30 Sep
2019

Auburn to Honor Charles Barkley with Statue Outside Arena

? | It’s official, former @AuburnMBB great Charles Barkley will be honored by #Auburn with his own statue.His reaction⬇️#WarEagle pic.twitter.com/GgkW8RIYqg— Auburn Tigers (@AuburnTigers) October 22, 2016Barkley played at Auburn from 1981-84 and went on to win All-American honors on his way to becoming an Olympic gold medal winner, AuburnTigers.com reports. He began his career in the NBA as a first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1984. Barkley became a Hall of Fame hooper and was later named as one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players during the league’s 50th anniversary season.Auburn officials said the new statue will recognize the former athlete’s many accomplishments during his time at the university and beyond. The school retired Barkley’s jersey in 2001.“It’s more than about what Charles Barkley accomplished here at Auburn, which is certainly historic, but it has been about his life’s work and contribution,” said Auburn basketball coach Bruce Pearl. “We want to recognize one of the most respected, philanthropic NBA legends, Hall of Famer, for his lifetime achievements.“Our Auburn Family is so blessed to have an Auburn man like Charles Barkley in the public eye representing us,” Pearl continued. “A statue and a symbol like this serves to bring attention to that and will stand the test of time.”According to the Washington Post, Barkley averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds for Auburn as 1983-84 SEC player of the year, which earned him the nickname “The Round Mound of Rebound” for his unusual physique. Barkley has since gained notoriety as an entertaining, and oftentimes sharp-tongued sports commentator for TNT.“More than anything, Charles Barkley has become a global icon and this award honors the contributions he has given to Auburn both on and off the floor,” said Chuck Person, Auburn basketball’s associate head coach who played with Barkley at the university. “What an honor, and Auburn couldn’t have done this for a better man, my friend, Charles Barkley.” Charles Barkley. Photo by Brett Davis, USA TODAY Sports.Retired basketball star Charles Barkley is set to receive a statue outside Auburn Arena — making him the first former athlete who wasn’t a football player to be immortalized on the university’s campus.According to the Washington Post, the school announced plans to a erect a statue in Barkley’s name during Auburn’s 56-3 win over the University of Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday. The retired basketballer will be the fourth former Auburn athlete to have a statue built in his honor, joining the Tigers’ Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley told AuburnTigers.com. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”Watch as Charles Barkley learns he’ll soon have a statue at Auburn Arena (from @BoJackson on video board), then Bo appears in Groves jersey. pic.twitter.com/ESRTl81b8J— Jeff Shearer (@jeff_shearer) October 22, 2016 read more

Read More
29 Sep
2019

Will Buyout Season Help The Cavs And Warriors

Related: Hot Takedown It’s buyout season in the NBA, meaning that washed-up, out-of-favor or otherwise disgruntled veterans have begun to make their way to contenders. Specifically, Deron Williams and Jose Calderon have (or will soon have) new teams. Williams appears to be headed to Cleveland, where he’d become the latest in a long line of faded stars and aged role players to team up with LeBron, while Calderon seems likely to wind up in Golden State.Neither move would likely change how deep Cleveland or Golden State goes in the playoffs, but both players could fill key roles for the defending finalists.Deron WilliamsWilliams, who has already cleared waivers and has reportedly informed the Cavs that he’ll sign with them, has had a rough year in Dallas, being displaced in the rotation by Seth Curry, Devin Harris and Yogi Ferrell. He’s averaging 13.1 points and 6.9 assists in 29.3 minutes on the season but has seen his role cut considerably since January. But even though Williams’s overall stats remain down and he clearly isn’t the player he was earlier in his career, there’s a chance that he’ll fill the specific needs of the Cavs.LeBron James has publicly called for Cleveland to add another point guard to its roster after the departure of Matthew Dellavedova to restricted free agency, and the stats bear out the claim: The Cavaliers have only three players with an assist rate over 10 percent:1Basketball Reference.com’s assist rate is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor. LeBron (41.9), Kyrie Irving (30), and 21-year-old backup point guard Kay Felder. This season, Williams has a 40 percent assist rate, which may not be the best gauge of point guard play on its own but could be a good indicator that he can help the Cavs.While the Cleveland offense is known for ball movement and numerous 3-point shooters, it also relies on having a player initiate the offense using ball screens and drives. That’s what draws the defense’s attention away from the other, off-ball actions that spring Kyle Korver or Richard Jefferson open. Williams should help to keep those skills on the floor when James and Irving take a rest. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Williams scores 89.9 points per 100 possessions as a pick-and-roll ball handler (this is fairly good) and outperforms Felder in nearly every scoring category.Williams obviously won’t solve all of the Cavs’ problems — for that, Kevin Love and J.R. Smith will need to return healthy and ready for the playoff run, and Andrew Bogut, who has secured his release from the Philadelphia 76ers and is expected to sign in Cleveland, will have to help hold down the fort until they return. But if Williams can do even a passable job at alleviating the playmaking deficiency that’s forced James into long minutes, he may prove just as crucial as either of those players.Jose CalderonCalderon was waived by the Los Angeles Lakers and is reportedly leaning toward the Warriors as his preferred destination. Calderon would be the Warriors’ third point guard, behind Stephen Curry and Shaun Livingston, so his role would be smaller in Oakland than Williams’s would be in Cleveland, but adding shooting off the bench is key for Golden State, which has surprisingly few dead-eye shooters on the roster behind Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant. When Did Sports Become So Political? Calderon has never been a lockdown defender, and rarely even a serviceable one, but he’s always balanced that out by being one of the most efficient offensive players in the game, picking up a 50-40-90 season along the way. This season, his shooting numbers are all way off of his career norms — 41.6 percent from the field, 35.3 percent from three, and a 50.8 true shooting percentage — though he’s also played fewer than 300 minutes on the season.During his longest stretch of extended action — an eight-game run in November and December during which he was pressed into starting — Calderon looked more like himself, posting a 60.2 true shooting percentage and 34.6 assist percentage. He also put up a 116 defensive rating to a 107 offensive rating, and the Lakers dropped five of those eight, so he wasn’t exactly a game-changer. But in a spot-role for the Warriors, he wouldn’t need to be.Most relevant to a job with the Warriors is Calderon’s 39.3 percent shooting on spot-up threes, making him, at worst, one more piece of shooting on a team that runs on the stuff.Check out our latest NBA predictions. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Even If They Dont Win Tonight the 76ers Are Getting Better

The Philadelphia 76ers are one loss from tying the NBA record for longest losing streak. And barring an enormous upset on the road against the Houston Rockets on Thursday, they’ll tie the 26-game run of futility by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-11. The Sixers have a better chance of losing their last 11 games of the season than they do of beating the Rockets to avoid matching that ignominious record.But in a lost season in Philly, fans have two reasons to hope the 76ers can keep from setting a new losing-streak mark. First, up next after Houston is a home game Saturday against Detroit. The Sixers have a 1-in-3 chance of winning that one. Second, they’ve played well recently, in the latest demonstration that wins and losses alone don’t show how well a team is doing.An NBA team’s probability of winning a game depends on its performance level as measured by Basketball Reference’s Simple Rating System, its opponents’ SRS, and home court. Incorporating all three factors,1I used SRS — a formula based on teams’ margin of victory and schedule strength — regressed to the mean by adding seven games of league-average play, as suggested by my colleague Neil Paine last year. Then I used the formula for win probability outlined by Justin Kubatko last year on his blog. I found that Philadelphia has a 4 percent chance of beating the Rockets on Thursday. Houston is more than five points per game better than league average, and will play with home-court advantage against a Sixers team with a typical level this season of 11.5 points per game below average.So, let’s say the Sixers lose to Houston as expected. Then Detroit comes to Philadelphia, with a losing-streak record on the line. The Pistons are three points below league average, and will be playing on the road. Philadelphia has a 34 percent chance of winning the game, and a 33 percent chance of breaking its losing streak. (I’m accounting for the minuscule probability that the 76ers beat the Rockets first.)Detroit is the second-easiest game left on Philly’s schedule, after a home date with Boston in the season’s penultimate game. The Sixers have a 38 percent chance of winning that one, but just an 8 percent chance of breaking their streak in that game, because most likely it will have ended before then.I ran the numbers on Philly’s chance of winning each remaining game, as well as of breaking the streak in each game. The latter probability is lower than the former for each game after the one against Houston, because two conditions must be met: Philly must win, and must not have won before. Based on these calculations, Philadelphia has a 12 percent chance of finishing the season on a 36-game skid — or three times its probability of beating Houston on Thursday.Some factors might make it easier for Philly to win than these probability calculations suggest. Opponents that have clinched their playoff spot and seed, or that have been eliminated from the postseason, might rest their stars. Then again, no team wants to lose to an opponent with a losing streak of 25 games — or longer.There’s another reason Philly’s chances might be better than they look: In the Sixers’ last five games, they’ve been closer to mediocre than terrible. I evaluated their performance level by taking their margin of defeat in each game, adjusting for home-court advantage2The average home team wins games this year by 2.57 points per game, through Monday, the day Philadelphia last played. and opponent strength.3Based on SRS, regressed to the mean with seven league-average games. In four of the last five games, the Sixers have played better than their typical level this season.4Again, regressed to the mean with seven average games. Without that step, Philadelphia is an even worse 11.5 points below league average. They were within five points of league average in their one-point home loss to the Knicks, and were even better in a nine-point road loss to the East-leading Pacers. In that game — in which Philadelphia trailed by three with under two minutes left — the 76ers performed at a level just two points below league average.Moral victories don’t end losing streaks. But they could bode well for Philly’s chances. Already, the Sixers have attained their best average level over five games since the five games that immediately preceded the start of their losing streak, in which they went 2-3.5The last of those five games was their last victory, and it could easily have been a defeat: Philadelphia trailed Boston by a point before Evan Turner’s last-second shot. If Boston had won that game, and all subsequent events were unchanged, Philly’s losing streak would now stand at a record 29 games. Philadelphia’s average level over its last five games — 7.2 points below league average — is 10.5 points better than its level during the 25-game losing streak. It’s also better than the 76ers’ average level during three separate 2-3 stretches earlier in the season.So, over the last five games, the Sixers have improved to a level somewhere between the Orlando Magic and the Milwaukee Bucks, the two teams just above them near the bottom of the league power ratings. Does that mean the chances of the 76ers winning their remaining games, and of ending the streak, have gone up? History doesn’t provide many precedents. Just six other NBA teams have had losing streaks of more than 20 games. Two of those streaks extended over two seasons, and any effect of the team’s level at the end of the first season was unlikely to carry over to the start of the next season. The Charlotte Bobcats lost their last 23 games of the season in 2011-12, and showed little sign of winning a game near the end: Their performance in four of their last six games was more than 20 points below league average.That leaves three teams that broke losing streaks of longer than 20 games during the regular season: the 1995-96 Vancouver Grizzlies, in the first year of the franchise; the 1997-98 Denver Nuggets; and the 2010-11 Cavs. The Grizzlies suffered the worst loss of their 23-game losing streak two games before ending it. The Nuggets showed no signs of improvement near the end, performing at least eight points below average in each of their last eight losses. The Cavs, though, signaled their potential toward the end of their record 26-game streak: Their best five-game run of the streak came in the last five games, including a three-point loss in Dallas against a strong Mavericks team two games before Cleveland finally won, beating the Los Angeles Clippers in overtime.These streaks had at least one thing in common: All three teams won their first game in more than 20 against teams performing at a level more than two points below average. So circle that game against Detroit, Sixers fans — and be ready to circle the home game against Boston if Philly doesn’t get it done against the Pistons on Saturday. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Quantifying the That Guy Is Still in the Major Leagues Phenomenon

