In the video above, FiveThirtyEight’s Kyle Wagner breaks down some things the Cleveland Cavaliers can do to stay competitive in the NBA Finals as the series heads back to Cleveland.
The NBA’s most impressive playoff homestandsBest schedule-adjusted points per game differentials at home (according to Elo ratings) for NBA playoff teams, 1984-2018 21987Detroit Pistons70+17.0+12.5 62016Oklahoma City Thunder63+13.3+8.0 71994Indiana Pacers61+12.3+7.8 92007Utah Jazz71+10.0+7.4 With their 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night, the Boston Celtics just got that much closer to becoming the first Eastern Conference team to eliminate a LeBron James-led squad in eight years. (Incidentally, the last team to do it also wore Celtics green.) And once again, it was all about the Celtics’ home-court advantage playing at TD Garden, where Boston is a perfect 10-0 in these playoffs.Where does this rank among the playoffs’ greatest historical performances at home? If we use FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings to measure each team’s schedule-adjusted performance in every game, the Celtics are winning by 7.2 more points per game than we’d expect based on the quality of their opponents. Since the 1984 playoffs (when the NBA expanded the field to its modern 16-team format), that ranks these Celtics as the 10th-best home team in any single postseason: Source: Basketball-Reference.com It wasn’t always pretty in Game 5. Despite rookie swingman Jayson Tatum’s big numbers (24 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks), the Celtics’ 36.5 percent field-goal percentage was the 10th worst by a winning team in a conference final game since 1984. But Boston’s defense made up for it. It held the Cavaliers to 88.0 points per 100 possessions, their third-worst offensive game of the whole playoffs, rendered three Cavs starters (JR Smith, Tristan Thompson and George Hill) practically invisible and limited a visibly exhausted LeBron to only the fourth game of the postseason in which he didn’t personally account for at least 20 percent of the positive actions by either team while on the court.(That’s according to NBA Advanced Stats’ Player Impact Estimate metric, in which LeBron “only” graded out at 18.1 percent in Game 5. He still led all Cavs who logged any meaningful playing time, but James’s PIE was below his playoff average of 23.1 percent. That’s how high a standard we hold LeBron to: Somehow it’s seen as disappointing if he doesn’t literally do the work of two players when he’s in the game.)The Celtics’ home-court advantage in these playoffs has generally been fueled by offense as much as defense — even after Game 5, they’re scoring 11.5 more points per 100 possessions at home than on the road, while allowing 10.8 points per 100 possessions fewer — but on Wednesday night, it mostly came down to the work Boston put in at the defensive end. Pesky Celtics defenders Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart led the way on this end, holding Cleveland shooters to the game’s two lowest shot-quality numbers as individual defenders, according to Second Spectrum’s quantified shot quality metric.As for the Cavs, Game 5 continued their yearlong pattern of extreme up-and-down basketball. After losing Games 1 and 2 by an average of 19.0 points per game and then winning Games 3 and 4 by an average of 19.5, they turned around and lost Game 5 by 13. Predictably, it happened as they reverted back to their poor-shooting ways; they made just 26.5 percent of their 3-pointers Wednesday, which is the kiss of death for this Cleveland team.But who can say when they’ll heat up again? As The Ringer’s John Gonzalez wrote earlier this week, we all need to stop waiting to find out who these Cavs really are. There’s nothing to really learn about them at this point, except that they’re maddening and impossible to predict. And with Cleveland in a do-or-die situation at home in Friday’s Game 6 — remember, James’s teams are 10-3 when facing elimination since 2012 — the roller-coaster ride is far from over.Check out our latest NBA predictions. 42018Golden State Warriors71+14.8+10.5 11996Utah Jazz81+20.7+16.1 81984Los Angeles Lakers92+14.5+7.6 32016Cleveland Cavaliers91+17.9+11.9 51986Houston Rockets91+11.3+8.0 RkSeasonTeamWinsLossesPPG Diff.Vs. Expected 102018Boston Celtics100+11.5+7.2
201311-511-56-10 Broncos1984-90Elway (30)1.1 Vikings1968-78Tarkenton (38)9.0 Rams1999-04Bulger (27)10.8+ 201011-58-86-10 If there’s still a good NFL team lurking in Louisiana, it’s hiding. Since a gritty win in Philadelphia in the divisional playoffs on Jan. 4, 2014, the New Orleans Saints have gone 7-12, despite playing one of the NFL’s easiest schedules. According to our Elo ratings, they’ve suffered the sharpest decline of any NFL franchise since the start of the 2014 regular season. And after an 0-2 start this year, they have just a 15 percent chance of making the playoffs.Once upon a time, this would have been no big deal: The Saints have had a mostly miserable history, and they still rank 28th out of the 32 active NFL franchises in lifetime winning percentage. But we’d grown used to something different. Under quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints won a Super Bowl