Draymond Green Is Key For The Warriors In Game 7

Regular season1,06162.056.4+5.6 Source: NBA player tracking data Crunch time in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals wasn’t subtle. The Oklahoma City Thunder lost the ability to run even basic basketball plays — they had six turnovers in the last five minutes, with four coming in a disastrous two-minute stretch — and Kevin Durant, who has played masterful defense all series, spent the final possessions looking like an overgrown Tim Thomas. Klay Thompson carried the Golden State Warriors with a record-setting 11-for-18 performance from three, and Stephen Curry registered enough of a pulse to get the Warriors over the final hump. But just as important to the Warriors’ Game 6 win as those runs of inept or brilliant play was Draymond Green’s return to form.The Warriors are solid favorites to win Game 7 tonight: -7 at the sports books, 70 percent to win by ESPN Stats & Info’s Basketball Power Index and 68 percent to win by our CARM-Elo forecast. Plenty of factors will go into tonight’s result, including the reemergence of Curry’s shot and handle and the sustained defense of both teams (the Warriors contested 56 of 58 field goal attempts by Durant and Russell Westbrook in Game 6 and forced each to shoot under 40 eFG%, according to player-tracking data). Curry also seemed to begin to solve Durant switching onto him in Game 6. But the Warriors need Green to play in Game 7 like the all-world playmaker of the regular season and Game 6.Green was lively on offense and forceful on defense in Game 6 in ways he wasn’t in Games 3 and 4, both won by the Thunder. He pressured the ball high and made crucial stops in the fourth quarter after the Warriors went to their “Lineup of Death” with about six and a half minutes remaining remaining. And throughout the game, he created shots for the Warriors at a rate and of a quality that was more like his regular season performance, when he was one of the best playmakers in the league.Using player-tracking data from the NBA, we can show Green’s ups and downs as a playmaker. Here’s the qSQ (shot quality expressed as the predicted effective field goal percentage of a shot, as determined by factors like defender location and where the shot came from) and qSI (how much better shooters did than the qSQ prediction) for Green’s passes to shooters in the regular season, and in the Western Conference finals so far. Games 1-44945.953.9-8.0 Draymond Green’s playmaking Game 61471.454.1+17.3 PASSES TO SHOOTEREFG%QSQQSI Game 5856.353.9+2.3 Green’s regular season numbers are outstanding — at +5.6, he ranked fourth in the NBA1Among players who passed to shooters at least 500 times. in qSI (meaning his teammates made shots he created for them more than player-tracking data expected), edging out both Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul (each at 5.2). High qSI numbers stem from having good teammates, but just as much, they come from providing value on shots that still escapes the scope of player-tracking data. Mike Conley, for instance, was No. 1 in the league (+6.7) before he went out to injury, and his Memphis Grizzlies are stocked with guys who couldn’t hit the ocean from an aircraft carrier.You can see in the numbers that Green’s passes weren’t very effective early in the series, but you could see this in the games just as easily, particularly in Games 3 and 4. Partly this was due to Durant playing suffocating defense, but Green wasn’t driving, rolling to the rim or putting pressure on the defense in any of the ways that he typically does. The shot difficulty numbers are broadly the same, but this is a place where the numbers don’t tell the whole story, with many of Green’s passes coming a little mistimed or just slightly out of rhythm. The result was a bunch of possessions that looked like this: Green came to life somewhat in Game 5, but in Game 6 he was outstanding. It’s tempting to look at that massive qSI number and assume that Thompson simply shot the Holy Ghost out of the ball, inflating Green’s numbers. That’s a little true — eight of the 14 shots Green created went to Thompson, who hit four, including three of his threes — but Green also created many of those with pressure and timing. In other words, this wasn’t simply the difference between shooters making and missing shots, but a fundamental change in the quality of the shots, even if player-tracking data doesn’t quite catch it.Consider the fast break in the video below, where Green drives into Durant’s chest before passing off to Andre Iguodala. On a similar play in Game 4 (in the above video), he passed off before putting his body on Durant, allowing KD to recover and break up the play. If Golden State gets more plays like these out of Green in Game 7, the Warriors will be that much closer to regaining their peak form, and likely on their way back to the NBA Finals. read more

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Wisconsin Takes Down The Champs

