President Barack Obama, a noted sports fan, especially of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, chose Michigan State to defeat Louisville in the championship game of this year’s version of March Madness that starts Thursday.As he has done for six straight years now, Obama convenes with ESPN’s Andy Katz and goes over his bracket, game-by-game. It’s known as “Barack-etology.”“Tom Izzo is a great tournament coach,” Obama said of the Spartans’ leader. “I’ve got Michigan State going all the way. … He knows how to motivate folks and he knows how to coach. My pick: Michigan State. Bring it home for me. It’s been a while since I’ve won my pool.”Besides the fourth-seeded Spartans and Cardinals, President Obama also selected No. 1 overall seed Florida and top seed Arizona to reach the Final Four in Arlington, Texas, outside of Dallas.“I know these are not imaginative picks, but I think they’re the right ones,” Obama said.Among other picks of note, Obama likes two 12-seeds to pull off upsets in their NCAA tournament openers: Harvard over Cincinnati and North Dakota State over Oklahoma. The president also likes North Carolina to upset 3-seed Iowa State to reach the Sweet 16.Obama has picked three different teams in the “Barack-etology” era to win the men’s title — Indiana (over Louisville in 2013), Kansas (over Ohio State in 2011 and Kentucky in 2010) and North Carolina (over Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2009). His correctly picked national champion was the Tar Heels in ’09.Last year, Obama’s men’s bracket ranked No. 2,080,996 out of 8.15 million entries in ESPN.com’s free Men’s Tournament Challenge, placing him in the 74.4th percentile.The president correctly picked Louisville to play in the 2013 championship game, predicting a loss to Indiana for the title. In fact, the Hoosiers fell short of the Final Four and the Cardinals defeated Michigan 82-76 in what Obama said was “one of the best championship games that any of us have seen in a very, very long time.”Florida in the South Region and Arizona in the West are the only top seeds represented in the president’s Final Four. The other top seeds in the tournament are undefeated Wichita State in the Midwest and Virginia in the East.The Cardinals and Spartans finished their seasons by winning their conference tournaments and are popular picks to make it to the Final Four.The president is an avid fan of the college game and his hometown Chicago Bulls, and his brother-in-law is the head coach at Oregon State.
Since 2006, Bortles’s QBR was easily the worst by the QB on a team that scored at least 50 points. Or 45. Or even 40. Among teams scoring 30 or more points, only Eli Manning’s microscopic 0.2 QBR in this 38-21 win against the Buffalo Bills was worse. (Naturally, Eli followed up that stinker with a near-upset of the 15-0 New England Patriots and then won four straight games, including the Super Bowl.) The average sub-5.0-QBR game yields a shade under 9.9 points. Overcoming that kind of performance, much less stacking another 40 points of production on top of it, requires something remarkable.In Manning’s case, it was two long rushing touchdowns and two defensive touchdowns. For Jacksonville, it was a couple of return touchdowns — a fumble and a punt — plus a dangerous Bortles pass to Allen Hurns that was nearly intercepted but instead turned into an 80-yard touchdown. The latter was likely scored as a bad pass despite its good result, which is one of the selling points for QBR — that its individual inputs and charting make it a better representation of play than traditional QB rating (which put Bortles at 114.6). But then, the black-box mechanics of QBR can also lead to wacky results; the formula, with all its credit-splitting and other arcana, undeniably makes more sense on a season-long scale than in single games.Even so, outliers as extreme as Bortles’s win don’t come along every week — or every decade. Fifty-point games are rare, but ones in which the quarterback is so immaterial to the product are all but non-existent. Fifty-point outings are pretty rare in the NFL. When teams do break the half-century barrier, it’s usually the result of an exceptional individual performance; in 26 of the NFL’s 36 50-point games since 2006,1The first season for which TruMedia has game-by-game Total QBR data. the high-scoring team’s primary passer2Meaning the QB who attempted the most passes for the team in the game. posted a score of 90 or better on Total QBR’s 0-to-100 scale, where 50 is average.Only twice in the past decade has a team dropped 50 or more on an opponent despite its quarterback having a QBR below league average. The first was a mediocre Jay Cutler game from 2012, in which Cutler had a QBR of 43.8 — not horrendous, though also not what you think of when you envision a 50-point offensive outburst. The second happened Sunday, in the Jacksonville Jaguars’ out-of-nowhere 51-16 romp over the tailspinning Indianapolis Colts. Because, despite his team’s huge scoring output, Jags QB Blake Bortles posted an impossibly low 3.8 QBR for the game:
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Hot Takedown Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s show (Dec. 29, 2015), we bring you the latest edition of “Stat School.” Last time, Statman, aka Neil Paine, talked to us about NFL running back stats. This week, he brings us basketball 101. Neil guides us through three hoop-centric stats: points per game, true shooting percentage and usage rate.Stat one: Points per gameA player’s average number of points scored per game played.Stat two: True shooting percentageA statistic used to gauge scoring efficiency that takes into consideration a player’s shot attempts (including field goals and free throws) and points scored. The result is the average points the player scored when he ended a possession by shooting.Stat three: Usage percentageA metric that estimates the percentage of a team’s possessions that a player “uses” while he is in the game. As players “use” more possessions, their overall efficiency tends to drop.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above. Listen to Statman and you just might be able to eke out a statistical advantage in your holiday pick up games. If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong.