and were consistently in the championship conversation. Despite the occasional hiccup, they maintained a league average Elo rating (1500) or higher for more than six consecutive seasons, from Nov. 24, 2008, through Dec. 7, 2014.What happens when a franchise declines suddenly after such a sustained period of success? Can it sometimes be a false alarm? Can it replace a few parts and return to contention? Or is it doomed to years in the wilderness?The short answer: yes, yes and yes. It depends. It depends mostly on the quarterback situation and how the franchise manages it.I searched our all-time Elo ratings database for cases similar to the Saints’: teams that were very good for at least five consecutive seasons but then declined fairly quickly. (See the official criteria in the footnotes.1Specifically, I looked for cases since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 in which a team:Had a streak of five or more years in which its Elo rating was always league average (1500) or higher,Had an average Elo rating of 1600 or higher during the streak, andDeclined to an Elo rating of 1450 or lower within a year of the streak breaking. 20077-97-96-10 Dolphins1980-87Marino (26)3.0 Bears1984-89Harbaugh (26), Tomczak (27)0.9 Saints2008-14Brees (35)?? SAINTS’ RECORD WITH … Chiefs1965-74Dawson (39, injured)7.0 20088-88-87-9 Steelers2004-13Roethlisberger (31)1.3 Colts2002-11Manning (35, injured)3.1 YEARDREW BREESAVERAGE QB (PROJECTED)REPLACEMENT QB (PROJECTED) 20127-95-113-13 200913-311-510-6 ) There have been 14 of them since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, including some of the fabled dynasties of the modern NFL.In the table below, I’ve also named the team’s incumbent quarterback — or quarterbacks, in the event of a controversy — at the time the 1500-plus Elo streak was broken.2If the incumbent was knocked out because of an injury, I still list his name rather than his understudy’s. Finally, I’ve listed how long it took the team to recover to contender status, which I define as having an Elo of 1600 or higher. Total87-5975-7159-87 Cowboys1966-86White (34, injured)5.0 Raiders1982-87Wilson (30), Hilger (25)3.2 200610-610-68-8 TEAMHIGH-ELO STREAKQB AT END OF STREAK (AGE)YEARS TO RECOVER TO CONTENDER STATUS Colts1963-72Domres (25), Unitas (39)3.1 20150-20-20-2 201113-310-69-7 At first glance, this list doesn’t look all that bad for the Saints. The median team took 3.1 years to recover to contender status; the average team3The St. Louis Rams have yet to achieve a 1600-plus Elo rating since the Kurt Warner years ended. For purposes of calculating this average, I’m using their current time of 10.8 years since their high-Elo streak was broken — but the Rams could take longer still to recover. took 4.1 years.But the average looks better than it otherwise would be because of a series of teams that had a stud quarterback in the prime of his career. Dan Marino’s Dolphins, John Elway’s Broncos, Donovan McNabb’s Eagles and Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers each endured a rough patch. But those QBs were between 26 and 31 when the slump began, leaving their teams with plenty of time to adjust around them.Brees, by contrast, was 35 when the Saints’ Elo streak was broken last season. Past teams like the 1974 Chiefs, 1978 Vikings and 1986 Cowboys that held on to their aging QBs a year or so too long (sometimes through intermittent injuries) took longer to recover — and it was only once a new quarterback replaced the veteran that they did.The 2011 Colts, with Peyton Manning, and the 1999 49ers, with Steve Young, appear to be exceptions — both franchises rebounded pretty quickly after miserable seasons. But Young and Manning were injured so severely that their teams were forced to contemplate life without them — or at least had a convenient excuse to move on. Both had already played their last games for their clubs4And Young, forced into retirement, had played his last in the NFL. at the time their Elo streaks ended, it turned out.Brees is in the all-time inner circle of franchise quarterbacks: Only five others (Manning, Brett Favre, Marino, Elway and Tom Brady) have accumulated more passing yards with a single club. The problem is that a quarterback who’s been good for as long as Brees can obscure deterioration in the team around him. ESPN’s QBR includes a calculation of how much a quarterback is worth to his team in each game, relative to an average or replacement-level QB. This allows us to estimate how often a replacement QB would swing a game from a win to a loss, or vice versa. For instance, if the Saints win by 7 points and QBR estimates that Brees was worth 8.2 points, that’s a game where the quarterback made the difference. 