But this wasn’t just a case of Villanova playing poorly. Wisconsin also played a great game. The Badgers had one of their best 2-point shooting performances of the season (65 percent from inside the arc), and they outworked ‘Nova on the glass as well. Just as importantly, Wisconsin held the nation’s fourth-best offense to one of its weakest games of the year, in part by taking the air out of the ball and denying opportunities to one of the nation’s top fast-break offenses.1Wisconsin wasn’t perfect — the Badgers made the upset more difficult than it had to be with 14 turnovers and some truly abysmal foul shooting.So Wisconsin was good, and Villanova bad. There was a third character in the making of this upset, however: the NCAA selection committee, which did Villanova no favors as the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. As part of the most difficult region in the bracket, Wisconsin was an 8 seed with a KenPom.com rating similar to others seeded as high as fourth (Butler), third (Florida State) and even second (Arizona) in other regions. From the Round of 32 on, Villanova was staring down a tough slate of opponents, and that would have been true whether they held on against Wisconsin or not.Now, our model has a new favorite in the East, with a 37 percent chance of making the Final Four: Yep, it’s the No. 2-seeded Duke Blue Devils. But this might not be the last we see of the Badgers either — the model gives them the second-best odds of winning the region (in part because they’re already in the Sweet 16), with a 21 percent probability of earning the school’s third Final Four berth in four seasons.Check out our March Madness predictions. So much for one of the most uneventful NCAA tournaments ever. After a quiet first round that saw the better seed win 26 of 32 games, Villanova — the defending tourney champion — became the first No. 1 seed to fall with a 65-62 loss to Wisconsin on Saturday.The Wildcats didn’t play their best game. They shot just 41 percent from the floor with an offensive efficiency of 107 points per 100 possessions, both well below their season averages, and they allowed an extremely uncharacteristic 111 points per 100 possessions at the other end of the floor. For a team that consistently played above its averages during its championship run last season (particularly on offense), this was a callback to previous tournament disappointments by Jay Wright-led Villanova teams.VIDEO: How the Villanova and Duke losses shook the bracket read more

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Connor McDavid Is Off To A Legendary Start

In the roughly seven decades since the NHL started handing out the Art Ross trophy to the league’s top scorer, only three recipients have spent at least some of an award-winning season as a teenager. Two of those players are on the short list of all-time best: Wayne Gretzky and Sidney Crosby. The other? This season’s winner: Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers.McDavid was impressive as a rookie last season, but 2016-17 was when he announced his official superstardom to the world. In addition to leading the NHL in points, he was the league’s best at generating quality scoring chances. And although McDavid has been held to 2 points in the Oilers’ four first-round playoff games against the San Jose Sharks, the series is tied, and McDavid is driving possession the way he did during the regular season. Plus, he’ll probably be honored as the most valuable player in the game regardless of how his postseason goes.McDavid’s rise to the top of the NHL is hardly unexpected — as a child in Newmarket, Ontario, he was already being compared to Gretzky and Crosby. Comparisons with legends bring loads of pressure and expectations, and assuming that an 18-year-old who’s only played against other teenagers will turn into an all-time great is almost always silly.1*Cough, Alexandre Daigle, cough* But even the most optimistic hockey fan might be astonished by how valid McDavid has made those analogies look, and how quickly he’s done so.To say a great deal of hype surrounded McDavid as a youngster would be an understatement. In 2012, Hockey Canada waived its normal eligibility rules — which dictate that players can’t suit up at the major junior level until they’re 16-years-old — and allowed McDavid to enter the Ontario Hockey League draft at age 15. It wasn’t long before McDavid was torching the best junior-level competition in the world: In his three OHL seasons, he scored 285 points, or 1.7 per game. By the time his junior career was over, McDavid had won the most individual silverware in the history of the OHL.In his first two NHL seasons — the first of which was cut short because of an upper body injury that gave the entire city of Edmonton a brief, but acute, panic attack — McDavid scored 148 points over just 127 games.How does that compare with the legendary company McDavid is often mentioned in? Crosby’s scoring rate through his first 127 games was a bit higher than McDavid’s — he tallied 181 points — but there are also a few factors at play that put McDavid at a disadvantage in terms of raw numbers. After adjusting for those, McDavid ends up looking very similar to Sid the Kid.For one thing, Crosby’s first two seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07) were also the two highest-scoring NHL campaigns since the 2004-05 lockout. During those two seasons, teams averaged 9 percent more goals per game than in the two years since McDavid entered the league. 2007 might not seem like very long ago, but the game has changed. And part of the scoring gulf between then and now can be explained by a huge disparity in power play opportunities: In 2005-06, teams played with the man advantage a whopping 5.85 times per game on average. This season, that number was 2.99. (Theories abound as to why.)That matters for scoring: In his first two seasons, Crosby scored 108 of his 222 points (49 percent) on the power play. By comparison, McDavid has scored just 41 of his 148 points (28 percent) on the power play. If Crosby took advantage of whistle-happy referees, McDavid hasn’t had that luxury. Taking into account shorthanded stats as well, McDavid has scored 71 percent of his points at even strength. Crosby, by comparison, scored just 50 percent of the points in his first two seasons while playing at even strength. Because the vast majority of the game is played at even strength, points scored when teams are playing at five on five are arguably more valuable than contributions on special teams.Crosby also benefited from inferior goaltending during his first couple of seasons, relative to what McDavid has faced. According to save percentage — a good benchmark for goaltending performance — netminders were 11 points worse across the league during Crosby’s first two years than they have been during McDavid’s. From 2005-06 to 2006-07, the league’s average save percentage was .903; from 2015-16 to 2016-17, it’s .914.Add it all up, and after adjusting for the league’s scoring environment, Crosby’s 33-point lead in the raw stats gets cut roughly in half: Crosby had 179 adjusted points in his first 127 games; McDavid had 164.2Hockey-Reference.com’s system of adjusting statistics takes a player’s raw numbers and normalizes them to a league where six goals and 10 assists are recorded per game.As for Gretzky … well, he notched an insane 240 points per 127 games in his first two seasons,3Hockey-Reference.com doesn’t have individual game logs dating back as far as the early 1980s, so we’ll have to base the comparison on Gretzky’s points per game in his first two seasons. although it’s worth noting that Gretzky built his case as the undisputed GOAT in an NHL that barely resembles today’s league. McDavid could be the second coming of the Great One, and he’d never have a chance to touch Gretzky’s raw production. But if we run the same adjusted scoring formula as above for Gretzky’s first two seasons, he produced 190 adjusted points per 127 games in his first pair of NHL seasons — 26 more than McDavid and 11 more than Crosby. (This just in: Gretzky was amazing.)So McDavid may be running a bit behind the Great One, but he’s pretty close to Crosby’s level. None of this is to say McDavid is guaranteed to match what Crosby has accomplished; Sid the Kid is probably still the best player in the world (at least according to that Gretzky guy) and is one of the best players to ever take the ice. But when you consider that McDavid is performing roughly as well as Crosby was at the same stage of his career, you get the sense that we’re all lucky to witness his ascent.Of course, while McDavid has asserted himself as one the game’s most prolific scorers, that doesn’t mean Edmonton fans should expect immediate returns in the form of a Stanley Cup. Gretzky himself didn’t lead the Oilers to a championship until his fifth NHL season (those early-1980s New York Islanders teams were notoriously tough to beat), and Crosby didn’t deliver a Cup to Pittsburgh until his fourth season. But with his Art Ross season, McDavid is already living up to the hype on an individual level, and the Oilers seem to have found the franchise cornerstone they’ve been looking for since Gretzky left town for sunny Los Angeles.So even if this season doesn’t end with a parade through Edmonton, the future looks exceedingly bright for the Oilers — and their boy wonder. read more

