; they didn’t speak until it was clear that it was safe to do so. The NHL’s Black players and players of color didn’t have that luxury.

Neil Paine contributed research.

CORRECTION (Oct. 19, 2020, 6:30 p.m.): A previous version of this article referred to Wayne Simmonds as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. He left the Sabres and signed on Oct. 9 with the Toronto Maple Leafs.





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Football

5 Things That Matter, Winners, Losers


University football 7 days 7 roundup with the 5 things that make any difference, winners and losers, overrated and underrated parts of the weekend, and what it all means.


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College or university Football Week 7 Roundup

Rankings AP | Coaches | CFN 1-127 Rankings
College Soccer Playoff Chase, Who’s Alive?
Bowl Projections | Week 7 Scoreboard, Predictions

5. Winners & Losers From 7 days 7

The A person Seriously Massive Factor
Most Overrated Issue
Most Underrated Point
What It All Usually means, 7 days 7

Winner: SEC streak-enders

Kentucky defeat Tennessee 17-12 back in 1984. That was the final time the Wildcats gained in Knoxville and are now 3-33 over-all in the collection due to the fact then with a 34-7 win more than the Vols.

Whilst that was occurring, South Carolina obtained by Auburn 30-22. The very last time people two played was back in 2014, and the previous time the Gamecocks beat the Tigers was … 1933, 16-14. USC experienced under no circumstances overwhelmed Auburn in Columbia.

Loser: The initial 50 % of SEC Mississippi game titles

Ole Pass up ripped by Alabama two weeks back. This last weekend? It was down 20- at halftime to Arkansas in the 33-21 reduction. Mississippi Condition was down 14- to Texas A&M at halftime, and did not get its initial offensive score – it arrived up with a pick 6 in the 3rd – right until the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs have now managed just seven factors in the initial halves of their last three online games.

Winner: North Texas offense

In the 52-35 gain around Middle Tennessee, QB Jason Bean threw for 181 yards and two scores and ran for a recreation-high 169 yards and three touchdowns. The workforce ripped by the Blue Raiders for 768 yards of complete offense with 306 even though the air and 462 on the floor.

Loser: Duke ball protection

The problems just aren’t halting. The Duke protection hasn’t been bad at using the ball absent, but the offense has turned it around 22 periods in just 6 video games. NC Point out arrived up with 3 interceptions in the 31-20 win, generating this the fourth time in five games the Blue Devils turned it in excess of 3 instances or additional.

Winner: Virginia Tech hurrying offense

No. 2 in the country driving Air Pressure – who only played just one recreation – in dashing yards for every game, the Virginia Tech floor attack is averaging 312 yards with 15 scores. In the 40-14 get about Boston College, the Hokies arrived up with their third 300-lawn speeding day of the time with 250 yards and four scores.

Loser: Mississippi State hurrying offense

Mike Leach offenses are at minimum intended to be productive on the ground when they try to operate. It didn’t support that star RB Kylin Hill was out versus Texas A&M, but now the Bulldogs are lifeless final in the country in rushing, averaging 1.54 yards for each have with just 114 yards. They averaging 28.5 yards for each game on the ground – ULM is the second-worst crew averaging 56.2 yards.

Winner: QB Dillon Gabriel, UCF and QB Brady White, Memphis

All Gabriel did towards Memphis was toss for 601 yards and six touchdowns, and operate for 49 yards and a rating … and shed.

All White did was toss for 486 yards and 6 touchdowns, and run for 39 yards and a rating … and win.

In all, UCF and Memphis put together for 1,501 yards of total offense in the 50-49 Tiger gain.

Loser: UMass Minutemen

UMass wasn’t likely to play this year, and then the independent decided to give it a go with a versatile routine. It all begun versus Georgia Southern, and … 41-. The Minutemen came up with 191 whole yards – most of them late – couldn’t get a very first down early on, and received hammered by the Eagles for 309 dashing yards.

The One Truly Major Matter
Most Overrated Factor
Most Underrated Point
What It All Usually means, 7 days 7

Future: The genuinely large thing was …





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