This is LeBron’s worst NBA Finals supporting cast everBox Plus/Minus talent ratings for LeBron James and his cumulative teammates for NBA Finals teams, weighted by postseason minutes James was his usual otherworldly self on Sunday, of course, pouring in 35 points with 15 rebounds and 9 assists. (He also played every single minute of the game.) He remains the NBA’s all-time leader with 34.9 career PPG in postseason Game 7s. But unlike many of Cleveland’s playoff losses, he got a little bit of help from his teammates; in addition to James, three other Cavs (Jeff Green, J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson) scored in double-figures. It was enough to propel the Cavs to victory, even though the team shot just 26 percent from 3-point range — which tends to be the most important barometer of Cleveland’s performance in any given game.At the same time, the Celtics appeared to be a bit too inexperienced to close out the veteran Cavs in a situation where playoff seasoning matters a lot. Had the Celtics won, they’d have been the second-youngest team2According to the average age of the postseason roster, weighted by minutes. to make the Finals since 1974 (older than only the 1977 Portland Trail Blazers). Instead, Boston’s youth showed as the Celtics were a team-worst -20 with star rookie Jayson Tatum and second-year phenom Jaylen Brown on the court together, and fill-in starter Terry Rozier suffered his worst game of the playoffs in Game 7.Fortunately for the Celtics, though, they have a ton of talent on hand for the future. This is only the beginning of something special for coach Brad Stevens’ squad. For Cleveland, meanwhile, this season has felt like the end of something special practically all year.Between the failed Isaiah Thomas trade, coach Ty Lue’s leave of absence, multiple injuries to Love and a midseason shakeup that ended up yielding few impact players for the postseason, it has been a chaotic ride for the Cavaliers. “We’ve had four or five seasons wrapped in one,” James told reporters earlier this month. “We know what the narrative has been about our team.” Unlike past seasons when the Cavs breezed through the East playoffs with seldom a loss, Cleveland was pushed to the limit by both the Celtics and the Indiana Pacers in the playoffs.3Granted, they did sweep the Toronto Raptors in between. Nothing has been easy.All things considered, then, this NBA Finals run has to be considered one of James’ crowning achievements. Although James talked up his supporting cast in his postgame comments, I went back and re-ran the numbers from this story, in which we used Basketball-Reference’s Box Plus/Minus to estimate the true talent4Using a multi-year weighted average of BPM, regressed to the mean and adjusted for age. of every player LeBron played with on an NBA Finals run. And that method says that this is easily the worst crop of teammates James has ever dragged to an NBA Finals — even worse than the one he had while being swept by the San Antonio Spurs as a 22-year-old in 2007: Game 7 loss88.289.447.817.973.720.4 Home wins95.6107.749.6%34.0%87.5%23.9 Boston won Games 1, 2 and 5 at home before losing Game 7.Source: NBA Advanced Stats 2013MIA+7.9+2.3+10.2+0.9+0.8+1.7 2017CLE+6.0+1.6+7.6+3.0-2.0+1.1 GamesPaceOff. Rating2-Point %3-Point %Free Throw %Assists/100 Poss. The Celtics’ offense disappeared in Game 7Offensive statistics for the Boston Celtics at home in the 2018 Eastern Conference final, by game 2016CLE+6.2+1.6+7.9+3.4-1.0+2.4 2011MIA+7.2+2.5+9.7+2.3+2.1+4.5 2015CLE+6.5+1.3+7.7+1.2-1.9-0.7 2007CLE+6.3+1.8+8.1-3.3+2.5-0.8 That means James and the Cavs are destined to be a heavy underdog in the Finals, whether they’ll face the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. But what else is new? Much of James’ poor NBA Finals record (he’s 3-5 all-time in championship series) is because he’s gone into the matchup facing such long odds in the first place. That’s a direct product of his ability to carry shorthanded teams deeper into the playoffs than any other player would be able to — and in Sunday night’s win, James just provided the best example of that yet.Check out our latest NBA predictions. LeBron James has racked up some pretty extraordinary accomplishments in his 15-year pro career, but few are as impressive as his effort in leading this particular Cleveland Cavaliers squad to the NBA Finals. Missing an All-Star teammate from an already underwhelming supporting cast, on the road against a Boston Celtics team that had been 10-0 at home in the playoffs, in a Game 7 (where the home team was 104–26 in postseason history1Per the Elias Sports Bureau.), James had a lot standing between him and an eighth straight Finals trip. And yet, here he and the Cavs are once again, set to play for another NBA title, following Sunday’s 87-79 win in Boston.How’d Cleveland break Boston’s home-court stranglehold on these playoffs? For one thing, the much-maligned Cavaliers defense stepped up in a big way in Game 7, holding the Celtics to a stunningly low 89.4 points per 100 possessions after allowing 107.7 in the series’ previous three games at TD Garden. It helped that the Celtics bricked so many shots in the second half — they went 3-20 from 3-point range, including a number of open looks — but the Cavs also clamped down and played some of their best defense of the season during Game 7. Ratings are generated using a multi-year weighted average of BPM, regressed to the mean and adjusted for age. Teammate ratings represent the team’s hypothetical points per 100 possessions (relative to league average) if James was replaced with a league average (0.0 BPM) player.Source: Basketball-Reference.com 2014MIA+7.6+1.4+9.1+0.3-0.2+0.1 2012MIA+7.4+2.4+9.8+0.9+2.8+3.6 SeasonTeamOffenseDefenseTotalOffenseDefenseTotal JamesTeammates 2018CLE+6.6+1.8+8.4+0.7-2.6-2.0