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Beside The Points For Monday Oct 23 2017

See more MLB predictions Oh, and don’t forgetThis is the most crazypants play I’ve seen in ages and if I saw it in a comic book I’d criticize it as unrealistic All newsletters NFL See more NFL predictions Things That Caught My EyeJudgement DayAaron Judge, the rookie right fielder for the New York Yankees, set the record for most postseason strikeouts at 27, topping the 26 times Alfonso Soriano struck out for the Yankees in 2003 (although that was across 17 games, whereas Judge needed only 13). The Yankees’ hopes of reaching another World Series were dashed by Houston on Saturday, but if his debut season is any indicator Judge is poised to have a terrific career for New York. [NBC Sports, ESPN]Joe Thomas streak endsJoe Thomas, Cleveland’s left tackle who holds the iron man award for most consecutive snaps played, was injured during Sunday’s game against the Titans and subsequently pulled out. His streak ended at 10,363 consecutive snaps — a run that had lasted since the Bush administration. [ESPN]Top media market to host out-of-town visitors instead of Yankees in series of gamesThe Dodgers are slightly favored to win the World Series against the Astros, with a 56 percent chance according to our MLB predictions. Tuesday’s Game 1 has L.A. with a 60 percent chance of winning given their home field advantage and stronger pitcher, but Wednesday’s Game 2 — where Justin Verlander takes the mound for Houston — is nearly even odds for both teams. [FiveThirtyEight]NAFTA throws down in hockey brawlThe U.S. Women’s national hockey team faced Canada’s team for the first of six games leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea on Sunday, winning 5 -2 and setting expectations for the team high. The U.S. hasn’t won gold in the sport at the Olympics since 1998. [Excelle Sports, Hockey Canada]And thus social progress was madeJenny Boucek was hired by the Sacramento Kings as the assistant coach for player development, making her the second woman currently on an NBA staff full-time. [ESPN]A win is a winRookie quarterback Mitchell Trubisky completed four of seven passes in the Bears game against the Panthers, notching a total quarterback rating of 4.2. That would have been the worst QBR of the week except that isn’t enough action to actually qualify. The defense carried the team and supplied both of Chicago’s touchdowns in the 17-3 victory, proving yet again that even the ugliest wins are still wins. [ESPN, Deadspin]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number95.5 percentThe New York Jets fired back at critics who have been baffled by the team’s strong performance and seeming inability to properly tank. They did this by losing to the Miami Dolphins on Sunday 31-28 despite at one point having a 95.5 percent chance of winning the game according to ESPN analytics. [ESPN]Leaks from Slack: neil:[screenshot of “Most Wins by Manager to Not Win World Series: Gene Mauch, 1,902; Dusty Baker, 1,863; Buck Showalter, 1,504; Clark Griffith, 1,491]kyle:i forget, what’s the 538 line on dustyneil:I think he’s actually kinda underrated[THE TRUTH: Last September we published a table of the worst bullpen managers since 2000 and Baker was ranked fourth. However, this past May Neil wrote a piece that ranked Baker sixth on wins above projected since 1961. You decide!]Predictions MLB We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe read more

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This Years Boston Marathon Was Sloooooowww

For more than 20 years, the first man and woman across the Boston Marathon finish line have almost always been athletes from Kenya or Ethiopia. But it was an American woman and a Japanese man who won this year’s open divisions. Desiree Linden was the first American woman to win since 1985, finishing in 2:39:54, the slowest winning time since 1978. The men’s field was similarly sluggish — Yuki Kawauchi’s winning time of 2:15:58 was the slowest since 1976.One likely reason for the unusually slow finishes? Runners faced heavy rain, headwinds and the coldest marathon temperatures in 30 years. Kawauchi was loving the cold, though. “For me, these are the best conditions possible,” he told reporters after the race.