20147-95-114-12 Eagles2000-05McNabb (29)3.0 49ers1981-99Young (38, injured)2.1 Basically, we’re looking for cases in which a quarterback plays really well in a close win.5Or plays poorly in a close loss. Brees has had a lot of those clutch wins.6The Saints don’t have an especially good record in close games under Brees, but he’s played extremely well in close games, win or lose, according to QBR. He’s salvaged a lot of wins from the jaws of defeat and kept the Saints competitive in games in which they’d otherwise have been blown out. Since 2006, his first year with the Saints, the team is 87-59 in the regular season.But with a replacement-level QB, they’d be 59-87 instead, according to this method. And the last few years would have been especially awful: The Saints would have gone 3-13 in 2012, 6-10 in 2013 and 4-12 in 2014 with Mark Sanchez or Brandon Weeden or some other replacement-level QB at the helm.Or … maybe not, since the Saints would have had a lot more money to invest elsewhere in the roster. Brees’s contract counts for $26.4 million against the salary cap this year, making it the biggest cap hit in the league. Because the top NFL quarterbacks are probably underpaid relative to the disproportionate value they can provide to their clubs, that’s not even all that terrible a contract so long as Brees is among the top half-dozen quarterbacks in the league — as he was until this season. But the minute Brees gets hurt, or reverts to league average (or worse) because of age, the Saints are left with a rotting carcass of a roster and a salary cap crisis.In fact, for all their irrationality in other areas, NFL teams have usually been able to anticipate these problems and have been remarkably unsentimental in parting ways with aging franchise quarterbacks in the salary-cap era. The first signs were in 1993, when Joe Montana was traded.7The salary cap would not officially be implemented until 1994, but NFL teams were aware of its impending impact at the time of Montana’s trade in April 1993. Then came Phil Simms — who, after a somewhat miraculous comeback season in 1993, was unceremoniously released the next spring. Troy Aikman might have retired anyway because of injuries, but he was ushered out the door. The same goes for Young, who was not welcome back in San Francisco. Warren Moon was passed around like a joint at a Phish concert toward the end of his career. Kurt Warner was benched. McNabb endured a fate worse than being benched: He was dealt to Washington. Favre had a reality-TV-style mess of a divorce from the Packers. Manning was let go once the Colts knew they had an opportunity to draft Andrew Luck.These NFL teams have generally recognized that it’s better to break up with an aging quarterback a year too early than a year too late. And almost none of those decisions look bad in retrospect.8The Colts releasing Manning without much of a fight might be the closest call, given Manning’s record-setting years in Denver, but they can’t exactly be unhappy with Luck. Brees may still have something left — quite possibly enough to lead another franchise somewhere to a deep playoff run — but it’s probably time for he and the Saints to move on from each other.Check out our NFL predictions for odds on every Week 3 game.
Even better, Mariota has already missed games. If you’ve read Skeptical Football much, you know I love when QBs sit, because it’s just about the closest you can come to isolating a variable that the sport has to offer. Seven starting quarterbacks have played and missed at least two games each this year.7Oddly enough, though Dallas is desperate to get Tony Romo back (and rightfully so), their problem since he left hasn’t been moving the ball — at least relative to their horrendous defense. You can see what happened once the QBs were out in the chart next to this paragraph. I’ve also added the “gold standard” of WOWY seasons, Aaron Rodgers’s absence from the Green Bay Packers in 2013, for comparison.Note that Mariota’s line is strikingly similar to Rodgers’s! Of course, the latter came over a larger number of games (played nine and missed seven), but this does raise the tantalizing possibility that Mariota may be an elite-level QB already.Defensive Player Person of the MidyearPerhaps the single weirdest thing to transpire this season has been the twists in fortune for the Denver Broncos: Peyton Manning — both architect and foundation of the league’s best and most consistent offense over the past few years — seems to be racing for the exits. Not only is he no longer the league’s best player, but he’s also struggling to put up even average production. Yet the Broncos are still 7-1, thanks to what is shaping up to be one of the league’s best defenses in years. So far, it’s on par with the 2013 Seahawks, which puts it right around 12th-best since 2006.Here’s a comparison of the Broncos’ offensive and defensive drive efficiency over the past few years: This NFL season has had its share of head-scratching quirks, but I’m not buying that it’s been as “super weird” as it seems. A lot of stuff happens in the NFL, so every year seems like a crazy year. Variance is tumultuous. In 2010, no teams started the season 4-0; this year we had four teams start 7-0. There had previously never been more than two.1In my opinion, the crazy year by which all crazy years must be measured is the 1999-2000 season featuring the Greatest Show on Turf.Where has all this weirdness left us? In a familiar place. If the playoffs started today, eight of the 12 teams that made the playoffs last year would return. There are still three unbeaten teams, but they include the defending Super Bowl champions and two playoff teams from a year ago. Cincinnati and Carolina are both surprises at 8-0, for sure, but in the