While watching Tuesday’s spring training game between the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves, some of us in the FiveThirtyEight office were surprised to see Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez. Didn’t Gonzalez retire years ago?He was Atlanta’s everyday shortstop in 2011, but over the past two seasons, Gonzalez was thoroughly forgettable, playing just 65 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (hitting .211 and producing -0.8 wins above replacement). If you go back to 2009, when Gonzalez was 32, he seemed particularly unlikely to be in the majors five years later.This got us thinking: Could we quantify the “Wait … he’s still playing?” question. Our idea was to use a player’s age and WAR to predict whether he would be an active major leaguer a half-decade later. To that end, we plugged every player from the designated hitter era (1973-present) into a logistic regression model. The result will tell us the likelihood of a given player being in the league five seasons later. For example, here’s the arc of a generic Major League Baseball player who peaks as an All-Star (5 WAR) at age 27:So for players in MLB this season (a list taken from Fangraphs’ depth charts), we looked at the odds at the end of the 2009 season that they’d still be playing today. Here are the most unlikely major leaguers:Gonzalez is not the most improbable player in the game. That honor belongs to catcher Henry Blanco, who was 37 in 2009 and had been hovering around replacement level for the previous three seasons. All else being equal, a player of that profile would have just a 3 percent chance of still being in the majors five years later, and yet Blanco is slated to be in the mix for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ backup catching role this season.Blanco underscores one of the themes of the list. The probabilities listed above don’t take into account the player’s position (beyond the positional adjustments in WAR) — just his age and performance. For most players, that’s enough, but backup catchers are a different breed. No other position is so well-represented among the “I can’t believe he’s still playing” set.One reason for this is that WAR, for all of its strengths, doesn’t incorporate a catcher’s receiving skills. Recent research suggests that elite pitch-framers such as the Tampa Bay Rays’ Jose Molina have a startlingly large impact on the game, far beyond what was originally believed in the sabermetric community.Another explanation, though, is that on-field performance isn’t necessarily the first thing managers look for in their reserve backstops. Instead, managers may place more value on intangibles such as clubhouse presence and leadership. How else to explain how backup catching became what Sports Illustrated once called “the cushiest job in baseball”? read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