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Everyone Thinks Justin Verlander Belongs In The Hall Of Fame So Why

In the wake of Justin Verlander throwing his third career no-hitter on Sunday — becoming just the sixth pitcher in major league history to do so — the debate didn’t seem to be whether the Astros ace was worthy of the Hall of Fame, but rather what cap he would wear in it.1To us, there’s no debate: It should be Detroit’s. Even Major League Baseball’s official Twitter account called it “ANOTHER line on Justin Verlander’s Hall of Fame résumé.” But are we all being a bit too hasty?By at least one smart measure of Hall-worthiness, Verlander is not yet deserving of a berth in Cooperstown. Cited by many sabermetrically-inclined voters, Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score, or JAWS, is the average of a player’s career wins above replacement2JAWS uses the Baseball-Reference.com version of this stat, so I will do the same throughout this article. and his WAR over his seven best seasons (“peak WAR”). To determine if a player belongs in the Hall, a player’s JAWS is compared with the average JAWS of existing Hall of Famers at his position (because it’s easier to accrue value at, say, starting pitcher than at catcher). If the player’s JAWS is higher, the system recommends a yes vote; if the Hall of Famers’ JAWS is higher, the player falls short. Although JAWS is an imperfect yardstick (for example, it doesn’t include postseason stats, nor does it account for unique accomplishments like, say, pitching three no-hitters), electing only people above its positional standards ensures that the quality of Hall of Fame players does not decrease.With a JAWS of 59.0 so far in his career, Verlander remains below the JAWS average for starting pitchers of 61.5. But he’s not alone. No active starting pitcher meets the JAWS standard (although some may do so by the time they retire). In fact, neither does any starter who has thrown a single pitch this entire decade. That suggests a problem not with Verlander or other modern pitchers, but with the standard. Simply put, it’s too high given the usage patterns of today’s starting pitchers.3For the record, this isn’t just a problem with JAWS. Perhaps the most famous old-school standard for a Hall of Fame starting pitcher, winning 300 games, may also now be obsolete; it’s been 10 years since anyone won their 300th, and people are openly wondering if it will ever happen again.As pitch counts and bullpens have become bigger parts of the game, we’ve gone from 1,034 complete games pitched in the 1978 season to 266 in 1997 to just 42 last year. From 1871 to 1953, a period that includes at least part of the careers of about two-thirds of Hall of Fame starting pitchers, starters accounted for more than 80 percent of all innings pitched every season. In 2018, that share was 60 percent. It’s simply not fair to compare starting pitchers of the past few decades — let alone of the past few years, a period when “bullpenning” has exploded in popularity — with bygone Hall of Famers who regularly exceeded 300 innings pitched in a year.What we can do instead is sketch out a new standard, based on the premise that the Hall of Fame should immortalize the greatest starting pitchers of each era, even if those eras are not directly comparable. Verlander’s numbers may not be able to hold a candle to those of, say, the deadball era, but he deserves recognition as an elite hurler in the context of our current era, the bullpen-happy 2010s. The average season from 1901 to 20044I started with 1901 because that is the year the American League was founded and “modern” baseball (defined broadly) began; I ended with 2004 because players who were active in 2005 and later are still having their Hall of Fame candidacies considered by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. had 10 active starting pitchers who were eventually elected to Cooperstown, so we can maintain the Hall’s relative historical standards by electing the top 10 best starting pitchers in the game today. By JAWS, those are: 6CC Sabathia63.039.351.2 RkPitcherCareer WARPeak WARJAWS 6Cole Hamels59.337.648.5 2Justin Verlander69.848.359.0 2012′s most Hall of Fame-worthy starting pitchersTop 10 starting pitchers who were active in 2012 by Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score, through Sept. 3, 2019 RkPitcherCareer WARPeak WARJAWS Shaded players are no longer active.* Already elected to the Hall of Fame.Source: Baseball-Reference.com 7Cole Hamels59.337.648.5 7Félix Hernández50.738.644.6 8Chris Sale45.239.542.3 A few names might change on this list, albeit somewhat predictably. It would be surprising if Chris Sale (42.3 JAWS at age 30) didn’t crack it. Madison Bumgarner (33.6 JAWS at age 30) and Stephen Strasburg (30.8 JAWS at age 31) are young enough that they could get there in time as well. Félix Hernández (44.6 JAWS at age 33) and Jon Lester (40.3 JAWS at age 35) are close but may be running out of gas. In all likelihood, though, the first several names on this list are safe — which would mean that we know the JAWS threshold for cracking the top 10. Essentially, it looks like amassing around 50 JAWS for your career is enough to guarantee your place as one of the top 10 starting pitchers of the early 2010s. And, if the trend of increased bullpen usage of the past few years continues through the next decade, the standard for the early 2020s may be even lower.This revision has a couple of implications for Hall of Fame selection that voters should heed before it’s too late. First, despite falling well short of historical standards, candidates like Johan Santana (who received very little support on the one Hall of Fame ballot he appeared on, despite currently being the eighth-best starter active in 2012) deserve closer looks, as they were elite for their era. Second, yes — Justin Verlander is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Hopefully, by the time he is up for a vote in the 2020s, voters will opt to view his JAWS as dominant among his peers, rather than mediocre within the Hall.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 4Max Scherzer60.248.654.4 2019′s most Hall of Fame-worthy starting pitchersTop 10 active starting pitchers by Jaffe Wins Above Replacement Score, through Sept. 3, 2019 Even though none of them yet measures up to the traditional JAWS standard, it’s clear that the likes of Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Verlander should be Hall of Famers by this method. But the No. 10 pitcher on the list, Adam Wainwright, is probably not a Hall of Famer — and his 36.7 JAWS likely shouldn’t be used as the new standard. That’s because young studs like Aaron Nola (20.2 JAWS at age 26) are still racking up stats and could eventually displace the bottom several names on the list. So let’s try looking at the version of this list from, say, 2012. That’s long enough ago that the list is closer to being final, but it’s recent enough that it reflects the context of how starting pitchers were deployed during Verlander’s career (in fact, as of 2019, 2012 is the exact midpoint of his MLB career). 1Zack Greinke70.847.659.2 3Clayton Kershaw67.749.658.6 9Tim Hudson58.138.348.2 4Roy Halladay*64.350.657.4 3Clayton Kershaw67.749.658.6 2Justin Verlander69.848.359.0 5CC Sabathia63.039.351.2 10Adam Wainwright39.434.036.7 Source: Baseball-Reference.com 8Johan Santana51.745.048.3 5Max Scherzer60.248.654.4 1Zack Greinke70.847.659.2 10Mark Buehrle59.235.847.5 9Jon Lester45.635.040.3 read more