past four seasons the Bengals won 40 games and made the playoffs four times, and though the Panthers have already exceeded their win total from last season, they are only one season removed from a 12-4 campaign. They also finished last year on a 5-0 spurt (counting their wild-card win) before losing in the divisional round of the playoffs. (Incidentally, Carolina’s last regular-season loss was in November 2014.) More importantly, both have quarterbacks who were already very productive. A good team with a productive QB is only a small change of fortune away from being a great team.The biggest surprise in the league has perhaps been Seattle’s relatively weak start after almost winning the Super Bowl, but the Seahawks are still 4-4 and even “control their own destiny” in their division, where they are two games behind the Arizona Cardinals, against whom they have two games scheduled.If anything, this season would seem to be suffering from a glut of predictability. The better teams keep winning, teams with leads have been holding on to them. Otherwise, quarterbacks are throwing for more and more yards, and kickers are getting better and better. Shocking!Here are my midseason awards:Most Valuable PlayerFor about a decade now, picking my MVP has been simple: It’s probably Peyton Manning, barring his absence.2And even then, I’m not entirely sure. Like, have I ever been more confident of Manning’s value than when the Colts went 2-14 without him in 2011? Has Manning always been the best? I don’t know. But my confidence in Manning’s value has always been the greatest. Sadly, it’s time to face it: Manning is finally playing like an old guy with a bunch of injuries. He may yet return to form — the ends of quarterbacks’ careers can be hard to predict — but for now, at least, there’s an opening at the top.I had to wrestle quite a bit with who deserved midseason MVP. As I’ve explained before, “MVP” and “best quarterback” are pretty much the same thing, so we can start there. QB metrics depend on so many factors that making subtle distinctions is virtually impossible. And of course QBs affect more than just passing — a good passing game can open up the running game or give a team’s defense more rest, etc.To figure out who should at least be in the conversation for the award, I started with passing stats and used ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating (QBR). QBR isn’t perfect, but it’s fairly comprehensive — meaning it accounts for things like scrambling and yards gained from pass interference penalties3It also doesn’t treat all interceptions as being equally bad, one of the biggest sins of most QB metrics. — and it doesn’t have to be too precise for these purposes. To measure broader impact, I used expected points added (EPA) per drive on offense.4I used an ESPN version of the stat that discounts garbage time. Then I started plotting: Carson Palmer has the highest QBR in football, and Tom Brady leads the most efficient offense. Andy Dalton places second and third in each metric. Although it’s technically possible that a less productive QB is actually more valuable than these three contenders,5There is no QB metric that I’m aware of that is capable of accurately identifying great QBs on bad teams, and I doubt it’s even possible with existing data. (Although with individual player tracking, this could change.) that requires a different kind of speculation. I think it’s safe to make them our three finalists.With no clear leader among the three, I either have to make decisions — such as which is more meaningful to QB assessment: passing game efficiency or team offensive efficiency? — or I need to broaden the investigation a bit.When I looked at the historical context to see if any of these guys stands out as being better than the others, I found that all three of their teams have seen a sharp upswing in offensive efficiency (measured by EPA/drive) this season. The Patriots have improved by about 0.6 EPA per drive on offense, the Bengals by 0.7 and the Cardinals by a whopping 1.0.But these kinds of changes can mean different things to different types of squads. The Patriots’ improvement brings them back in line with where their offense was in 2011 and 2012, so the shift serves more as a confirmation of how strong their offense is. The Cardinals and Bengals are in uncharted territory for their clubs (at least in recent history), which tends to suggest either that they’ve gotten extremely lucky or that something big has changed. The difference between these two is that we have a plausible explanation for the Cardinals’ improvement: Palmer’s return from injury (he missed 10 games last year, plus the playoffs). For the Bengals, although we can look around at details, for the most part their ascension remains a mystery. Maybe it’s as simple as a quarterback with a marquee contract starting to play like a marquee quarterback. But that’s just a possible (and not very robust) explanation, whereas Arizona’s improvement has a tangible origin.Palmer is 12-2 as a starter for the Cardinals over the past two years, and the team is just 5-5 without him (and also lost to the 7-win Panthers in the playoffs). With Palmer, the Cardinals offense has scored 0.75 points above expectation per