Look at that excitement index!jakelourim: That is a crazy game.gfoster: All right, let’s quickly update our men’s Final Four picks. This is not like a bracket pool — you can easily change from what you picked previously. No one will judge you. (Someone may judge you — it’s the internet.)Let’s go lightning round through the regions, starting with the East.I had Michigan State, I’m staying with Michigan State.jakelourim: Had Duke, staying with Duke. MSU doesn’t have the dudes to take them down.sara.ziegler: Yeah, I’m sticking with Duke. There’s just so much talent there.jplanos: I had all No. 1 seeds because I’m not fun at parties. So I’m sticking with Duke.sara.ziegler: Hahahahagfoster: OK, West. I had Gonzaga in my bracket, I said Michigan on our podcast. I’m going with…..Michigan.sara.ziegler: Texas Tech. BIG 12 REPRESENTjakelourim: Had Michigan, staying with Michigan. Happy to die on this hill.jplanos: Allow me to re-plug Hot Takedown and say that I’m finally ready to go with my heart. The Wolverines have been tenacious throughout the tournament, as best showcased by a Michigan tuba player running down the Gators mascot. jplanos: Most games are filled with tens of what-ifs, but it almost makes it worse for UCF that Aubrey Dawkins, who played a masterful game, missed the alley-oop late that probably would’ve put it away (and then the tip in the waning seconds). sara.ziegler: That sequence was a 5-point swing in Duke’s favor.gfoster: All this said about Duke, I haven’t been that impressed by Virginia Tech. Both of the Hokies’ wins were ugly affairs against lesser teams. The Saint Louis game was an absolutely brutal free-throw contest. So I don’t think Duke is going anywhere just yet. Do you disagree? If not, what other high seed could be on upset watch?jakelourim: I definitely thought entering the tournament that Virginia Tech had a great (and underrated) chance to upset Duke in the Sweet 16. The Hokies beat Duke in Blacksburg last month, and while Zion didn’t play in that game, neither did Virginia Tech star Justin Robinson. But now, after watching the first weekend, I do doubt Virginia Tech’s chances against Duke. It just doesn’t seem like Robinson has eased back into the lineup as seamlessly as Tech had hoped.gfoster: He seems like he’s playing hurt, to be honest.jplanos: I agree with you, Geoff. I’m not high on the Hokies. I mostly expect chalk to play out in the Sweet 16.jakelourim: The flip side of the first weekend lacking upsets is that it set up some awesome matchups for the Sweet 16, including four No. 2-vs.-3 seed matchups (three of them between top-12 teams in KenPom).sara.ziegler: The West region could be fun — Florida State has a real shot against Gonzaga, and I like Texas Tech over Michigan.jplanos: I think the best thing that could happen for Texas Tech is for Jordan Poole to drill two threes to open the game. For my money, there isn’t a more inconsistent Overconfident Guy left in the field.gfoster: I think Oregon has a legitimate shot against Virginia. The Ducks are by far the lowest KenPom team, and it’s not close. But that doesn’t speak directly to how well they are playing right now. Point guard Payton Pritchard is a man on fire.sara.ziegler: I refuse to believe in Oregon.jplanos: I refuse to believe in the Pac-12.sara.ziegler: YESSSSSAnd for good reason.gfoster: Both that game and the Michigan game will be complete rock fights: 60 to 65 points will be enough to win either.jakelourim: While this belief burned me in the bracket’s first weekend, I just think the Pac-12 has nothing to show for itself this weekend. How did Oregon lose so many games out of that league? The Ducks also skated by against a lesser second-round opponent — seemed like the mighty Anteaters used up all their juice in upsetting K-State on Friday.sara.ziegler: The Ducks have the 74th adjusted offense in the country, according to KenPom. That’s not how you beat Virginia.gfoster: Gardner-Webb was beating Virginia for a half. I just feel like the Cavs tighten up when they are playing from behind. Oregon is the opposite — they have been playing with nothing to lose for weeks.sara.ziegler: I agree, Geoff — I just don’t think Oregon is good enough offensively to get a lead.jakelourim: I really like Virginia’s path because the Hoos play a No. 12 seed first and are 26-0 against teams outside the KenPom top 15 this season. An underrated part about that region: Virginia will play in Louisville’s home arena, which is as familiar to the Cavs as you could hope to be at this stage in the tournament. The Hoos have played and won in that building in each of the past four seasons, including an inconceivable comeback last season from down 5 with less than 7 seconds left.gfoster: So Josh, you wrote about Murray State. Jake, you wrote about Wofford. It’s really sad that the mid-majors are all but gone (depending on how you define Gonzaga and Houston). Which one were you most disappointed to see exit the tournament?jplanos: Wofford, but only because Murray State would’ve gotten waxed by Gonzaga in the Sweet 16 had the Racers advanced. With Wofford’s perimeter shooting, they might have had a puncher’s chance against Houston. Loved the offensive flow of their game(s).jakelourim: I’d say Wofford, too, because of how the Terriers lost to Kentucky on Saturday. Watching the tiny SoCon upstart hang with Kentucky, only to watch Fletcher Magee clank shot after shot off the rim, was painful. You have to feel for Magee, who is now the most prolific 3-point shooter in