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The NFL Should Expand To London But First Canada Mexico And LA

It might seem like a matter of time before the NFL and London stop flirting and start going steady. Six NFL teams have flown across the Atlantic to play a football game this year — most recently, the Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars, who squared off on Sunday in the third and final London game of the season. (Just as if they were playing on home soil, the Jaguars lost badly.) The league would have to inconvenience only two additional teams1A 16-game regular season would require eight visiting teams to travel to London. to host a franchise in London full-time.Most commentary on the possibility of a London NFL team has been skeptical. Bill Barnwell, of Grantland, worried last year about travel and timing logistics and the potential disadvantages a London franchise would face in recruiting free agents.My view is more optimistic, at least when it comes to whether a London team could find a sufficient fan base. I’m not sure a franchise in London would be a smashing success. But even given conservative assumptions, London’s huge population and revenue base are probably enough to outweigh the relatively low level of NFL interest there. Perhaps more important, in contrast to some U.S.-based candidates for expansion or relocation, a London team would not cannibalize much of the fan bases of existing NFL franchises.Still, if London got first dibs on a team, the NFL would be overlooking a couple of more obvious candidates much closer to home.Last year, I looked at the National Hockey League’s allocation of franchises, estimating the size of each market’s NHL fan base using the population of its metropolitan area and the number of Google searches for the term “NHL.” (The analysis concluded that the NHL is overextended into smaller U.S. markets while underserving Canadian fans.) Here, I’ll perform the same analysis for the NFL, comparing cities that already have a team to potential new markets in North America and Europe.As with the hockey analysis, I’ll assume the popularity of the NFL in a given market is proportional to the number of Google searches for NFL-related topics,2The distinction between Google search topics and search strings is explained here. Topics are more comprehensive — for instance, Google searches for both “NFL” and “National Football League” will be grouped under the same topic. However, I default the search string for the term “NFL” in countries where topic-level estimates are not available, adjusting them upward to account for the less comprehensive search coverage. as according to Google Trends. Google searches might not be a perfect measure of popularity but they correlate reasonably well with other measures of franchise success3In the NHL, for instance, our Google-based estimates of each team’s fan base correlated strongly with its profitability. and allow us to compare domestic and international markets by the same standard. The only ad-hoc adjustment I’ve made is to lump Green Bay together with Milwaukee for purposes of calculating the Packers’ fan base.Otherwise, this is pretty simple: We’re just multiplying a metro area’s population4Market sizes are drawn from the estimates of metro-area populations put together by Demographia earlier this year. In the past, I’ve preferred to use estimates based on TV market sizes, which are slightly more inclusive of outlying areas that have a cultural affinity with a particular metroplex. But these aren’t widely available outside the U.S. and Canada. by the volume of Google searches it conducts on NFL-related topics. The estimated number of fans in each market is calibrated to the U.S. national average of 28 percent of Americans who say they are “very interested” in the NFL. Our estimates of the number of NFL fans in the 30 existing NFL markets5There are 32 NFL teams, but the New York and San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose metro areas have two teams each. — and about two dozen plausible expansion destinations — follow6Google Trends data is less detailed in some other countries than it is in the U.S. For cities in Canada, Germany, Spain and Mexico, I use data taken from the state or province level rather than the metro area. For London, I use data from the city level rather than the metropolitan area.:In contrast to the NHL (or college football), the level of interest in the NFL is fairly consistent from place to place in the United States. There’s also relatively little difference between those markets that have an NFL franchise and those that don’t.In some ways, these are signs of the league’s success: The NFL has conquered Sunday afternoons in just about every nook and cranny of the United States. And it’s principally a television sport. In the NFL, it’s not quite as important where the franchises are located — so long as you can transmit a TV signal from there.But partly because of the NFL’s pervasiveness, it has run out of highly attractive American markets other than Los Angeles. (Other than that, Mr. Goodell, how was the play?) Even Los Angeles provides some evidence of the league’s saturation: NFL interest there is only mildly lower than the national average despite the city not having hosted a team since 1994. Let’s say, however, that the NFL comes to its senses and places a team in Los Angeles soon. Where else is there to go in the U.S.?Las Vegas has high levels of NFL avidity and ranks as the next-largest untapped U.S. market