drive. Without him, this plummets to -0.11. This 0.86-point swing — per drive — is huge and can explain most of the Cardinals’ good fortune this year.Thus, on epistemic grounds alone, Palmer seems more likely than Dalton to be the best quarterback. Am I completely comfortable with that assessment? Absolutely not. But success that comes packaged with its own reason is more likely to hold up.So let’s say it’s between Palmer and Brady.Unfortunately for New England, Brady doesn’t miss enough games to have his With or Without You (WOWY) stats measured very well. However, the Patriots franchise has been relatively stable, and Brady did miss a considerable amount of playing time in 2008. If we compare the Patriots offense in that year (led by Matt Cassel) to its offenses in 2007 and 2009, we can see that it was about 0.4 expected points per drive worse off (0.6 points per drive in 2008 vs. 1.0 in surrounding years).Of course, it’s a little bit unfair that Brady gets knocked his whole career because he sat one year and his team didn’t implode. But being a cold-hearted empiricist means valuing evidence for its reliability. This is why I’m confident about the greatness of Randy Moss, Dennis Rodman and Peyton Manning more than others: Not only did each perform well, but they did so in a variety of circumstances.Normally in spots like these, I try to follow the principle that, all else being relatively equal, I should go with the better-known commodity. But “known” in this case is a bit different. We know that Brady’s offenses produce — they have for many years now — but we don’t really know who’s responsible. Thus, it’s close, but my midseason MVP goes to Carson Palmer.6I’ll also give him the “Comeback Player of the Year” award just because it’s obvious — even though he hasn’t led a ton of comebacks.Rookie of the MidyearThis was a really easy pick and required no trickery. Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota had a ridiculous debut on opening day and has been putting up good stats for a QB on such a bad team. I know, Tennessee fans, you’ve been down this road before when you saw Vince Young win the Rookie of the Year award in 2006, only to watch him fade and leave football entirely in just six years. But the gap between Mariota and Young is like the gap between Peyton Manning and Rick Mirer. Mariota has averaged 8.2 yards per pass attempt (adjusted for sacks, touchdowns and interceptions), while Young averaged just 5.2. Young’s accolades were mostly based on his 8-5 record as a starter — making Young yet another example of how things like win-loss record are completely irrelevant for evaluating rookie QBs. Mariota has struggled to find wins (he is 2-4), but that should be perfectly acceptable to Titans fans: You need your rookie QB to produce yards and touchdowns (or possibly interceptions), not wins. Granted, a big chunk of Gostkowski’s outlier-ish value on kickoffs comes from the Patriots’ successful surprise onside kick against Washington, but he also has the third-highest touchback rate and has given up only one return of more than 30 yards (and no touchdowns). Note, a good kicker is more valuable to a team with a great offense, because more field-goal attempts, extra-point attempts and kickoffs mean more opportunities to add value. If Gostkowski’s present form holds up, he may be worth multiple points to the Patriots per game. That would be great for a linebacker (or virtually any non-QB), much less a kicker. Note the “X” made by 2014-15 offense and defense: The decline of Manning has been almost perfectly offset by the arrival of Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator and my DPOM.If this defense is anywhere near as good as it has looked so far, the Broncos could be a legitimate threat, because returns to form for previously good quarterbacks aren’t uncommon. Or, put it this way: If Peyton Manning “regresses” — toward his own mean, that is — the Broncos could be a powerhouse.Special Teams Player of the MidyearLast, but certainly not least, I couldn’t let this occasion pass without recognizing the accomplishments of Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who has been perfect so far this season on field-goal and (longer) extra-point attempts, including several long field-goal attempts, and has been the most consistent kicker-offer as well:
Buckeye football players waiting to run out of the tunnel and onto the field before the first game of the 2016 season against Bowling Green on Sept. 3 at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes won 77-10. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorWhen Ohio State and Oklahoma storm the field at Gaylord Family Memorial Stadium, it will mark the first time the two programs played in 33 years. However, the Sooners had a similar look at the Buckeyes in Week 1.Oklahoma took on former OSU offensive coordinator Tom Herman and his Houston Cougars to open the season. Herman runs nearly the same offensive scheme as he did with OSU, so the Sooners should be very familiar with the offensive attack of the Buckeyes.Houston’s 33-23 victory and offensive success might appear to foreshadow success for OSU’s offense, but it also means that the Oklahoma defense will be better prepared for what the Buckeyes may throw at them. The style of Cougars’ quarterback Greg Ward Jr. and OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett draw similarities in the areas that had Oklahoma’s defense discombobulated.While it might seem like Oklahoma has the best insight prior to the game due to its game against Houston, it would be foolish to forget about the masterful preparation skills of coach Urban Meyer. On Sunday, Meyer called his former colleague Herman.