NCAA history but just went cold at the worst time.gfoster: That was awful.jplanos: I know the myth of the hot hand will be argued for eternity, but at what point do you tell a guy to stop shooting? Especially when the guy’s offensive output seems to almost exclusively consist of inefficient jump-turn-and-figure-it-out jumpers.gfoster: The truth is, he had to keep shooting. He’s a huge cog in their scheme, and they don’t have enough talent to just let the other four to six guys pick up the slack. People were comparing him to Steph Curry at Davidson! So I, like everyone else, was shocked that NONE of those dropped, even the crazy off-balanced shot attempts.sara.ziegler: Live by the three, etc.But Magee did set the 3-point record again Seton Hall, which was cool to see.gfoster: I actually think Belmont could have made some noise if the Bruins could have gotten past Maryland. (They lost at the wire.) They are an electric, up-tempo team, and I think they would have beaten LSU and then been a fun test for Sparty.And they would have extended the First Four streak!sara.ziegler: Would have loved to see more from the Bruins.jakelourim: I agree, Geoff. I think Belmont could have made some noise. LSU was not the dominant, unflinching No. 3 seed that Houston, Texas Tech and Purdue proved to be, so Belmont could have hit enough threes to make it a game at the end. And then once that happens …jplanos: That was a tough matchup for Belmont. Maryland coughs it up constantly, but Belmont doesn’t force turnovers. When you’re already operating at a talent deficit, and you can’t even depend on additional chances, it’s almost impossible to overcome unless you shoot the lights out.That game was Maryland’s season-best performance in terms of turnover percentage, according to KenPom.jakelourim: That’s why I think this chalk-heavy first weekend was a one-year deal — just a collection of momentum swings that went toward the favorites. If that backdoor pass from Belmont goes through, Aubrey Dawkins’ tip rims in and Magee makes even, what, two of 12 3-pointers, this is a totally different tournament.gfoster: So, which conference has impressed the most? I know who it is not: The Big East. Pretty sad effort from the conference that has won two of three titles (granted, that’s just Villanova, so a generous way to praise the conference).jplanos: Agreed, Geoff. When your second best team gets dusted by nearly 20 by a team from the Ohio Valley Conference … yikes.sara.ziegler: The Big 12 has been pretty pathetic. Texas Tech has the whole conference on its shoulders now.jplanos: The SEC has been the most impressive. But how about the Big Ten getting three teams into the Sweet 16? Maryland and Iowa were about as close as you can get to advancing, too.gfoster: Is there any team that has completely defied what you thought of them entering the tournament?jplanos: Purdue. Mark me down as having never believed in the Boilermakers all season. All too often it seems to be Carsen Edwards or bust, with the latter winning out.Purdue lost two of its last three games entering the tournament, including an opening-round loss to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. But after two double-digit victories, including an 87-61 thrashing of defending champion Villanova, well, I’m still not ready to believe in their chances moving forward. But I am ready to eat crow.I wasn’t all that surprised that the Wildcats were eliminated before the Sweet 16, but I am surprised that the Boilermakers reduced them to rubble and are still standing.gfoster: Mid-majors or non-mid-majors, which team has let you down the most?I know Sara’s.sara.ziegler: LOL*cough, Cyclones, cough*jplanos: In my opinion, the biggest disappointment is Nevada, by a considerable margin.Most of this roster reached the Sweet 16 a year ago, and the Wolfpack ostensibly were primed for another deep run in the tournament. Instead, Nevada failed to win its conference tournament and then got bounced in the opening-round of the NCAA Tournament by a fairly average Florida team. They allowed the Gators to dictate the pace and played at the slowest tempo of any game this season, according to KenPom. Not only that, they posted the second lowest effective field goal percentage of any game this season and the highest turnover rate of any game this season.I even talked myself into Jordan Caroline smashing a fire extinguisher as a galvanizing moment for the team! Turned out it was just a representation of their frustrating season.jakelourim: Even given everything that happened this season, can I still say Kansas? I know, I know — the Jayhawks played the season under the cloud of player eligibility issues, lost Udoka Azubuike early, ended The Streak and generally looked very un-Kansas-like. But this was still supposed to be a really talented team. Watching them not just lose but get run off the court by a football school in the second round was very odd to me.sara.ziegler: I think that loss is what they deserve for being placed in the Kansas City regional.jplanos: LOLsara.ziegler: STOP GIVING KANSAS SUCH A GOOD REGIONjakelourim: And also, Cincinnati was sent to Columbus and collapsed against Iowa in the first round. That’s like when you draw a bad foul call and go to the line and miss the free throws.gfoster: Mine is Buffalo. I had the Bulls in the Sweet 16 in all the brackets I filled out. And felt vindicated when they absolutely steam rolled their former coach Bobby Hurley. But Texas Tech absolutely closed down shop from the tip-off on. They didn’t even make a run.jakelourim: Nevada is another good (bad?) one, Josh. I would have been very worried for Michigan if Nevada were on the other side in the second round. That’s no seventh-seeded roster. But Eric Musselman’s team never put it together like it did in last year’s tournament.gfoster: That’s another thing about this tournament: There really hasn’t been much drama, Duke and LSU aside. Of the 16 winners in the round of 32, only three didn’t cover the spread: Tennessee, Duke and Gonzaga (and they won by 12 points).sara.ziegler: My disappointment is actually that Oregon made it this far. I hate it when major-conference schools that played like crap for most of the season make it to the Sweet 16. Seems unjust.gfoster: Would you like them better if they had Bol Bol?