by the number of NFL fans. But given the NFL’s longstanding paranoia about associations with gambling, putting a team there would be as much of an adventure for the league as going to a foreign market.After this are a series of markets — Orlando, Florida; Sacramento, California; Virginia Beach, Virginia; San Antonio; Austin, Texas; and Columbus, Ohio — where a team would play in the shadow of a more established franchise: The San Francisco 49ers in the case of Sacramento, for instance, or the Dallas Cowboys in the case of San Antonio. We’ll seek to measure the effect of this in more detail later on. It’s not that these markets are necessarily any less NFL-worthy than, say, Nashville or Jacksonville. But they’d reshuffle existing fans around more than they’d allow the league to expand its footprint.The foreign markets are more intriguing. Let’s start with London.I estimate from the Google data that only about 4 percent of Londoners are NFL fans now. However, the city’s metro area has about 10 million people. That means it has about 400,000 NFL fans. That isn’t great, but it’s comparable to a few existing NFL markets (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Charlotte, Kansas City) and slightly larger than a few others (Buffalo, New Orleans, Jacksonville, Nashville). A London franchise might be the equivalent of a “small-market” team — but it would hardly be a huge outlier.There are a number of reasons to think this underestimates London’s potential. London is wealthy, with a GDP per capita of somewhere around £37,000 ($60,000 at current exchange rates). That means higher ticket prices and more billionaires to buy the team when it goes up for sale. London is also among the most-visited cities by tourists in the world with about 15 million international visitors a year.7Assuming that the average tourist visit lasts three to four days, that means there are about 150,000 international tourists in London at any given time. That’s small compared to London’s baseline of 10 million permanent residents, but it’s a nice little bonus. And it doesn’t account for travel there from within the United Kingdom, which is also significant.More important, our estimate that 4 percent of Londoners are NFL fans is based on the volume of Google searches since 2004. Those searches have increased recently, and there’s reason to expect a further increase in fan interest if a team is located in the city permanently. As measured by Google searches, interest in the NHL increased by about 80 percent in the province of Manitoba, Canada, after the league relocated a franchise to Winnipeg in 2011. The NBA experienced a similar increase in Oklahoma City when it moved a team there.8It also helps that the Oklahoma City Thunder have been much better than their predecessors, the Seattle Sonics. Because the NFL is already so saturated in the United States, I wouldn’t expect an 80 percent increase in NFL interest if you placed a team in Orlando or Austin. But London, and other foreign markets, have a much lower baseline and more room to grow.A London-based team could also have some appeal across the rest of England and the United Kingdom. One precedent comes from the Toronto Blue Jays and Toronto Raptors, the only Canadian teams in Major League Baseball and the NBA, respectively. Each one generates about 20 percent to 25 percent as much search traffic in other Canadian provinces as it does in its native Ontario. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s higher than most U.S.-based franchises, many of which generate only about 5 percent as much search traffic outside their home states. With no other franchise to compete against geographically, a London team could be regional in the way the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys and Boston Red Sox are, covering a larger footprint than you’d infer from its metro area alone.You might think these are pie-in-the-sky assumptions; I think they’re pretty reasonable. The only issue is that there are two other international destinations that rank better still.They’re not among the more exotic choices. Paris, Dusseldorf9Essen-Dusseldorf, which also includes several other mid-size cities, is the most populous metropolitan area in Germany. and Madrid almost certainly would not have the fan bases to support an NFL team at the present time. A second U.K.-based team, in a place such as Manchester, would not do much better. Nor in all likelihood would San Juan, Puerto Rico, which is a baseball town.But the Toronto metro area is highly populous and NFL interest is already reasonably high there. I estimate T Dot has about 1 million NFL fans — more than the majority of U.S. markets to host an NFL team. As with the Raptors and Blue Jays in their sports, there could also some residual gains in NFL interest across the rest of Canada.Mexico City ranks even higher. Although only about 7.5 percent of people there are NFL fans, 7 percent of 20 million residents is still 1.5 million NFL fans.Could those Mexico City fans afford tickets and licensed replica jerseys and the products sponsors might want them to buy? Mexico gets pigeonholed as a developing country and that’s true for much of the nation, but Mexico City itself has developed into a thriving, bustling city with many of the creature comforts available in the other great metropolises of North America. Mexico City’s metro-area GDP is about $30,000 per capita and GDP per capita is nearing $50,000 in the city proper, comparable to that in U.S. cities. Levels of NFL interest