“Yeah. We did talk to Tom. Just got their thoughts on personnel,” Meyer said at Monday’s press conference. “It was more about personnel because they have a couple of new players as well in the back end of their defense, and what’s their thoughts on the defensive line.”The Buckeyes and the Sooners do not have an extensive history, but these are two of the most storied programs in college football history. In early August, the Associated Press released its top 25 college football teams of all time, with OSU and Oklahoma ranked No. 1 and No. 2 respectively on that list.The offense of Houston has had more success statistically than OSU, racking up 1,427 yards as compared to OSU’s 1,193. So far, the Cougars have leaned on their run game to put points on the board, while OSU has enjoyed a balanced scoring attack from the air and on the ground.While both teams have dynamic coach-quarterback duos, each team is playing for a different reason. Oklahoma needs to win to regain momentum for the postseason, while the Buckeyes are looking to remain seated in the top four.As the game draws near, there is potential for the matchup to be an instant classic
With all coach Thad Matta had accomplished at Ohio State, he had never won at Wisconsin’s Kohl Center as the Buckeyes’ coach. Saturday, OSU arrived in Madison undefeated and No. 1 in the country to give the coach, perhaps, his best chance yet. But alas, a new year produced the same result. No. 14 Wisconsin (19-5, 9-3 Big Ten) handed OSU (24-1, 11-1 Big Ten) its first loss of the season Saturday, 71-67. Junior guard Jordan Taylor led all scorers with 27 points, 21 of which came in the second half, on 8-for-13 shooting for the Badgers. As expected, the Badgers came out at the slow pace that so many teams have implemented against the Buckeyes this year. As they played exclusively in the halfcourt, Wisconsin was able to open up an early lead. However, when freshman point guard Aaron Craft entered the game for the Buckeyes, the Badger offense quickly changed from methodical to simply stagnant. As Craft stifled Taylor, Wisconsin had a stretch in the first half in which it went more than six minutes without making a field goal. After junior guard William Buford tied the game at 26 with a minute to go, a basket from fifth-year senior forward David Lighty gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game, 28-26, at halftime. The Badgers quickly tied the game at 28 to start the second half, but the next several minutes were all OSU. The Buckeyes went on a 21-4 run that lasted more than six minutes as they opened up a 47-32 lead with 13:30 to go. Wisconsin, however, wasn’t going away. Taylor scored eight unanswered points for the Badgers and a pair of free throws from sophomore forward Mike Bruesewitz cut the lead to five. Taylor scored again on the next possession, and a 3-pointer from freshman guard Josh Gasser completed a 15-0 Wisconsin run and tied the game, 47-47. With the game tied, 55-55, and just more than six minutes remaining, a basket from senior forward Keaton Nankivil gave the Badgers their first lead since the first half. Another 3-pointer and a pair of free throws from Taylor put Wisconsin up seven with just more than four minutes to go. OSU cut the lead to two with less than a minute to go, but a Bruesewitz 3-pointer and a turnover from Craft on the ensuing possession put the game out of reach. Buford led the Buckeyes with 21 points, and forward Jared Sullinger’s 19 points and 12 rebounds gave the freshman his 12th double-double of the season. The Buckeyes play again at 9 p.m. Tuesday at home against Michigan State.
Redshirt sophomore safety Wayne Davis announced his intentions to transfer from Ohio State to continue his collegiate career elsewhere via Twitter on Thursday.New Chapter #GodsPlan pic.twitter.com/O7KYcQeDi7— Wayne Davis Jr (@Waynedavis1_) May 10, 2018Davis had three years of eligibility remaining, but did not see meaningful time at Ohio State, and looked to be remaining on the sidelines for the upcoming season.A consensus four-star recruit out of high school, Davis redshirted the 2016 season, but appeared in only two games for a total of 10 snaps last season. He was listed as the 335th prospect in the 2016 class, the 33rd cornerback and No. 7 prospect in the state of Virginia, according to 247Sports composite rankings.Following Davis’ transfer, Ohio State is now down to 85 scholarships, the mandated number the NCAA requires from any college team.Davis was unlikely to see playing time given the depth of safeties at Ohio State. Junior safety Jordan Fuller, who has already been announced as a probable starter, will likely be paired up with either sophomore Isaiah Pryor, sophomore Brendan White or redshirt sophomore Jahsen Wint for the 2018 season.