(Yes, the answer to that is yes.)sara.ziegler: Yes, of course. They’d also be way better.jplanos: I think if Auburn had dropped that opening-round game, we’d be talking about this tournament wayyyyyyyyy differently. That would’ve given us two all-timers in the opening weekend.sara.ziegler: Oh, yeah — I forgot how close that game was!jakelourim: New Mexico State could have gone on and handled Kansas, too, no?jplanos: Yeah, my analysis is that Kansas is bad.sara.ziegler: ENDORSE, Josh.gfoster: Before we get to our updated Final Four picks, let’s talk about the women’s tourney, which has been objectively better from an entertainment standpoint. What is your biggest takeaway so far?sara.ziegler: There were three overtime games in the first round alone!jplanos: I’m glad offense is winning out on the women’s side, as seven of the top 10 teams this season in points per possession remain in the hunt, according to Synergy Sports. I for one am pleased that we get more opportunities for Sabrina Ionescu to do crazy things on the court, like intentionally missing shots for triple-doublesjakelourim: Absolutely, the women’s tournament has been more entertaining, I think.gfoster: According to our model, this is still a two-team tournament. Baylor and Notre Dame combine for a 60 percent chance of winning (32 percent and 28 percent, respectively). Although Louisville and UConn appear to be mutually hurting each other’s chances by just being in the same region.sara.ziegler: Though most of the top women’s teams have all advanced, we’ve seen closer games than we have in the past.No. 2 Iowa had all it could handle from Mercer. And No. 10 Buffalo acquitted itself nicely against UConn.jakelourim: Yes, Buffalo played well, and didn’t even have to kidnap any players!sara.ziegler: OMG, Jake. That’s amazing.jakelourim: Mercer took Iowa to the wire in an effort to produce what I believe would have been the first 15-2 upset in the history of the tournament. jplanos: HAHA, Geoff. Come on now.sara.ziegler: What a pick.gfoster: You think there will be no surprises at all? We’ll see.*checks bracket pool standings, sees self in 90th*Check out our latest March Madness predictions. sara.ziegler: That game was great. I loved the chart for No. 7 Missouri against No. 10 Drake, too: gfoster (Geoff Foster, sports editor): We have 52 games in the books of the men’s NCAA Tournament. And there has been one prevailing theme: chalk. There has been a staggeringly small amount of bracket busting. Other than Oregon (a No. 12 seed but a Power Five conference winner), the highest seed remaining is Auburn at No. 5! In the round of 32, the favorite won 100 percent of the games! If you picked all favorites in your bracket (like my mom probably did), you’d be 87.5 percent right. I could go on and on. So, do you think this is just an aberration, or is there something behind the dearth of Cinderellas?jplanos (Josh Planos, contributor): FiveThirtyEight’s model was pretty chalky when the draw was announced. It certainly could be a matter of more appropriate seeding or merely an opportunity for the committee to pat itself on the back before next year goes haywire.jakelourim (Jake Lourim, contributor): I was surprised like everyone else by that trend. Even given the slim chances to reach the Sweet 16 given to those double-digit seeds, we would expect at least one Cinderella to make it, right?sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, assistant sports editor): It does seem like the committee did a pretty good job of seeding this year, as our colleague Neil Paine wrote.The seeds followed what the stats would have recommended — and the top teams do seem to be better than in years past.gfoster: So there hasn’t been a shocking upset, with all due respect to Mississippi State, but some teams have had an easier time with their first two opponents than others. Which team has impressed you the most in the early going?jplanos: I think Gonzaga has looked pretty tough with two double-digit victories. The 38-point opening-round victory over Fairleigh Dickinson was the most lopsided tournament game in two years.Baylor and Fairleigh Dickinson aren’t strong defensive teams, to be sure, but the Zags have decimated both. In each win, Gonzaga posted at least 19 assists, was at least plus-10 on the glass and shot 35 percent or better from three and 53 percent or better from the field. According to Ken Pomeroy, two of the team’s three best performances this season in offensive rebounding percentage have come in the tournament.Brandon Clarke somehow got glossed over for every major award and has gone berserk. Against Baylor, he joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only players in NCAA Tournament history to put up 36 points and five blocked shots in a single game.sara.ziegler: Kentucky had a tricky draw against a very talented Wofford team, but they looked pretty good. Michigan has looked good, too. And Purdue has been under the radar — my radar, at least — but the Boilermakers have posted two convincing wins.It’s