in Mexico City, while not extraordinarily high, are higher than in London: An NFL game there in 2005 drew more than 100,000 spectators.The international markets also offer the advantage of being unconquered territory rather than existing in the shadow of any current NFL team. To measure this, I ran another series of Google Trends searches on topics related to individual NFL teams (e.g. searches for topics related to the Seattle Seahawks) to see how they compared to interest in the NFL as a whole.In existing NFL markets, Google search traffic for the local team is generally about 65 percent to 70 percent as high as that for the league as a whole. See here for the Detroit Lions, for example. Of the Detroit area’s roughly 840,000 NFL fans, Google search volume would suggest we’d allocate about 480,000 of them to the Lions. Another 200,000 or so would go to the next-most popular NFL teams there, the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears. That leaves relatively few “free agent” fans.In the foreign markets, however, including in Canada, fans are largely not committed to any one NFL franchise. In the table below, I’ve estimated the number of fans for the three most popular teams in each market and calculated how many fans remain after allocating fans to those teams.10The calculation is a bit rough for some of the less promising markets. Interest in the NFL is low enough in Dusseldorf that we don’t have a great idea of who the most popular teams are there. Also, in England, the most popular team according to Google topics is nominally the Cleveland Browns. But this appears to be a false positive, with Google having picked up on other contexts in which the word “Browns” is used. Searches for the text string “Cleveland Browns” as opposed to the topic “Cleveland Browns” are quite low in England. In Mexico City, for instance, the Cowboys, Pittsburgh Steelers and Broncos are probably the most popular teams. But searches for those three teams combined represent only 20 percent to 25 percent of searches for NFL-related topics as a whole. Contrast that with Columbus, where searches for the Cleveland Browns, Steelers and Cincinnati Bengals represent about 90 percent of searches for the NFL as a whole. That’s not to say a Columbus-based team wouldn’t pick up some fans of its own, but they might come largely at the expense of the Browns, Bengals and Steelers rather than acquainting new fans with the league.Toronto, like Mexico City, has only about 20 percent of NFL fans allocated to one of the three most popular NFL teams there. The Buffalo Bills have sometimes protestested that Toronto is part of their market, but NFL fans in Toronto take only a modest interest in the Bills according to search data and other metrics like merchandise sales.I estimate there are about 50,000 Bills fans in greater Toronto. That isn’t nothing when there are only about 300,000 NFL fans in metro Buffalo itself. But that’s Buffalo’s problem, not Toronto’s. If the NFL wants to have a franchise in Buffalo, it should have one in Buffalo. It should also have one in Toronto. The league would come out ahead if it had to slightly subsidize the Bills with the extra revenues it gained from a Toronto team.How about Montreal or Vancouver instead? If you could combine the virtues of the two — Montreal’s larger population with Vancouver’s greater NFL interest — you’d have an NFL-worthy city. As it stands, however, both are decidedly inferior to Toronto. Montreal comes out slightly better than Vancouver in our reckoning because, while each has about the same number of NFL fans, a fair number of those in Vancouver are committed to the Seattle Seahawks.Among U.S. cities, Los Angeles remains No. 1 with a bullet after allocating fans to existing teams. Las Vegas’s numbers also hold up well. So, to a lesser extent, do Orlando’s, a surprising result given that there are three other NFL teams in Florida. But Orlando, like other cities in the state, has a lot of expats from the north who root for teams like the New England Patriots and New York Giants and who might or might not be intrigued by an expansion team. The state of Florida has produced its fair share of disappointments in cultivating loyalty toward new franchises. Most of the other American candidates could wind up like Jacksonville — at best just barely big enough to support a team on its own and with that team having barely any footprint beyond the city’s borders.A final question is about the NFL’s endgame. If the NFL merely needs a couple of credible candidates for relocation — whether as leverage against existing teams or as genuine alternatives — Los Angeles and London should more than suffice. But if the league is thinking about expansion, it might have to do it in a big way. Thirty-two teams is a convenient number, readily divisible into two conferences and eight divisions of four teams each. A 33-, 34- or 35-team league would be awkward, however. The next equilibrium would be 36 teams instead, which could be divided into six divisions of six teams each.In that case, the NFL ought to return to cultivating the Mexico City market and treat Toronto as more than a token alternative for the Bills. An expansion to those cities along with London and Los Angeles would be the boldest thing the league has done in years — and possibly the smartest.CORRECTION (2:15 p.m.): An earlier version of a chart in this article misstated the number of unallocated NFL fans for Mexico City. That number is 1.15 million, not 1.49 million. read more