2015 NBA Playoffs Preview

Derrick Rose is back in time for the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Bulls, he’s not the Derrick Rose of four seasons ago, the one who won the MVP award and led the Bulls to their only conference finals since Michael Jordan’s second retirement. Since then, Rose, slowed by injuries, has played just 100 regular-season games and one playoff game. Now he is the only Bulls starter who rates below league average. That’s not enough to make Milwaukee the favorite in this series. Two Bucks starters are below league average, and Milwaukee will have trouble scoring with an offense that is well below league average. The Bulls should win this series — and enjoy the win, because in half of our simulations of the playoffs, they go out in the next round, most likely to LeBron James and the Cavs. — Carl Bialik Western ConferenceEach team is led by one of the best players in basketball: Stephen Curry on Golden State and Anthony Davis on New Orleans. So why do we think Golden State has a 92 percent chance to advance? Because Curry is better, and has much better teammates. Draymond Green, a top contender for Defensive Player of the Year, rates higher than Davis in the Real Plus-Minus player ratings we’re using from Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. Warriors sub Andre Iguodala would be the second-best Pelican. But this might not be a sweep: In their two games against Golden State in New Orleans, the Pelicans won once and forced overtime in the other. But Golden State’s formidable offense should dominate the Pelicans’ subpar D. The Warriors look a lot more like a team for the ages — with an impressive 48 percent chance of winning it all — than like first-round upset fodder. (We were a little stunned by that 48 percent number, but Basketball-Reference.com gives the Warriors about the same odds.) — Carl Bialik You might think the Celtics should just be happy to be here. After all, in late February, they only had a 12 percent probability of making the playoffs, according to the FiveThirtyEight NBA Power Ratings. But rather than merely showing up, getting their souvenir T-shirt and accepting a first-round loss, Boston could give LeBron James and the mighty Cavaliers more trouble than they bargained for. While we can’t derive much meaning from the Celtics’ combined 216-168 margin over Cleveland in their two April matchups — the Cavs were mostly resting their key players — Boston is solid at both ends of the floor, with a great group of guards and a lot of depth. Over the course of the entire season, they were better offensively (relative to the league) than the Cavs’ defense was, and that only includes a few months of Isaiah Thomas. Our model says the Celtics are still unlikely to pull the upset, but they have the ingredients to be much more of a pest than they seemed to be a few months ago. — Neil Paine Portland won fewer games than Memphis (51 to 55) during the regular season, but because the Blazers won the comparatively weak Northwest division, they are the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and the Grizzlies are the No. 5. But that seed advantage isn’t worth much. Since the Blazers had fewer wins, they will still be on the road for four of their seven potential games against Memphis. Making matters even more complicated, this series is so close that the question of home court could end up making all the difference. Only a tenth of a rating point separates them in our most recent power rankings. Our model gives the Grizzlies a 54 percent probability of winning, but that number would flip around to 53 percent for Portland if the Blazers had home court. Of course, the Grizzlies earned their home-court advantage by winning more games (against a tougher schedule, no less), and this arrangement is good for Portland, too — a 46 percent chance against Memphis is preferable to a 24 percent chance versus the Clippers, which is who they’d face if the conference were seeded purely by record. But this inverted 4-versus-5 matchup is another example of how convoluted and arbitrary the seeding process is in the NBA. And it’s another argument that the league should perhaps just ditch divisions (if not conferences) entirely. — Neil Paine With the latest FiveThirtyEight Power Ratings ranking the Spurs and Clippers as second and fourth, respectively, this matchup is one of the most compelling first-round matchups in recent memory.The defending champion Spurs enter this tournament as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference — far lower than the No. 2 seed they could have had if they had won their final game against the Pelicans on Wednesday. Despite that loss, they had a 21-4 record over their last 25 games, reasserting that they’re contenders despite a 19-18 stretch in the middle of the season.The story of their year has been the breakout of last year’s surprise finals MVP and zero-time All-Star Kawhi Leonard. The Spurs went 46-18 with him in the lineup, with an average margin of victory of 7.8 points per game — which would be second to Golden State’s 10.0 and matches the 7.8 they put up last year. Leonard’s 2014-15 Real Plus-Minus of 8.35 was second in basketball behind Stephen Curry’s, ahead of well-known small forward LeBron James’s. Oh, and he led the league in steals per game.The Clippers are no slouches, either — their SRS3SRS is a team’s margin of victory, adjusted for its strength of schedule. of 6.8 is second-highest in the league behind Golden State’s 10.0 (San Antonio is third, with 6.34). They’ve now won either 56 or 57 games in every full season of the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era, yet their dynamic duo has not made it past the conference semifinals.Although the Clippers have home-court advantage, the FiveThirtyEight simulations give the Spurs the edge, with a 53 percent chance of advancing. In fact, despite being projected to play any Game 7 from here on out on the road, San Antonio has the third-best chance of winning the championship, at 12 percent. The model gives the Clippers the fourth-best chance, at 8 percent. — Benjamin Morris It’s current MVP contender versus aging MVP winner (but the current contender is the one with the beard). James Harden versus Dirk Nowitzki. The Beard led the league in WAR, according to ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus metrics. With Harden, Houston has the edge — a 66 percent chance of prevailing, according to FiveThirtyEight’s projections. Beyond Harden’s consistency, the Rockets have otherwise ridden the injury luck roller coaster. They enter the playoffs having lost two important starters: versatile big man Donatas Motiejunas and the feisty defender Patrick Beverley at the point. On the other hand, Dwight Howard has returned after missing half the season. The Rockets will need him to maintain their solid +3.2 defensive rating.For the Mavs, it’s been a tale of two seasons. After surprising the league with a hot start, Dallas stagnated after the All-Star break, going 14-13. In FiveThirtyEight’s latest NBA Power Ratings, the Mavs rated as the worst of the Western Conference teams to make the playoffs — even behind the No. 8 seed New Orleans Pelicans. — Andrew Flowers The NBA playoffs are finally upon us, and like the 16 teams vying for the Larry O’Brien trophy, we’ve come prepared — not with basketball skills, mind you,1We shudder to think about what the advanced metrics would say about a FiveThirtyEight pickup team. but with graphics and numbers. Using the latest (postseason-optimized) version of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings, we simulated the playoff bracket 10,000 times, counting how often each team won its first-round series (as well as tracking which teams won the NBA title most often). We also put together charts highlighting each team’s key players, along with their multiyear predictive Real Plus-Minus2This is a slightly different statistic than the RPM you can find at ESPN.com because it uses data from seasons prior to 2014-15. We like the multiyear version because, among individual player statistics, it is the best predictor of future team outcomes. ratings, plus a comparison of both teams’ strengths and weaknesses according to the four factors of basketball. (Note that in some of our write-ups below, we use single-season RPM, so those numbers will be slightly different than the multiyear RPM we list in the charts.) So get settled in, maybe throw some chalk in the air, and enjoy the brutal, glorious two-month journey that is the road to the NBA championship. Eastern ConferenceThe Brooklyn Nets will not win the NBA championship. No, really: We ran 10,000 simulations of the playoffs, and the Nets were the only team to never win it all. They have only a 10 percent chance of moving on from their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks. This is among the most lopsided matchups of the first round. The Nets, ranked No. 22 in FiveThirtyEight’s Power Ratings, are by far the worst team to make the postseason. With their 38-44 record and -2.9 point differential (the only playoff team in red), the Nets are lucky they’re in the Eastern Conference — further momentum for reform to the NBA’s postseason structure.Atlanta is coming off a franchise-record 60-win regular season; this should be a cakewalk for the Hawks (even after losing defensive stalwart Thabo Sefolosha to injury after a run-in with the NYPD). Atlanta is well-balanced: +2.9 points per 100 possessions on offense and +2.0 on defense. The Nets have a pedestrian offense (+1.1) but are a disaster on defense: At -4.7, their defensive rating is the fifth-worst in the league. If the Nets avoid a sweep, it’ll be an achievement. — Andrew Flowers This series features two teams that started out the season looking like they might be the next big thing (at least in the Eastern Conference). The fourth-seeded Toronto Raptors began the season 7-1 and made it all the way to 24-7 before a four-game losing streak started their 25-26 finish — with their final record only a one-win improvement on last year. The Wizards started out 4-1 and made it to 19-6, but have been 27-30 since, ultimately improving on last season’s 44-win campaign by just two wins.Both teams are led by All-Star point guards, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry and Washington’s John Wall, with Lowry making the All-Star team for the first time in the eighth year of his career (his third with the Raptors). ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus for this season ranks them as the fourth- and sixth-best point guards in 2015. Lowry performed a little worse than last year; his RPM dipped slightly from 4.3 to 4.1 and his WAR (wins above replacement) dipped from 11.6 to 9.4. But for Wall, 2014-15 was a big improvement on the year before: His 4.7 RPM and 12.1 WAR were both up from 2.2 and 8.3 last year, respectively.The FiveThirtyEight simulations give the Raptors a 60 percent chance of winning this series but don’t see either team as a championship contender. They give the Raptors a 1 percent chance of winning the title and the Wizards an even smaller chance. In the 10,000 simulations we ran, the Raptors or Wizards won the championship only 108 times, the fewest of any of the eight first-round matchups. — Benjamin Morris read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

The 2018 Brewers Sure Look A Lot Like The 2015 Royals

When the Kansas City Royals made back-to-back World Series in 2014 and 2015 — coming agonizingly close in the former and winning the latter — they launched a thousand think pieces about whether manager Ned Yost’s brand of small ball would spread throughout the game. But then it looked like it might never get the chance: Right after the Royals’ revival, baseball embarked on a record-setting home run explosion, and the appeal of a team built primarily around speed, defense and a lights-out bullpen seemed to wane.1The Cubs and Astros shared some of those strengths, mind you, but each was also packed with ample power up and down the lineup.One of 2018’s top teams is taking a page out of K.C.’s championship playbook anyway. It isn’t just that the Milwaukee Brewers share the same center fielder with those Royals — although another All-Star caliber season from Lorenzo Cain hasn’t exactly hurt the comparison. The Brewers are also leading the NL Central with a strikingly similar combination of fielding, relief pitching and clever base running, even as the advanced metrics remain skeptical. (Sound familiar, Royals fans?) All that’s left is for postseason history to repeat — assuming Kansas City’s winning formula still works in a game that looks very different than it did just a few seasons ago.Going into the season, the Brewers were not expected to build much on last year’s surprising 86-win performance, despite loading up on players such as Cain and Christian Yelich over the winter. In fact, both the Vegas bookmakers and computer projections such as FanGraphs’ depth charts and Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA picked Milwaukee to take a step backward, averaging out to about 83 wins for the season with only a meager chance of making the playoffs. In theory, the 2017 Brewers had gotten slightly lucky both in terms of wins and losses — they overshot the record their statistics predicted2At least, according to Base Runs, which estimates how much a team “should” win with neutral luck, based on its raw statistics. by a couple of games — as well as in career seasons from both batters (Eric Thames, Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw) and pitchers (Jimmy Nelson, Chase Anderson, Corey Knebel). So it wasn’t too hard to argue that a tumble would be on its way this summer.But remember, Milwaukee wasn’t supposed to be very good last year, either; all it proceeded to do was hang around the NL Central race far longer than anyone in the media — or on the presumptive division-favorite Chicago Cubs — thought possible. The Brewers led the Central well into late July before the Cubs (along with the Diamondbacks and Rockies) overtook them down the stretch. It was a good enough showing to convince general manager David Stearns to accelerate the club’s recent rebuilding project and raise the franchise’s expectations sooner than originally anticipated. And the result has been the best record in the National League through the season’s first two months.The Brewers aren’t alone in beating projections this year, but what stands out is how they’ve done it. Despite the new firepower in the lineup — and the emergence of hard-hitting first baseman Jesus Aguilar — Milwaukee ranks in the middle of the major league pack in runs scored, with middling numbers for both power and walks. Their starting rotation has also slipped, from ninth in MLB in wins above replacement3Using an average of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com’s WAR metrics. per game in 2017 to 20th this season, with Anderson struggling to replicate last year’s form and Nelson missing the entire season to date because of injury.Milwaukee is making up for the difference, though, with the majors’ 10th-best base running WAR per game, along with the third-best WAR per game from both defense and relief pitching. It’s a combination of metrics eerily similar to the one Kansas City produced during its own championship run three years ago: On the basepaths, the Brewers have the majors’ most successful rate of taking extra bases, a category the famously aggressive Royals also excelled in. Milwaukee’s ability to track down balls in the field, led by Cain in the outfield and Orlando Arcia at shortstop, easily recalls the rangy Royals of, well, Cain and Alcides Escobar. And with reliever Josh Hader rewriting the all-time strikeout record book (to say nothing of the 0.60 ERA season Jeremy Jeffress is having), the Brewers have been even more unbeatable with a lead in the late innings than the Royals were in their Wade Davis-led heyday. So far this season, Milwaukee is a perfect 27-0 when leading through six innings, making it the only team in baseball that can say it hasn’t blown such a situation yet. MLB Ranks in WAR from… 2015Royals58.616th12th1st21st2nd 2018 Season2014-15 Seasons 8NYY31391.28LAA1391590.3 Sources: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com 2018Brewers61.7%17th10th3rd20th3rd This looks familiar …MLB-wide ranks in wins above replacement (WAR) per game from each category, 2015 Kansas City Royals vs. 2018 Milwaukee Brewers 4SF27293.14CLE1341391.2 The Brewers’ bullpen has been positively Royals-esqueBest record when leading after six innings, 2014-15 and 2018 seasons 3BOS32294.13MIA107992.2 SeasonTeamWin %BattingBase RunningFieldingStartersRelievers TeamWinsLossesWin % 2CHC24196.02SD108992.3 6PIT24292.37MIN1131290.4 5BAL13192.95NYY1331391.1 Includes postseason for the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Through June 3 for the 2018 season.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 6ATL24292.36SF1441590.6 10CIN18290.010PIT1391689.7 9SD20290.99STL1401689.7 TeamWinsLossesWin % 1MIL270100.0%1KC1501093.8% Kansas City combined for a staggering 150-10 mark across those situations in 2014 and 2015, including the postseason, so the Brewers still have some work to do before catching up to their doppelganger. And the Royals comparison isn’t 100 percent perfect — Milwaukee isn’t quite the batting average machine K.C. was, for instance, because the Brewers strike out at a normal clip, not the freakishly low rate Kansas City did at its peak. But the Brew Crew might be the closest thing we’ll get in the homers-and-strikeouts world of 2018 baseball.Questions also remain about Milwaukee’s place among the pantheon of 2018 contenders. According to The Baseball Gauge, only the Seattle Mariners have gotten luckier this year, in terms of sequencing and winning close games (although the latter can be explained in part by the Brewer bullpen’s aforementioned dominance). After the Brewers dropped two of three to the lowly Chicago White Sox over the weekend,4Which, in fairness, the Royals also did twice in 2014 and 2015, plus they were swept by the White Sox on another occasion. our Elo forecast now thinks Milwaukee will go 54-48 over the rest of the season and be caught by the Cubs in the Central before too long — though it does give the Brewers a 67 percent chance of making the playoffs. (That projection is also on the high side; FanGraphs thinks the Brewers will go 48-54 from here on out, with less than a coin flip’s shot at the postseason.)But that’s just another way in which the Brewers evoke memories of Kansas City’s World Series-era teams. With their unconventional mix of strengths and weaknesses, those Royals squads spent multiple seasons bucking the odds and poking holes in the statistical arguments against them. Maybe now it’s Milwaukee’s turn to do the same.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Ohio State womens basketball blown out ousted from Sweet 16 by Tennessee