funny — even though the bracket has been so chalky, several of the top seeds have looked suspect at times.jakelourim: I think from a performance standpoint, I’d have to say Texas Tech. I thought Buffalo played great on Friday and would give the Red Raiders some trouble on Sunday, but Chris Beard’s team hammered Buffalo and got back to No. 1 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. That clash with Michigan on Thursday is going to be a slugfest.gfoster: I’ve also been impressed by the Texas Tech defense. Northern Kentucky’s Drew McDonald was the conference player of the year, and he was completely erased from the game in the first round, scoring only 5 points. Likewise, the Red Raiders more or less shut down Buffalo’s best player in CJ Massinburg, who couldn’t get much going. It will be interesting to see how they do against Michigan, which isn’t dependent on a top-heavy scoring guard like those two are.jakelourim: It might just be my impression, but I think after UMBC knocked off Virginia last March and Virginia remained such a prominent storyline all season, both the No. 1 and No. 16 seeds were on guard Friday — the 1s to avoid being embarrassed, the 16s because maybe UMBC brought new hope. Duke, North Carolina and Virginia together were -2.3 in scoring margin in their first halves. Then they all recovered and won by double digits.jplanos: Pretty typical for teams of all strengths to start opening-round games tight, too.gfoster: OK, so which high seed has looked the most vulnerable? It’s hard to knock a team for winning two games, but let’s do it anyway.sara.ziegler: I still think Virginia could find itself in trouble because of its slow play. The Cavs looked much better against Oklahoma on Sunday, but still.jakelourim: I’d be worried about Tennessee. That was a near-disaster Sunday against Iowa, giving up a 25-point lead to go to overtime before pulling it out. That’s not a great Iowa team, either, and Tennessee’s next opponent (Purdue) won’t be as forgiving.sara.ziegler: Jake, I think Tennessee should be worried, too. Though how much of that game was the Volunteers getting up so much, then taking their foot off the gas?jplanos: And what was up with Admiral Schofield requesting not to play in OT?jakelourim: Very weird, Josh, regarding Schofield. All around, it was a very weird way to end a game in which the Vols led by 21 at halftime. I do think a lot of that was just diminished intensity in the second half, but even that was a concern. Purdue, by contrast, was up by 19 at halftime and then built that lead to as many as 35 before winning by 26.gfoster: I also agree that Tennessee’s days are numbered. The Vols’ offense is supposed to be the third-most efficient in the country, but that isn’t what we’ve seen so far. Colgate’s defense is objectively bad, one of the worst in the tournament. Only scoring 77 points there is kinda a letdown, even though it’s a respectable number.And Iowa’s defense is far from stellar, too.jplanos: I never thought UCF could compete with Duke — and the Knights came about as close to an upset victory as possible. Granted, it was in Orlando. But Duke’s inability to adjust at halftime seemed problematic. Plus, it wasn’t like the Blue Devils had an off shooting night. Going 10-for-25 from 3-point range is a really good performance for Duke, and it resulted in a 1-point win.sara.ziegler: Agree. And it wasn’t just Tacko Fall who was a problem for Duke!(Though his absence at the end of the game certainly helped the Blue Devils.)jplanos: No doubt, Sara. I have a hard time believing Duke snags that last-second rebound for the put-back bucket with him in the game. To say nothing of the multiple fouls on that play.sara.ziegler: ^^^ THISjakelourim: Absolutely, Tacko fouling out was a game-changer. Even if the rebound does still bounce to Duke, he probably blocks any put-back attempt if he’s there. It’s crazy to me that UCF was up by 3 with what ended up being one possession left and lost in regulation. That’s almost impossible!sara.ziegler: Look at the crazy swings in our live probabilities at the end of Duke-UCF: Michigan tuba girl FTW: pic.twitter.com/ZOPFtsCsNY— Jim Weber (@JimMWeber) March 24, 2019gfoster: Only because I think they are showing again that they are the best-coached team in the country. They don’t do any of the things that cost teams games: turn it over, foul trouble, bad shots, etc.jakelourim: Yes, I think they have the best coach in that region. That’ll be enough.gfoster: OK, in the South. I had UVA. I might have said Nova on Hot Takedown, but that was clearly me being an idiot.sara.ziegler: I believe that went something like, “Jay Wright is amazing, he will obviously win.”🤣jplanos: You did indeed say that, Geoff. I will withhold my opinion on that pick.gfoster: That was a product of me not liking ANY team in the region. And I still don’t!!!!!!sara.ziegler: Wait … that was the region I didn’t like, Geoff.You didn’t like the Midwest.gfoster: I like that more, now. I have an answer there.sara.ziegler: LOLI still don’t like anyone in the South. I have Tennessee … which I don’t feel great about.jplanos: I’m still going with UVA. Whoever reaches the 20-point mark first is deemed the winner.jakelourim: Had Virginia, staying with Virginia. Still think Tony Bennett’s team is the most consistent in the country — NCAA Tournament demons notwithstanding.gfoster: OK, let’s do the Midwest.jplanos: Tar Heels. Never a doubt.sara.ziegler: Remember when they were trailing to Iona at halftime of that game? That was fun.jplanos: I said never a doubt, Sara!sara.ziegler: LOLI still like Kentucky.jakelourim: I’ve got Ol’ Roy and UNC.sara.ziegler: You guys are BORING.jakelourim: This tournament started it!gfoster: Only because I need to pick something that can be mocked later, I’m taking Auburn. Bruce Pearl’s team is here to provide the madness of 2019. The Tiger offense is so impressive. I love these teams (like some Beilein teams) where every guy on the court can knock down the three.jakelourim:
OSU freshman quarterback Tate Martell addresses the media on National Signing Day on Feb. 1. Credit: Jacob Myers | Assistant Sports EditorThe return of Ohio State redshirt senior quarterback J.T. Barrett for his final year of eligibility might have fans excited, but the presence of freshman Tate Martell should have Buckeye backers all the more eager for the upcoming football season.Martell came to OSU as a four-star dual-threat quarterback from Bishop Gorman High School, the proverbial football powerhouse that has cranked out such college studs as DeMarco Murray of the Tennessee Titans and Ronnie Stanley from the Baltimore Ravens. He was the No. 2 dual-threat signal caller in the nation, behind only Alabama commit Tua Tagovailoa.Martell comes in as a potential star in an OSU offense that thrives on quarterbacks who know how to win. Win is exactly what Martell did at Gorman, compiling 113 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in three years.He also helped lead the Gaels to a 45-0 record as a starter. OSU coach Urban Meyer knows exactly what that kind of ability can bring to a team.“We are a very evaluation-friendly business as a coach and as a quarterback and some people measure it by throwing yards … some people measure their success,” he said. “However, we measure it very simply, how do you win? And Tate is a winner.”Martell will most likely find himself behind incumbent starter Barrett when spring practices start, but he makes an extremely valid case for being the predecessor for Barrett after he closes the book on his final chapter as a Buckeye.“I’m not thinking about 12 months, I’m thinking about right now,” Martell said. “I want to play. I know that I’m just going to go out there and if I don’t play, that’s on me. I know coach Meyer is going to play the best guy, and if I go prove that, then that’s not my decision to make or anything.”Martell’s biggest competition will come from backups redshirt sophomore Joe Burrow and redshirt freshman Dwayne Haskins. Burrow has appeared in six games, completing 78.6 percent of his passes with a pair of touchdowns through the air, as well as a score on the ground. However, Burrow’s numbers have come against largely ineffective and below average defenses when the Buckeyes were dominating. As for Haskins, a former four-star recruit, the hype from his high school career isn’t quite there compared to Martell’s, and he lacks the kind of mobility that Martell brings.And we haven’t even mentioned top dual-threat quarterback and 2018 commit Emory Jones.Either way, the quarterback competition could very well heat up for the 2017-18 season. And if it does, Martell is ready to make his mark.“You’ve got to come to compete,” Martell said. “Like I said before, if you want to make it to the NFL, you’re not going to be competing against average guys. You’re going to be competing against the best anyway.”
Former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor is scheduled to make his first NFL start. Pryor, who’s seen little action for the Oakland Raiders, is slated to start at quarterback in Sunday’s season-finale against the San Diego Chargers. The team announced the development through the Raiders’ official Twitter account, @OAKLAND. “Head Coach Dennis Allen names @TerrellePryor staring QB for Sunday,” the tweet read. Pryor was given the nod over former USC quarterback and 2004 Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart after Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a bruised lung and broken ribs in a 17-6 loss against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. In his NFL career, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound signal-caller has completed 1-of-2 passes for five yards and rushed once for two yards. It’s Pryor’s first start since the 2011 Allstate Sugar Bowl, which OSU defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks, 31-26. In what would be his last outing as a Buckeye, the Jeannette, Pa., native amassed 336 yards of total offense and was named the game’s MVP. Under the direction of former OSU coach Jim Tressel, Pryor and the Buckeyes finished the year 12-1 with a Big Ten Championship. The season, though, has since been vacated because of NCAA violations stemming from the program’s “Tattoo-Gate” scandal. Pryor, who was one of five players suspended for the first five games of 2011 because of his involvement in trading tattoos for Buckeye memorabilia, opted to forgo his senior season in response to mounting allegations and a separate investigation regarding his use of multiple automobiles while in Columbus. Pryor, who arrived on campus in 2008 as arguably the nation’s most heralded recruit in recent memory, helped guide the Buckeyes to a 31-4 record as the team’s starting quarterback, a role he assumed against Troy on Sept. 20, 2008. In addition to the his Sugar Bowl performance, Pryor earned MVP honors en route to a 26-17 win against Oregon in the 2010 Rose Bowl. The game, which was dubbed by some as Pryor’s coming-of-age party, saw Pryor throw for 266 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-37 attempts. He also ran for 72 yards on 20 touches. Pryor amassed 8,341 yards of total offense and 76 touchdowns as a Buckeye. Oakland (4-11) is set to face the Chargers Sunday at 4:25 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.