One of Mark Burgess’ illustrations from The Best Bear In All the WorldCredit:Mark Burgess Owl meets PenguinCredit:Mark Burgess The book is published on October 6Credit:Mark Burgess Christopher Robin and Pooh embark on some sledging funCredit:Mark Burgess Penguin is the first authorised new character to be based on one of Christopher Robin’s toysCredit:Mark Burgess Penguin has a better ideaCredit:Mark Burgess “However, having studied and written about the works of A. A. Milne, it was also daunting. “But, for me, the challenge was more than just attempting to play A. A. Milne in his own literary game; I also wanted to find a way of successfully introducing a brand new character into Pooh’s world, whilst being sympathetic to the tone and style of the original books.”While pondering what other toys Christopher Robin might have owned but which were never written about, I remembered seeing a photograph of father and son playing on the nursery floor with Winnie-the-Pooh and – a penguin! “The thought of Pooh encountering a penguin seemed no more outlandish than his meeting a kangaroo and a tiger in a Sussex wood, so I started thinking about what might have happened if, on a rather snowy day, Penguin had found his way to Pooh Corner…” Sibley said there had been no official record of why the penguin had been left out, but speculated it could have been to avoid similarities with Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a popular cartoon-strip of the day which starred the same animal. Sebastian Wormell, Harrods archivist, said: “Harrods is famous as the original home of Winnie-the-Pooh, but the Toy Department where Mrs Milne bought the iconic bear hosted a huge array of stuffed animals.“In the early years of the 20th century, toy penguins soared in popularity as the exploits of Antarctic explorers such as Shackleton and Scott fascinated the public.” It will now be brought to life in all its Antarctic glory as the star of the new authorised story, Winter, published this October to celebrate the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh.It is the first authorised new character to have been based on one of Christopher Robin’s real toys, with the Milne estate hoping it will fit seamlessly into the Pooh canon. Brian Sibley, its author, is one of four writers commissioned to create their own stories for the new sequel, The Best Bear in All the World, serialised exclusively in the Sunday Telegraph today.Sibley said: “For someone who has loved Winnie-the-Pooh & Co from his earliest childhood, the idea of visiting the ‘100 Aker Wood’ in search of a new story was wildly exciting. The new book is said to have the “enthusiastic support” of the Trustees of Pooh Properties and The Shepard Trust.Rupert Hill, trustee of Pooh Properties: “We think that Brian’s Penguin is a charming and natural addition to the existing characters in the stories.We hope that this new anthology, written and illustrated in the style of A.A. Milne’s original books, will bring great joy to readers old and new.” Anyone who grew up with the books of A.A. Milne will be well versed in the antics of Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and friends.This year, the inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood are to get a new companion– none other than a penguin.A new, official Winnie-the-Pooh sequel will introduce a forgotten friend to Christopher Robin, after its author found inspiration in a long-lost photograph of the real-life child and his toy.The photograph shows the young Christopher at home with his father A.A. Milne, playing with the teddy bear which inspired Winnie-the-Pooh, and a stuffed penguin.But while many of Christopher’s toys, including Kanga, Roo and Tigger, made it into the storybooks, the penguin languished long-forgotten in the photo album – until now. The penguin toy is believed to have been bought as a gift for Christopher Robin my his mother, Daphne Milne, who purchased each of the toys which inspired Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and Tigger at Harrods toy department while her son was small, beginning with Pooh on his first birthday.Owl and Rabbit, the woodland friends who came later, were the product of Milne’s imagination.But while Penguin is believed to have come from the department store shelves as well, it never made it into the pages of the books. Mark Burgess, who was tasked with illustrating The Best Bear in All the World, said: “I try to go for the spirit of EH Shepard’s drawings rather than slavishly copying.“I love all the characters but I did especially enjoy drawing Penguin. With a new character I feel I’m not quite so much in Shepard’s shadow. I hope Penguin has some more adventures!”The Best Bear in All the World is written by Paul Bright, Kate Saunders, Brian Sibley and Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Mark Burgess. It will be published in hardback by Egmont Publishing on Thursday, October 6. 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.