OSU senior guard Ameryst Alston (14) dribbles the ball during a game against Wagner on Nov. 22 at St. John Arena. Credit: Elizabeth Tzagournis | Lantern PhotographerThe last time the Tennessee and Ohio State women’s basketball teams met before Friday was in the 2011 NCAA Sweet 16 round. Fast forward five years to Friday night, and the two had a rematch in that very same rebound.The No. 7 seed Lady Vols were not the favorite coming into the matchup with the Buckeyes in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but they disregarded the predictions from analysts and dominated the third-seeded Buckeyes 78-62.Tennessee came out of the gates strong and played with efficiency, taking quality shots from all areas of the court. Redshirt sophomore guard Diamond DeShields left the game for a stint with an injury, but would later return to contribute an all-around performance to the Lady Vols’ success.Tennessee took control of the contest in the first half by breaking the press with ease and using its height in the paint to its advantage.Tennessee’s post play was led by redshirt sophomore center Mercedes Russell who went a perfect 6-of-6 from the field, taking over the OSU forwards. The Springfield, Oregon, native showed poise on the block with her effortless post moves and displayed her clean shooting form, putting the ball through the nylon throughout the evening.Along with Russell’s success, senior forward Bashaara Graves also didn’t miss a shot in the first half, shooting 5-of-5.OSU, on the other hand, was far from perfect, struggling to get an offensive flow in the first 20 minutes of play. Only shooting 25 percent as a team in the first quarter, the Buckeyes had to find a solution to their offense if they wanted to keep it close going into the locker room.Missing their lead defender, senior guard Cait Craft, to a season-ending hand injury, the Buckeyes didn’t have a player to turn to shut down the Volunteers scorers.Senior guard Ameryst Alston, who has been struggling to perform because of a wrist injury suffered in the Big Ten tournament, did not want her senior year to end earlier than it had to be, ignoring the wrist pain and completing some of the acrobatic shots that she regularly converted before the injury.Sophomore guard Kelsey Mitchell took matters into her own hands for the rest of the first half, knocking down a slew of 3-pointers and finishing the half with 11 points.Even though OSU trailed after the first half of play, the Buckeyes did not show the urgency that they needed to catch up to the Lady Vols. OSU ignored the offensive strategy that it typically followed throughout the year and lacked energy on defense, putting the Scarlet and Gray in even more of a hole as the second half of play got underway.Tennessee’s offensive movement continued to be pristine and showed shades of coach Pat Summitt’s rosters back in the day. The Buckeyes simply had no answer for Tennessee and were unable to enforce their high-velocity pace that has been their go-to all season long.Russell would go on to score a game high 25 points and grab 14 rebounds, while Graves finished with 14 points and nine boards.Despite her injury, DeShields ended her night with 10 points and dished out seven assists, while grabbing five rebounds as well.On the Scarlet and Gray side, Alston led the Buckeyes with 21 points, ending her collegiate career on a strong note. Mitchell would follow her with 20 points, though she shot just 5-of-15 from the field.With the loss, the Buckeyes will board the plane back home to Columbus to begin their offseason, while the Lady Vols are set to continue to the Elite Eight to take on Syracuse and compete for a chance to make it to the Final Four. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Ohio State womens golf eyes 3rd straight Big Ten championship

Members of the OSU women’s golf team. Credit: Courtesy of OSUIn each of the past two seasons, the Ohio State women’s golf team has celebrated a Big Ten championship — but with a catch. While OSU’s name has appeared on the trophy, it has done so as a co-champion.Now with a chance to stand alone as champion for the first time in the three-year span, the Buckeyes are gearing up for the Big Ten tournament this weekend.After securing a second-place finish at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational last weekend, the team will attempt to carry that momentum into the conference championship.“We are peaking at the right time,” said junior Jessica Porvasnik. “We just finished second at our home tournament, and we’re looking forward to the Big Tens this week.”Coach Therese Hession said she has been happy with her team’s solid season thus far but is hoping that the team can produce a couple of standout performances during the postseason.“We’ve had a pretty steady season. We’ve only really had one bad tournament in my opinion, so we’ve been very consistent,” Hession said. “If we can get one or two people to break out of the pack a little bit and post some under-par scores, I think that’s something we’re really going to need heading into this weekend.”One of the team’s goals is to win the Big Ten title outright. Despite being the two-time defending Big Ten champions, both team titles have been shared with other schools: Michigan in 2014 and Northwestern in 2015. Northwestern is currently ranked No. 15 in the country and has been the clear front-runner in the conference during the regular season.Despite the Wildcats being the favorite to win the conference title, Hession said they’re vulnerable.“Last week (Northwestern) shot 30 over par in a tournament, though, and lost by 42 strokes, so that’s the thing about women’s golf this year, there’s so many good teams,” Hession said. “You never know what’s going to happen week to week. So, you know, hopefully this will be our week.”OSU freshman Jaclyn Lee. Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe Buckeyes think a key to the weekend will be following their plan and knowing when to push for certain shots.“Be aggressive when you can be aggressive,” Porvasnik said. “Strategically, I think everyone needs to figure out when is the time to go for it and when not, and I think making the right choices is really going to benefit us in the long run.”Porvasnik, who finished fifth at last weekend’s home tournament, won the Big Ten tournament individual title as a freshman and is hoping to recreate her success from two years ago.“I definitely want to win the Big Ten again, but I’m just focusing on small goals and going into it just sticking to our game plan and playing smart golf,” she said.Four of the six Buckeyes competing have played on the course before, so they are familiar with its challenging elements. Hession said she thinks driving and putting execution will be critical components in the formula to win a Big Ten championship.“I would say hitting greens in regulation and staying out of the rough will be one factor,” Hession said. “You know it always comes down to if it’s your week, making some putts, and I feel like we’ve worked a lot on putting and trying to get the ball in the hole. Hopefully those two things come together, and it should work out pretty well then.”The Buckeyes are scheduled to begin play in the Big Ten tournament on Friday at The Fort Golf Course in Indianapolis. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Lavenders career day leads OSU to comeback championship

With the clock ticking toward zero and the game in the balance, the No. 10 Ohio State women’s basketball team had a decision to make.Needing a basket to win the Big Ten Tournament Championship, who takes the last shot for the Buckeyes?The decision wasn’t too difficult to make. Center Jantel Lavender drew a foul and nailed a pair of free throws with 1.9 seconds remaining to propel the Bucks (30-4) over Iowa (19-13) with a 66-64 victory and into the Big Ten Tournament title Sunday in Indianapolis.Lavender was firing on all cylinders against the Hawkeyes, scoring 35 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.She scored 23 of OSU’s 33 points in the second half, when the Buckeyes made a furious comeback, rallying from a 49-33 deficit to eventually tie the game at 60-60 with five minutes to play.The junior center from Cleveland, Ohio, made 14 of her 25 shot attempts and all seven attempts at the free throw line.The teams arrived at the championship bout on completely different paths.Ohio State won the regular season championship, its sixth in a row, with four games remaining on its conference slate.At 10-8, Iowa finished five games behind the Buckeyes in the final regular season standings. But the Hawkeyes beat Penn State 82-75 and upset No. 23 Michigan State 59-54 to reach the title game.It appeared they would finish off their Big Ten blindsiding when they jumped out to the 16-point advantage, but Lavender’s relentless effort in the post earned OSU its second consecutive conference tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Buckeyes part ways with head coach John Markell