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Significant Digits For Friday Dec 4 2015

You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news.0.12An attorney who wrote a book called “The Drinker’s Guide to Driving: The Secrets of DUI from One of America’s Top DUI Lawyers” was arrested for drunk driving Sunday, with a blood alcohol level of 0.12. Yes, it did happen in Florida — excellent guess. [The Herald Tribune]2nd-longestAfter his team trailed all night against the Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw a 61-yard game-ending Hail Mary pass for a touchdown with no time on the clock. The pass was the second-longest come-from-behind game-ending touchdown ever, and from a distance where such passes have a terrible completion rate. It was the worst thing to happen to the city of Detroit since globalization and systemic mismanagement. [ESPN Stats & Info, Brian Burke]20:24Elvira Montes, an 81-year-old grandmother, was the oldest finisher in this year’s Beer Mile World Championships, finishing four beers and running 1 mile in 20 minutes, 24 seconds. She is what we in the business call a “role model.” We should all be so lucky reach age 81, let alone sustain a reliable competitive drinking habit. [Runner’s World]44.9 percentPercentage of U.S. adults who worked for an employer at least 30 hours per week in November, as measured by Gallup’s Good Jobs rate. [Gallup]92 countsThe other shoe has dropped, people, and it is feigning catastrophic injury in order to procure a yellow card as we speak. U.S. prosecutors announced a 92-count indictment against 16 FIFA officials yesterday, following up on a raid of a Swiss hotel where several officials were staying. [CNN] 95.7 degrees FahrenheitA spokesperson for the upcoming Olympic Games said that organizers did not consider it critical to pay for air conditioning in athletes’ quarters in Rio de Janeiro and that someone else will have to handle the costs. Keep in mind that this year, Aug. 19, which would be towards the end of the events this coming year, hit 95.7 degrees in Rio. [ESPN]589 reportersIn 2014, the number of reporters from niche outlets accredited by the U.S. Senate press gallery exceeded the number of reporters from daily newspapers. As someone from a niche outlet, I guess this is cool? Go niche outlets! [Pew Research Center]220,000 jobsAshton Carter, whose name makes him sound like he is a member of One Direction but who is actually America’s secretary of defense, announced yesterday that the U.S. military will open all combat jobs to women. About 220,000 such jobs within the armed forces had been closed to women. [The Washington Post]$5 millionThat’s the amount brilliant negotiator and world-renowned dealmaker Donald Trump wanted CNN to donate to charity to ensure his participation in an upcoming presidential debate. CNN declined, but the legendary businessman and genius arbitrator, who as we all know could strike an absolutely flawless deal with anyone, especially the Chinese, relented and decided to participate in the debate anyway, because the negotiating strategy of “giving up when your primary request isn’t met” is just a tactic from page one of “The Art of the Deal,” a book Trump definitely wrote all by himself. [The Washington Post]$117 millionAmount raised on Giving Tuesday, another manufactured holiday trying to chew the crumbs left over by the capitalist orgy that is Black Friday, albeit for charity. This is frankly encouraging, because I personally had a lot of trouble getting into the Small Business Saturday spirit this year. [NBC News]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news. read more

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Spot in Big Ten tournament could be locked up for OSU womens

OSU sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts (4) takes a corner kick during a game against Purdue on Oct. 9 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Credit: Anbo Yao | Lantern PhotographerWednesday evening marks senior day and the conclusion of the regular season as the Ohio State women’s soccer team (9-5-3, 4-4-2) sets up to host the Michigan State Spartans (8-5-4, 4-4-2).The Spartans are tied with the Buckeyes for seventh place in the conference, so a win on Wednesday for OSU will earn it a spot in the Big Ten tournament.“I think that the vibe of our team right now is that we’ve continued to get better every game,” OSU coach Lori Walker said. “So teams that continue to get better at this point in the season I think have the opportunity to continue to play, and that’s just been our mentality the whole season.”Following a defeat this past weekend against one of the nation’s top teams, the Penn State Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes are excited for a chance at a big win at home.“We’ve got a lot of players that have played in championship games in our program,” Walker said. “That’s one of the things we look for when we’re recruiting, players that have been there and players that understand what that feels like. It’s something we can tap into.”Junior forward Nichelle Prince said she trusts in her team’s persistence that has been built upon throughout the season.“I think we are really resilient,” Prince said. “We know that it’s not going to be perfect, our season is not going to be perfect but we have to get up and play hard the next game.”For senior forward/midfielder Michela Paradiso, Wednesday’s game will mark her last time playing at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Paradiso said the emotional aspect has been overrun by the magnitude of the game.“It’s way more emotional than I ever thought it would be,” Paradiso said. “But I think because it’s such a big game it kind of is allowing me to not think so much about it being my last home game and more as an exciting thing to get the win to move on the Big Ten tournament, so I think that helps.”Paradiso will be honored on Wednesday alongside two fellow seniors: forward Katelyn Kraft and defender Marisa Wolf.Prince said she hopes the seniors’ seasons can end on a high note.“Because I’m a junior, I’m pretty close to them,” Prince said. “They’re all great leaders on this team and have a big influence on this team. I just want to make sure that they get the best end of the season possible and they get what they deserve.”Anticipation has been building around this game, and Walker and her players alike said they are excited and prepared.The Buckeyes and Spartans are set to kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Wednesday. read more

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