Scotland is the only place the golden eagles now live in the UK An eagle swoops down to take prey at the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland Credit:Nature Picture Library / Rex Fea Andrew Bachell, Scottish National Heritage Director of Policy & Advice, said: “It’s wonderful to see golden eagles reaching favourable conservation status nationally.“These beautiful birds are such an important part of Scotland’s nature, a species which people love to see when they visit our wilder landscapes. It’s particularly encouraging to see greater recovery in some areas where persecution had been thought to be a major constraint in the past.“That picture is uneven though, and we would still expect eagles to be doing better in parts of the eastern Highlands. We will continue to look at all the factors which may be limiting numbers, in the hope that we will see further spread of the range and increase in numbers of eagles in the future.”Landowners groups said they were working hard to protect golden eagles.Tim Baynes, Director of the Scottish Moorland Group, part of Scottish Land & Estates, said: “Our members are passionate about the golden eagles on their land and it is in large part a tribute to their management and collaboration that the population has increased.“We are pleased that golden eagles are now in ‘favourable conservation status’ for the first time since national surveys started.” 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. Golden eagles are out of danger for the first time since national surveys began, after a count found there are now more than 500 breeding pairs in Scotland.The bird’s status has been changed to ‘favourable’ from ‘unfavourable’ after a rise of 15 per cent from 442 pairs in the last survey in 2003 to 508 today.The most recent recovery takes the population to numbers which have not been seen since pesticides wiped out hundreds of birds in the 1960s.Golden eagles are regarded by many people as Scotland’s national bird and it is likely that Scotland is now home to the entire UK population, following reports earlier this year that England’s only resident golden eagle had died. The recovery is the result of increased monitoring and satellite tagging of eagles and stronger sanctions against wildlife crime.“The sight of a golden eagle soaring in the sky above is an awe-inspiring part of our natural heritage, and this increase in numbers of golden eagle pairs is great news,” said Duncan Orr-Ewing, Head of Species and Land Management at RSPB Scotland.“Across many parts of Scotland there’s been a very welcome turnaround in how people respect these magnificent birds, part of a more enlightened public attitude towards birds of prey.“However, the continued absence of golden eagles in some areas of eastern Scotland remains a real cause for concern and suggests that much more work needs to be done.” The first golden eagle survey was carried out in 1982, and the most recent was conducted during the first six months of 2015.Golden eagles tend to live in remote areas, but can often be seen performing spectacular undulating flight displays in spring.The northern Highlands and the central spine of the country, between the Great Glen and Stirlingshire, saw the greatest increase in eagle numbers between 2003 and 2015. There were also modest increases in the west Highlands and islands.However in parts of the Highlands west of Inverness has remained stable between 2003 and 2015, after showing a significant drop in occupied territories between the 1982 and 1992 surveys. It is thought that the poor spring last year may have harmed breeding.Golden eagles also continue to be absent in many parts of the eastern Highlands. Less than one third of the traditional ‘home ranges’ in this area were occupied by a pair of eagles. Many of the vacant territories in this area are on ground managed intensively for driven grouse shooting and in recent years, four eagles fitted with satellite tags have been found illegally killed in the central and eastern Highlands.
A “breathtakingly wicked” woman driven by her greed for cash and drugs is facing a life sentence after being convicted of murdering her 82-year-old neighbour by beating her to death with a rolling pin.Sandra Weir, 41, pretended she was a friend to Mary Logie and acted as her self-appointed carer while stealing thousands of pounds to feed a heroin addiction.The High Court in Edinburgh heard the killer’s sole focus in life was to acquire money for drugs and she was prepared to do anything for it, including murder.The jury took just 55 minutes to find her guilty of killing Mrs Logie on January 5 this year and stealing around £4,000 over a period of two years.Alex Prentice QC, prosecuting, told the court he believed the widow was attacked in her nightclothes at her home in Leven, Fife, in the morning and left seriously injured all day before Weir returned to deliver the final, fatal blows that evening. Mary Logie was described in court as a ‘decent and kind’ womanCredit:PA 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. The assault was so ferocious that Mrs Logie, known to friends as Rae, suffered 31 injuries to her head and neck and had multiple skull fractures.The mother-of-three, who lived across the landing from Weir, also had injuries to her hand and fingers, indicating that she had tried to defend herself.The court heard she trusted her neighbour with her bank card and in return was bullied and intimidated by her. When the pensioner eventually discovered Weir had been stealing from her she decided to allow her to pay the money back, rather than go to the police.In a powerful statement after the verdict, the judge Michael O’Grady QC told the killer: “You too have heard and seen the dreadful detail of the injuries you inflicted upon her that day.“You too have seen the hurt, the courage and the dignity of her children as they gave evidence and listened along with the rest of us.”And I cannot help but observe that, throughout all of this, you have neither shown nor expressed a hint of compassion or a flicker of emotion.”In these courts we do not weigh the worth of victims; nor should we. All life is precious. But on the evidence before me, Rae Logie was a decent, kind tolerant and harmless elderly lady.”Indeed, she was decent, kind and tolerant towards you and offered you no harm or offence.”That you should have betrayed her trust and kindness by theft and deceit is shocking enough. That, in the last year of her life, you should have preyed upon her and undermined her confidence and peace of mind is shocking also.”But sadly – many of us have to come to recognise that such is the pernicious grip of drug addiction, betrayal and deceit come with the territory. But of course, it is the fact and manner of her death that are so breathtakingly wicked.”He added that Weir had left her victim for dead that day and when she found later she that she was still alive she “simply finished her off”.The trial heard earlier from Ronald Logie, 60, the victim’s son, that his mother always spoke favourably of her neighbour. The family even gave Weir a bottle of whisky for Christmas, days before she carried out the murderous assault.Described in court as a “much loved mother, grandmother and friend”, Mrs Logie was born in Methil, Fife and was married to her husband Walter for 33 years.The regular churchgoer had two sons and a daughter and had just spent Christmas in Yorkshire with her son Ronald days before her death.Weir will be sentenced on January 12.