Ohio State will not renew the contract of John Markell, the coach of the men’s hockey team. Athletic Director, Gene Smith, made the announcement Tuesday that the university will part ways with Markell after 15 seasons.The decision was announced to the team Tuesday morning, to the surprise of some of the players.“We weren’t exactly sure what was going on. You throw that idea around but we were a little bit surprised,” Sergio Somma said. “We’ve got to turn over a new leaf and start fresh with a new coach next year.”The search is to begin immediately for OSU’s next coach. Chris Schneider, associate athletics director for sports administration, said the search for the next coach will be nationwide.“We’ll post the position by the end of the week,” Schneider said. “We’ll leave it open through the end of the Frozen Four. At that point, we will evaluate the pool of candidates that we have and begin the interview committee process. We hope to have somebody in place by early May.”Schneider added that the decision to not renew Markell’s contract came from a lack of consistent success throughout his tenure at Ohio State.“What we’re looking for in our men’s ice hockey program is a coach that is consistently successful, consistently competing for collegiate championships and ultimately performing in the NCAA tournament,” Schneider said. “Coach Markell has done very good things with our student-athletes. And he’s done some good things with our program in the past. [The decision] goes back to being consistently successful.”Somma indicated that Schneider’s expectations for the program are not unrealistic.“The facilities and the opportunities here at this school are bar none, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t compete every year. I still think we have the personnel and the talent to have a great team next year.”Markell finishes his career with a record of 280-267-56 and led the program to its first Frozen Four appearance in 1998.“I appreciate the opportunity I had to coach at Ohio State,” Markell said. “I’m proud of the young men I had a chance to coach and watch grow up both as hockey players and in life. I’m proud of the accomplishments we had as a team over the years. I wish nothing but the best for the Buckeye hockey program and the people around it.” read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Diary from the Kentucky Derby

The 4th Street bars are open until 8 a.m., and fans are stuck deciding between continuing on into the late night derby eve festivities, or making sure they sleep just enough to be able to tailgate in a few hours.Often times for college co-eds, derby eve wins out.Then comes the actual day of the derby, when fans battle the imminent hangovers to fire up the grills, sip on screwdrivers, and start tailgating at 9 a.m., five hours after they had left the bar the night before.After seven hours of burgers, brats, beer and corn-hole, it’s race time.But the lowly college kids don’t get to sit in the stands next to Denzel or Madonna. They pay $40 to wade through the mud-ridden swampland that is the infield.At first glance, the infield is so big it’s hard to tell there is a horse track bordering it. Where there aren’t vendors, betting windows and porta-johns, there’s mud — lots and lots of mud.After placing their bets, fans hit the infield.Meandering around the infield, there was actually a lot to do. Mostly though, it consisted of the most intoxicated 5 percent of the crowd putting on a show for the rest of the fans.When these dedicated fans weren’t mud-wrestling, they were being carried out in handcuffs or stretchers.Then finally, at 6:30 p.m. it was time for the race. Drinking, eating and avoiding sleep for the last 24 hours, all for this two-minute long race.From the infield, about a 30-yard stretch of the race can be seen, at best. The race was shown on a giant scoreboard though, and when it started, the entire infield roared. Fans watched as Super Saver moved toward the front, and by the time they got to the end of turn-two, Super Saver ran by, leading the pack.Super Saver won the race, the bed of roses and the prize money.Only at the Kentucky Derby can one spend $200 and 48 hours celebrating, see horses for all of five seconds, and still have it be one of the highlights of the year. Kentucky is known for more than basketball and cheap tobacco.The Kentucky Derby, now in its 136th year, is the oldest continuous sporting event in the U.S. It is as seasoned in years as it is in tradition.Bonnets, derby pies and mint juleps are just some of the common traditions seen at the derby.But it’s the things NBC doesn’t televise that make the Kentucky Derby so great, for the college kid at least.The derby, to college kids in Louisville, is like New Years meets the Fourth of July meets the OSU-Michigan game.Derby eve is almost as big as derby day itself.Fourth Street (the Louisville equivalent of High Street) was closed off all evening, the cheapest draught beers were $8, and the cover charges to get into any of the bars lining the streets were as much as $40. Oh, and there was a little stage in the middle of the street, where 3 Doors Down played a full set list for all the bar-goers to hear.As midnight approaches on derby-day, the bars shut off their music and all of Fourth Street counts down in blissful drunken harmony to the day the whole state seems to revolve around.For the horses, the derby is a sprint — but for fans it’s quite the marathon. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Commentary Cincinnati Bengals must look to younger players after loss to Dolphins

Miami Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake sacks Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton for a game-winning safety in overtime at Sun Life Stadium Oct. 31. The Dolphins won, 22-20. Credit: Courtesy of MCTAfter four straight wins the Cincinnati Bengals (6-3) fell to the Miami Dolphins (4-4)  in overtime, 22-20, which also ended Miami’s four-game losing streak.Quarterback Andy Dalton was hot coming into the game, having thrown 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions in his previous three games. But against Miami, he turned the ball over four times, throwing three interceptions and losing a fumble.The Dolphins raced to an early 17-3 lead behind a strong ground game, gaining 142 rushing yards in the first half. To make matters worse, in the second quarter, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins went down with an injury to his right ACL. This came less than two weeks after Cincinnati lost its top cornerback, Leon Hall, to an Achilles tear.Cincinnati rookie running back Giovani Bernard (nine carries, 79 yards) stepped up and scored twice for the Bengals on the ground. The second one was an electrifying 35-yard run early in the fourth quarter in which he was nearly tackled for a significant loss before shedding tacklers, turning outside to the left and then finally cutting back to the right to tie the game. But soon after, Bernard would also leave the game with a rib injury.Cincinnati and Miami exchanged field goals in the last two minutes, sending the game to overtime. After the Dolphins failed to score, the Bengals moved the ball to Miami’s 39-yard line. But instead of attempting a 56-yard field goal, Cincinnati opted to punt.It was a questionable move as kicker Mike Nugent had already nailed a 54-yard field goal with 1:24 left in the fourth quarter. Also, two games earlier, he hit a game winning 54-yard against the Detroit Lions as time expired.After the Dolphins failed to score again, the Bengals received the ball again at their own eight-yard line. On third and 10, Dalton went back to pass but was quickly sacked for the fifth time in the game, this one in the end zone to end the game on a safety. Wake (three sacks) shot up the middle almost untouched for the game winner.With Dalton and the offense once again struggling and the defense limping, Cincinnati can only hope young players like Bernard step up to change the dynamic of the team. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Offensive explosion led by Cardale Jones Devin Smith gives Buckeyes 59 point

OSU senior wide receiver Devin Smith celebrates after scoring one of his 3 touchdowns in the 2014 Big Ten Championship Game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. OSU won, 59-0.Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editorINDIANAPOLIS — More than three years ago, a pair of future Ohio State football players connected in a high school all-star game for a seemingly meaningless touchdown.On Saturday night, that connection re-emerged in a big way as redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones found senior wide receiver Devin Smith for three scores in a 59-0 blowout victory over the Wisconsin Badgers, giving the Buckeyes their first Big Ten title since 2009.Jones and Smith last connected for a touchdown in the 2011 Big-33 classic, which pits some of the best high school football players from the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.That connection, which was a 54-yard touchdown pass, was reminiscent of the Buckeye win over the Badgers as Smith hauled in scores of 39, 44 and 42 yards from Jones, who was making his first career start for OSU.Jones took over the starting spot after redshirt-sophomore quarterback J.T. Barrett fractured his ankle during OSU’s win over Michigan to close out the regular season.Smith finished the game with a Big Ten Championship Game record 137 receiving yards to go along with his three scores.Smith said he discussed that game in June of 2011 with Jones prior to the Big Ten title matchup.“I knew when J.T. went down that Cardale was going to be the quarterback,” Smith said. “I just told him, ‘lets get back to the Big 33 all-star game we played in together’ and that right there (his performance) says it all.”Jones completed 12 of 17 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns, all to Smith.The redshirt-sophomore’s performance was of no surprise to Jones’ head coach Urban Meyer.“I knew he had the talent to throw the ball and execute but I figured there would be first game jitters,” Meyer said after the game. “There was none of that.”Barrett, who was on the sideline for the game, said he was happy for Jones and the way the team played as a whole.“Definitely proud of him (Jones) and he’s able to … just take over the moment,” Barrett said after the game. “He seized the moment, seized the opportunity and he did it as a team. It wasn’t just him, that was the great thing about it, he had help around him. And that’s the great thing about this team.”Jones said that he, along with his teammates, prepared with a sense of urgency heading into the matchup with Wisconsin.“We worked all week for this and as a team we had faith in one another,” Jones said. “There was no down time and we treated this like it was our game to take and we were going to leave it all on the field.”It wasn’t just Jones that made a statement for the Buckeyes, as sophomore running back Ezekiel Elliott broke the Big Ten Championship Game record for rushing yards in the game as he rushed for 220 yards on 20 carries for two scores.The record that Elliott broke was once held by Wisconsin redshirt-junior Melvin Gordon who was bottled up by the Buckeye defense as the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year rushed for just 76 yards on 26 carries.Elliott said that he wanted to step his game up Saturday, especially with Gordon on the opposite sideline.“Definitely. Just trying come out there and make a name for myself,” Elliott said. “I know it was a big stage, I knew everyone was going to be watching Melvin so I just wanted to come out and compete with him.”Eighty-one of Elliott’s 220 yards came on one single play as the sophomore back exploded up the middle for OSU’s second score of the game.Elliott gave credit to his offensive line for that run after the game.“It was basically wide open, I just had to break one arm tackle reaching off a block, and the line did it all,” he said.Elliott was overwhelmed in the locker room after the game, as he said the Big Ten Championship is the first championship he has ever been apart of at any level of competition.“Man, it feels so good. I can’t even explain it. I have never won a championship in my life,” Elliott said. “Made it to state three times in high school and we lost. Coming back after last year, get some redemption and make up for that loss we got last year.”The 59-0 win came against not only the No. 13 team in the country, but the second ranked defense in the nation as well.After the dominating performance, Elliott said he believes the Buckeyes belong in the first-ever College Football Playoff.“We definitely do. We came out here and we dominated today. I think we should,” Elliott said. “All year we have shown resilience. We had so many obstacles and we haven’t backed down, we never folded and we always come out and get better every week.”Meyer echoed his running back’s comments referencing the the level of play the Buckeyes have reached in recent weeks.“That is a question I know everyone is going to ask me. We just won 59-0 against one of the top teams in America,” Meyer said. “These kids are playing at an extremely high level right now.”Whether it’s in a high school all-star game, or in the Big Ten title game, Jones said it is exciting being able to showcase his abilities.“It was very fun, going out there showing everybody what we can do when we all come together as one,” he said.OSU will find out whether they will come together in the College Football Playoff or elsewhere tomorrow as the final rankings are scheduled to be announced at 12:30 p.m. Sunday. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Mens basketball Chris Holtmann hoping to reestablish Ohio States recruiting presence in

Chris Holtmann being introduced at a press conference to take over Ohio State men’s basketball head coaching job. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Oller ReporterWhen Ohio State Athletics Director Gene Smith announced the university’s decision to part ways with former coach Thad Matta, one reason stood out among the rest as to why the change was made.Matta seemed to have lost his touch in the recruiting game in the state of Ohio.“Recruiting, as we all know, is the lifeblood of this program,” Smith said during the June 5 press conference. “We weren’t winning the battles in recruiting that I thought we might have a chance to win, as (Matta) did.”And at that same press conference, Smith made clear the key attribute he needed in the next coach.“The next person that we attract will have a major focus in Ohio and actually a 150 to 200 mile radius,” Smith said.So Smith went out and locked up Chris Holtmann, a coach who has given Ohio State fits over the past few seasons by winning recruiting battles in the Buckeye state, the most recent of which was the commitment of 2017 four-star forward prospect Kyle Young, a native of Massillon, Ohio.And Young is not the first Ohio prospect Holtmann has recruited. The previous season, he nabbed three-star small forward prospect Henry Baddley, an Akron native, and Nathan Fowler, a three-star center from Cincinnati, the year before that. Those were the three prospects he landed, but Holtmann had pursued many others from Ohio. Westerville South head coach Ed Calo said Holtmann made a late push for now-Ohio State sophomore forward Andre Wesson and freshman forward Kaleb Wesson, both products of Calo’s coaching tenure.“They really tried to get in on (Andre) late in the process,” Calo said. Calo said when Holtmann becomes interested in a player, he hones in on the recruit and does everything he can to create mutual interest, even if it comes late in the process like he did with Andre Wesson.“Coach Holtmann does a really nice job trying to get after some people. He targets people,” Calo said. “Sometimes it doesn’t necessarily work out, and then as a result, you have to get it late into the game and instead it’s a chase and you’re behind the eight-ball. I know he’s going to be a good recruiter, especially having Ohio State on his shirt now.”This focus on the state of Ohio does not appear to be going away anytime soon, as Holtmann made it a point of emphasis during his introductory press conference on Monday.“This region … is a tremendous area for talented, smart and tough players. I’ve recruited Ohio for over 20 years, and it has outstanding players and coaches — some of the best in the country,” Holtmann said. “It will be paramount to our success, there’s no question,” he added. “We’re going to work extremely hard as a staff to close the borders and dominate the state of Ohio in recruiting. It will be an every-day focus for us.”Closing down the borders will be a tall task for a team consistently as rich in basketball talent as Ohio tends to be. Zach Fleer, an Ohio State graduate and co-founder of 270hoops.com, said that it’s nearly impossible to dominate the state the way Holtmann would probably like to. “Ohio State’s not going to be able to sign every top player in Ohio every single year,” Fleer said. “You’re going to see guys go to Michigan, Michigan State and elsewhere in the country. But as long as Ohio State gets the majority of the top-three, top-five guys in the state every year, I think they’ll be just fine.”Fleer said the trick to locking down those top-tier talents is to begin the pursuit of them early. “Showing that you are serious about them and really not playing around with them and making them wait for a scholarship offer they may have earned as a freshman or a sophomore,” Fleer said.For Ohio State, it’s likely too late to recruit for the 2017 class. But Westerville North coach Shannon Trusley believes Holtmann’s already-aggressive approach in pursuing players years in advance will pay dividends for the Buckeyes down the road.“(Holtmann has) already developed relationships with a lot of kids in Ohio, in all classes, just not (2018) class, but the (2019) class,” Trusley said. “I have a kid, (point guard) Jeremiah Keene, who will be a junior this year that Butler’s already developed a relationship with.”Trusley also added Holtmann has established connections with 2018 recruits four-star small forward Jerome Hunter from Pickerington North, four-star combo-forward Dwayne Cohill from Parma Holy Name in Parma Heights, Ohio, and four-star small forward Pete Nance from Richfield Revere in Richfield, Ohio.The first step he will need to take in establishing or further building upon relationships with prospects is to turn his attention to the July recruiting period.For many teams, this period can play a crucial role for teams in the recruiting process. Coaches from teams all over the nation can watch prospective basketball players participate in national AAU tournaments, which draw teams and players from every region of the country. For some coaches, it’s the first time seeing these prospects since April.“For Holtmann, it’s going to be huge to get on the recruiting scene, especially in the 2018 class because there’s five guys in the state that are regarded among the top 100 players in the (country),” Fleer said.Fleer added it would also be important for Holtmann to reach out to four-star shooting guard recruit and Ohio State’s lone 2018 commit Dane Goodwin from Upper Arlington to ensure that that commitment remains solid, considering the fact Goodwin was recruited by Matta and has less familiarity with Holtmann. The two sides reportedly met on Monday. And with this time proving so vital to the new Buckeye coach, Holtmann said Monday he has remained in contact with prospects he was recruiting at Butler to try and swing them over to the Scarlet and Gray.“As soon as I was signed on and compliant eligible to make calls within the rules, that first hour we started making calls and contacting,” Holtmann said. “I have some previous relationships with some young men, but our focus this past weekend has been Ohio … But we’ve hit the ground running and that’s going to continue to happen.” read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Football Ohio State releases Week 6 depth chart before Maryland game

Ohio State junior kicker Sean Nuernberger (96) kicks a field goal in the second quarter in the game against Rutgers on Sep. 30. Ohio State won 56-0. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorOhio State released its Week 6 depth chart Tuesday prior to its matchup against Maryland at 4 p.m. Saturday in Ohio Stadium.As expected, the major changes to the depth chart all came from the defensive line. Head coach Urban Meyer had announced Monday redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones will not play Saturday after he suffered a “freak” injury last week during practice when he cut his leg on a locker.In his place, redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Jashon Cornell is the first name that appears, but no player is bolded as a starter. Defensive end Jalyn Holmes started at defensive tackle against Rutgers alongside redshirt senior defensive tackle Tracy Sprinkle.At the strong safety position, sophomore Jordan Fuller was listed as the starter alongside senior Damon Webb, the starter at free safety. Fuller had previously been listed as a co-starter with senior Erick Smith, but Meyer said Monday that Smith would not play and that he had “to handle his business.” Redshirt freshman Wayne Davis was listed as the backup at safety behind Fuller.The other change made was redshirt junior kicker Sean Nuernberger is now listed as the starting kickoff specialist. The position had previously been held by freshman Blake Haubeil. Meyer said Monday while kickoff coverage is “getting back to the expectation level we have,” he was still unsatisfied with how Haubeil was performing and said the team was “not good at that position.”The depth chart can be found here. read more

Read More
28 Sep
2019

Wrestling No 2 Ohio State prepares for two meets in three days

Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher wrestles Paul Glynn in the dual-meet against Iowa on Jan. 21 in the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Jack Westerheide | Photo EditorThe No. 2 Ohio State wrestling team will take on Michigan State at 7 p.m. Friday at Jenison Field House in East Lansing, Michigan, and Purdue at 1 p.m. Sunday at Graham High School in St. Paris, Ohio, the hometown of Buckeye wrestlers and brothers Bo and Micah Jordan.The Spartans (5-6, 1-4 Big Ten) lost their last meet to No. 21 Wisconsin 28-7, and they lack a single ranked wrestler, giving Ohio State (10-0, 5-0 Big Ten) a massive advantage. However, it is rare for a team to win each match, even when there is an edge in the rankings.“Michigan State, obviously they’re not your Iowa or Penn State match, but it’s still a good opportunity to go out there and work on some new skills in a live match,” Ohio State redshirt sophomore Kollin Moore said. “Try some of the stuff that you’ve been working in practice see if you can do it in an actual match.”Moore, who ranks No. 1 at 197 pounds, will wrestle in both Ohio State’s meets. Senior and No. 1 heavyweight Kyle Snyder will neither rest nor compete for Ohio State this weekend. Instead, he will represent the United States at the Yarygin Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia. Snyder will try to become the first American to win the Yarygin in back-to-back years. Ohio State is coming off of a decisive victory against No. 3 Iowa 22-12 on Sunday, a result that still lingers in the Buckeyes’ minds.“I would argue that that was one of the top-three dual meets of all-time,” Ohio State head coach Tom Ryan said. “I mean that was a great atmosphere. Our guys really saw the love that people have for wrestling in this region and for the university.”The Schottenstein Center filled up with 15,117 people for the Iowa meet, and the home fans watched the Buckeyes win six of the 10 bouts. Moore beat No. 5 Cash Wilcke, and Ohio State sophomore No. 2 Luke Pletcher beat Paul Glynn at 133 pounds. Both Moore and Pletcher remained undefeated on the season with the victories, but Pletcher saw his performance from a different perspective.“Last year we had the big crowd and I lost,” Pletcher said. “So it was still cool then, but it’s a lot better when you win, obviously. I had a lot of family members come down. My club coach brought some wrestlers down, so it was pretty cool to see them there, and go out in front of 15,000 fans was pretty awesome.” Purdue (5-5, 0-4 Big Ten) has struggled recently, losing its past four competitions, most recently losing 21-12 to No. 14 Illinois. The Boilermakers wrestle North Dakota State on Friday, which will allow them to try to regain some confidence before they take on the Buckeyes.Sunday’s meet will give the Jordan brothers the chance to return to their high school in St. Paris, Ohio, to compete for the first time since the two graduated.“That’s one of the meccas in the country, let alone the state of Ohio,” Ryan said. “They are producing college student-athletes left and right.”Ohio State shifts its focus toward Michigan State and Purdue, though its Feb. 3 meet at Penn State is nearing. read more

Read More
25 Sep
2019

Six suspected migrants rescued from small boat in English Channel

first_imgHMC Valiant tows migrant boat HMC Valiant tows migrant boat A Home Office spokesman said: “The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) was alerted to the presence of a small boat off the coast of Kent at around 05.40 on Thursday 25 August.“The MCA search and rescue helicopter from Lydd and a Border Force cutter were deployed to the scene.“Six men were recovered from the boat and are due to be interviewed by Border Force officers.” Six suspected illegal immigrants have been apprehended in a dinghy in the English Channel.Coastguards were alerted to the presence of the small vessel off the Kent coast in the early hours of Thursday morning.They alerted the Border Force cutter, HMC Valiant, which was able to intercept the boat before the men made it to the shore.A search and rescue helicopter based at Lydd was also scrambled and took part in the operation to safely apprehend the suspects.The men were being questioned by Border Force officers in Dover on suspicion of trying to enter the country illegally. The warmer weather is thought to have encouraged more migrants camped along the French coast to make the treacherous journey across the world’s busiest shipping lane.But there is major concern that the Border Force does not have the maritime resources to tackle the problem, with just four vessels available to patrol the thousands of miles of British coastline.Dover MP Charlie Elphicke said: “This is just another example of why we urgently need a new Dover Patrol guarding the English Channel.“The evil people traffickers are winning the war. They must be stopped. Sooner or later there will be a terrible tragedy.“The Government needs to take back control of the Channel and restore order at the border.” Border Force officers inspect boat 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. Border Force officers inspect boat It is the latest in a string of incidents in which desperate migrants were suspected of trying to enter Britain by crossing the Channel.It was recently revealed that people smugglers were making as much as £100,000 per journey, ferrying boat loads of migrants from the French coast into Britain.Last month two men from Kent were jailed for more than four years after admitting trying to sneak 18 Albanians, including a woman and two children, into the quiet port of Dymchurch on the south coast.They were only caught because their boat began to sink and the terrified migrants alerted their families back in France who in turn contacted the Coastguard.last_img read more

Read More
25 Sep
2019

Nicola Sturgeon second independence referendum now more likely than ever by 2020

first_imgSpeaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday programme, Ms Sturgeon said Mrs May’s refusal to share her negotiating position on Brexit with the public or the House of Commons was “unsustainable, untenable and frankly unacceptable”.She added: “The leave campaign was all about bringing back control and now the House of Commons and the wider public are almost being told to butt out and mind there own business when it comes to these things, and I think we saw in the House of Commons last week that there is not a lot of support for that kind of approach.” She is due to meet Mrs May in London next Monday and warned the Prime Minister it was time for her to demonstrate she is serious about Scotland’s voice being heard, after it voted overwhelming to remain in Europe.The First Minister accused Mrs May of “not fully honouring” the promise she made to listen to Scotland on Brexit during a flying visit to Edinburgh days after she became Prime Minister.Asked if she would anticipate a second referendum before 2020, she replied: “I think it’s highly likely, given the situation we’re in, I said that actually the morning after the EU referendum and nothing has changed my mind.” Theresa May will meet Nicola Sturgeon next weekCredit:Reuters 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. Theresa May Nicola Sturgeon Nicola Sturgeon on the Marr showCredit:Reuters However, David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme that recent polling showing support for a Yes vote had still not reached a majority, and added that since she started “ramping up” talk about independence, support for a new vote had gone downIn a separate interview with the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Ms Sturgeon said: “I am going to stand up for Scotland’s voice being heard, I don’t think it is right for Scotland to be dragged out of Europe, dragged out of the single market, with all of the potentially ruinous consequences for our economy when we didn’t vote for that.“And if that’s the prospect that faces us then I do think Scotland would have the right to decide whether it wants to do that or allow that to happen, or whether it wants to follow a different, and in my view a better, path.”She avoided giving a direct answer when asked whether the SNP would take indyref2 off the table if the UK Government took note of Scotland’s position and there was a soft Brexit.However, her new deputy, Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, said on the BBC’s Sunday Politics that if the UK Government delivered on the SNP’s priorities “we wouldn’t need to go ahead with a referendum”.Speaking the day after her party’s conference ended in Glasgow, Ms Sturgeon delivered the same message on three different political programmes on Sunday morning and confirmed that her MPs in Westminster would back a vote forcing Mrs May to come forward with her Brexit plan.On the subject of indyref2, she added: “We have to see the Prime Minister be serious about listening to those other options because if Scotland really is, as we have been told repeatedly we are, an equal partner in the UK, Theresa May may is serious about protecting the UK, then it is time for her to turn those words into action and actually demonstrate that Scotland’s voice is heard and our interests can be protected within the UK. We have not seen much of that form the prime minister so far so i hope we see more of it in the weeks to come.”Speaking on the Sunday Politics programme, Mr Mundell promised to look at any proposals put forward by the Scottish Government, but said it was difficult to see how a separate trade deal could be achieved.He added that in the four months since the EU vote, the SNP had not brought forward any specific proposals.Meanwhile, Professor Michael Keating, a leading constitutional expert, told the Telegraph earlier that Ms Sturgeon’s demand that Scotland remained in the single market was “not possible” because the EU creates a border around its single market outside of which trade barriers and tariffs apply. If Scotland was inside and England outside, he said that would create a “hard” economic border between the two restricting the movement of goods, services and people. Nicola Sturgeon has said she believes a second independence referendum in the next four years now looks even more certain than it did immediately after the Brexit vote when she warned it was “highly likely”.The First Minister said nothing had changed her mind since June, adding: “If anything, what has happened since then has probably made me think that even more so than I did the morning after the (EU) referendum”.At the same time, the SNP leader insisted she was “absolutely serious” about exploring other options which would include the SNP working with Labour, the Lib Dems and “moderate” Tories in the House of Commons to try to avert a “hard Brexit”.She also said she planned in the next few weeks to bring forward proposals that could allow Scotland to remain part of the Union while also staying in the single market – despite constitutional experts describing the proposal as “impossible”.last_img read more

Read More
25 Sep
2019

Swinging sixtysomethings see swell in sexually transmitted diseases

first_imgThe new report suggests messages about sexually transmitted infections are not aimed at older people  Sexually transmitted infections are soaring among baby boomers, the country’s most senior doctor has warned, with rising divorce rates and unsafe sex fuelling the surge.Prof Dame Sally Davies said older women without fear of pregnancy and men who had undergone vasectomies were increasingly putting themselves at risk of infections.Official figures show a 38 per cent rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in just four years among those aged 50 to 70. Phil Collins and his tour: Not Dead Yet beatles  The vast majority of older men and women have dangerously large waistlines, the report suggests  Rising divorce rates among the over-40s mean that more older people may find themselves re-partnering and potentially having sex with new partners,” it says. Singing and dancing should not be left to the young, health watchdogs suggest beer gut The advice also says older people should consider working until their 70s for the good of their health.Prof Dame Sally Davies  said those aged 50 to 70 that they are better off staying in work, or else taking up new hobbies to keep physically and mentally active in retirement. Ed Balls  But Collins, who has previously spoken about his battle with the bottle following a divorce fight with his third wife – with whom he later got back together – told a press conference that retirement was “a funny word”.He said: “I stopped work because I wanted to be a dad at home. As bad luck would have it, as soon as I retired, my family split up.”I didn’t have anyone to go home to. That’s why I started drinking.”But the drummer and singer said of his retirement: “I’ve changed my mind.”I’m living with my young kids. They want me to go out on the road and do my thing, and why not?” Divorce was the key reason that men were left living alone, the report says.“From a policy perspective, the rise in living alone in their 50s and 60s is of concern since those who are living alone in later life are less likely to receive support from informal sources, having no co-residential partner, and display a higher use of formal services than those who are not living alone. Moreover, living alone is itself related to poor physical health,” the report warns. “Staying in work, volunteering or joining a community group can make sure people stay physically and mentally active for longer. The health benefits of this should not be underestimated.”By 2020, a third of British workers will be aged over 50, estimates show.More than three quarters of people aged between 50 and pension age are still in active employment, along with 12 per cent of those over pension age, which is 62 for women and 65 for men.Not the retiring typeThe report will say that while many pensioners enjoy the benefits of retirement, in many it brings feelings of social isolation.Dame Sally has previously caused controversy with strict advice, counselling drinkers to “do as I do” and think about the risks of cancer before having a glass of wine.Last month she urged parents to stop children from helping themselves to snacks from the fridge, in a bid to tackle the obesity crisis. On Monday health watchdogs published advice, saying GPs should encourage widows and divorcees to take up singing and dancing to stave off dementia and stay physically healthy.The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said more should be done to prevent loneliness in retirement. “It is possible that women, particularly post-menopause, do not use condoms because they equate condom use with preventing unwanted pregnancy rather than prevention of STIs.“Similarly, men over 50 who may have had a vasectomy in their 30s or 40s may not consider using condoms with a new sexual partner,” Dame Sally says.Diabetes riskThe report also warns that the figures may be an underestimate as older people may be unwilling to seek treatment or seek help outside the NHS to avoid the stigma of attending Genitourinary Medicine clinics.The report also warns that a “startling” eight in 10 older women are so fat they are at risk of diabetes.Figures show 80 per cent of female baby boomers and 75 per cent of men of this age have waistlines so large they put them at risk of the condition.A waist larger than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men is considered a risk factor for diabetes.The figures show that morbidity from diabetes has risen by 97 per cent among men and 57 per cent among women aged 50 to 69 between 1990 and 2013.Risks linked to lifestyle factors such as obesity, diet and low physical activity rose by 70 per cent over the period, with 45 per cent of all cases linked to “modifiable” factors.center_img “These statistics are staggering,” Dame Sally said. “If these adults are to reduce their current risk and maintain their health through older age, it is critical that this is addressed.”She also expressed concern that drinking among women in their 50s and 60s has risen substantially, although it has fallen among men of the same age.Social isolationAnd the report highlights concerns about social isolation, with increasing numbers of baby boomers living alone, with no one to rely on for help.“Solo living in one’s 50s and 60s, especially among men, has become more common among successive cohorts,” the report states. “in 1985, 9.6 per cent of men aged 60–64 were living alone; by 2009, this had risen to 21.8 per cent within the same age group.” sex ad The annual report from the chief medical officer says two thirds of those in the age group are sexually active, with increasing numbers contracting STIs after unsafe sex.The figures show 15,726 new diagnoses among 50 to 70 year olds in 2014 compared with 11,366 cases in 2010.The report states: “Among those aged 50 to 70 years, over two-thirds report at least one sexual partner in the past year. However, society’s prevailing view still considers that older people are not particularly sexually active or interested in intimate sexual relationships.”“Changing social and behavioural patterns” of those who grew up in the post-war era and swinging sixties may be fuelling the rise in STIs, the report suggests. Society’s prevailing view still considers that older people are not particularly sexually active or interested in intimate sexual relationships The chief medical officer, who is 67, said she had no plans to retire, as she urged others to follow suit.Her annual report on the state of the public’s health will urge people not to slow down the pace of life as they hit their 60s.The report is expected to suggest that people who remain in paid employment past retirement age or involved in community and voluntary work improve their chances of staying healthier for longer.Dame Sally will say: “People are living longer than ever and so retirement presents a real opportunity for baby boomers to be more active than ever before. For many people it is a chance to take on new challenges, it is certainly not the start of a slower pace of life it once was.” The guidance from Nice says family doctors should be told to offer “tailored community-based physical activity programmes” to older people most “at risk of a decline in their independence and well being”.Research suggests that social isolation increases the risk of dementia, while more active lifestyles have been shown to protect against a host of diseases and the advance of frailty.The new quality standard from Nice urges doctors to identify those – such as the recently bereaved, divorced or retired – who might lose opportunities to socialise.It also says GPs should target those who have recently had to give up driving, and those who are caring for others as those who might not be getting the chance to take part in social activities. Those who grew up in the swinging sixties expect to stay sexually active Credit:Getty  Phil Collins and his tour: Not Dead YetCredit:PA Doctors should offer such patients a range of activities, the guidance suggests.Dancing and swimming clubs, singing programmes run by choirs, volunteering and helping children with reading in schools are all singled out as hobbies which could prevent isolation.In October the pop star Phil Collins announced plans to come out of retirement.The 65-year-old former Genesis frontman will play five nights at London’s Royal Albert Hall next summer as well as dates in Cologne and Paris.The former Genesis drummer officially retired in 2002. She said staying in work was one way to boost health – but that taking up new activities on retirement was another way to boost the health. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Read More
25 Sep
2019

Drug dealers used modified Bentley to smuggle cocaine into Britain court hears

first_imgCera also admitted two counts of possession with intent to supply cocaine and having an ID document with improper intention, which related to a false Romanian passport under the name of “Bogdan”. The secret roof space used to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK The secret roof space used to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UKCredit:NCA/PA Wire Drug dealers used a modified Bentley with a secret compartment to smuggle £3.6million of cocaine into Britain, a court heard.The gang modified the roof of the £130,000 Bentley Flying Spur to stash drugs and more than £100,000 in cash.Florentino Gonzalez, 48, Eduia Abazi, 31, and Bajram Elezi, 34, hid more than 30 kilograms of cocaine in the plush car which had modifications made so the illicit drugs could be stored. The drugs seized Florentino Gonzalez, a drug trafficker who used a Bentley with a secret roof space to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UKCredit: NCA/PA Wire Gonzalez travelled from his home in Belgium, parked up his Bentley at the Britannia International Hotel in the Isle of Dogs and met with Armand Cuni, 39, and Abazi on September 5 last year.Elezi, Gonzalez and Abazi were found guilty last month following a five week trial at Blackfriars Crown Court.Gonzalez, of Spanish origin but living in Belgium, was also found guilty of concealing criminal property, with Elezi guilty of possession with intent to supply class A drugs. Byberi was arrested near his home in Bedford, and on December 18 2016 he pleaded guilty along with Cuni and Cera to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. Heather Strangoe, prosecuting, said: “This was a well sophisticated process whereby imported cocaine was distributed to the driver or their courier in return for cash payments and using apartments for the purpose of the exchanges.”Jailing the gang, Recorder Christopher Sallon said: “This is a long running conspiracy and a sophisticated commercial operation to distribute very large qualities of cocaine ranging from 88 to 93 per cent purity.”Large qualities of this drug was sources from South America and smuggled height Europe via France and Belgium to the U.K, professionally concealed in luxury cars.”Main conspirator Gonzalez, slammed by the judge for his “untruthful” testimony to the jury, was jailed for 24 years. Armand Cuni, Edwin Abazi, Saimir Byberi, Yelton Cera and Bajram Elezi, co-conspirators of Florentino Gonzalez The drugs seizedCredit:NCA/PA Wire  Fellow leader Cuni, of Brussels, was jailed for 22 years. Abazi, of Hillingdon, west London was jailed for 21 years and Byberi was sentenced to 15 years in prison.Cera was jailed for six year for one count and six years to run concurrently, plus 18 months for having an ID document to run consecutively, making total of 12 years.Elezi of Epsom, Surrey, was jailed for eight years. Florentino Gonzalez, a drug trafficker who used a Bentley with a secret roof space to smuggle millions of pounds worth of cocaine into the UK Gonzalez, who claimed to be visiting Britain to set up a wine firm and a cafe, used an underground car park at the luxury Marlin Apartments in Southwark, south London, to meet dealers and exchange the smuggled drugs for cash.The plush car was seized by police investigating the drugs gang who discovered more than 30 kilos of cocaine in two days of surveillance.It is thought the illicit cargo was last in a long line of drugs already smuggled from Europe and distributed to dealers around the capital by the gang.They travelled between 25 to 30 times over a two year period, but could have been running the conspiracy for as much as four years. Armand Cuni, Edwin Abazi, Saimir Byberi, Yelton Cera and Bajram Elezi, co-conspirators of Florentino GonzalezCredit:NCA/PA Wire Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Read More