Ohio State sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez (9) scores a goal off a penalty kick in the second half of the game against Iowa on Sept. 27. Ohio State won 2-0. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo EditorThe Ohio State women’s soccer team and the Nebraska Cornhuskers both recently came off victories against previous opponents, but ultimately concluded the match against each other in a 1-1 draw on the Buckeyes’ Senior Day.With this tie, Ohio State’s overall record will be set at 6-4-1, 3-1-1 in the Big Ten, while Nebraska sits 8-3-3, 4-0-2 in the Big Ten. After Ohio State’s previous 2-0 win at home against Iowa on Thursday, the Buckeyes seemed to get off to a slow start against Nebraska. The first goal of the afternoon for Ohio State came from sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez in the 58th minute of the second half.“I think as a team we came out a little bit slow in the first half,” Rodriguez said. “But we made those changes in the second half, really went at them, we got our chances and came back from being down which we haven’t really done before, so it was good thing from our team to grind it out.”Freshmen forward Emaly Vatne said that the team picked it up in the second half, but wasn’t able to continue the momentum to the very end. “The way that we responded and battled in the second half and in overtime is something to be proud of,” Vatne said. “But there’s still a lot of things we need to work on.”The Cornhusker fans that filled the stands of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium witnessed senior forward Faith Carter put Nebraska in the 1-0 early lead by scoring a goal in the 24th minute of the first half. After tying the game at the end of regulation, the Buckeyes went into overtime with the Cornhuskers, but neither team was able to come out on top. Senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr gathered five saves for Ohio State, recording a total of 47 saves so far this year. The Buckeyes earned a total of five saves compared to the Cornhuskers four, with Ohio State holding a 5-4 edge in corner kicks over Nebraska. Both Vatne and Rodriguez said the team still needs to work on having more composure on the ball, keeping good communication and also finishing.Vatne said the team is really excited to play on the road next weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. “There’s two good opponents we have to play,” Vatne said. “We have a lot of people from that area, so it should be a lot of fun and were pretty confident with how were playing.”After tying with Nebraska at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, the Buckeyes will look to finish next weekend’s pair of games in a victory.Rodriguez said there are still a couple of things that the team needs to work on heading into the next few games, but overall she feels pretty confident. “Our work rates have been high,” Rodriguez said. “Our practices have been good, and there’s a few things we’ll have to tweak but I think we’ll be good.”The Ohio State women’s soccer team will hit the road once again for a series of away games, starting with the Wolverines next Friday at 7 p.m., then moving to the Spartans next Sunday at 1 p.m.
Redshirt sophomore Jake Hanes (16) anticipates making contact with the ball at the game against George Mason on Jan. 18 at St. John Arena in Columbus. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Senior Reporter.Playing its first match as an unranked squad since 2014, the Ohio State men’s volleyball team fell to No. 15 Purdue Fort Wayne, its second conference loss in as many matches. After winning a close first set, the Mastodons used a kill and two aces by redshirt senior opposite hitter Colton Stone to break the second set wide open, pushing their lead to 12-7. The lead grew to as many as 10 points after an Ohio State service error, with the score 23-13. The second set, much like the rest of the match, was less about Ohio State’s struggles than it was about the dominance of Purdue Fort Wayne, as the Mastodons terminated 13 of their 20 attack opportunities for a .450 hitting percentage, adding three aces. Junior outside hitter Pelegrin Vargas led the Mastodons with 15 kills, five block assists and an ace, while Stone added six kills and three aces. The Buckeye offense hit at a measly .167 clip, managing 30 kills on 72 total attacks, while adding three aces. Freshman middle blocker Ethan Talley had 10 kills on 14 attacks for a team-high .714 hitting percentage. Sophomore outside hitter Martin Lallemand was the only other Buckeye with more than five kills, finishing six and adding an ace and a block assist. Ohio State always seemed to be playing from behind, and without a consistent offense, they relied mostly on the 39 total errors committed by the Mastodons to stay in the game. In the third set, Purdue Fort Wayne used a 7-1 run to build a 20-16 lead over the Buckeyes, but four errors by the Mastodons brought the Buckeyes even at 20. Kills by Vargas and Stone finished off the Buckeyes, leading Purdue Fort Wayne to a 25-22 win. Both sophomore opposite hitter Jake Hanes and senior setter Sanil Thomas were out for the match with injury, the third straight match each had missed. Ohio State did have one player return from injury as freshman setter Luke Lentin was able to recover in time for the match. Lentin totalled 27 assists and three digs, while adding a kill and an ace for the Buckeyes. Lentin’s return allowed freshman libero Parker Mikesch to return to his regular duties as a libero alongside redshirt senior Aaron Samarin. Mikesch has spent the past two matches serving as the team’s full-time setter in the absence of Lentin, Thomas and junior setter Andrew Hillman. Ohio State will face No. 6 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. on Friday and No. 1 Long Beach State at 10 p.m. on Saturday in Long Beach, California.
Then-sophomore attack Jack Jasinski heads for the goal in the fourth quarter during the first round of the NCAA tournament against Loyola Maryland on May 14, 2017. Credit: Sheridan Hendrix | Former Oller ReporterIn a game all about momentum, the No. 9 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team strung together 10 unanswered goals to pull away and remain undefeated in a 14-8 victory against Hofstra in Hempstead, New York on Saturday.Ohio State (6-0) did what it does well: scoring early, putting up four straight goals on Hofstra to begin the game. Two of the goals came from junior attack and team-leading goal scorer Tre LeClaire, with both assists coming from sophomore attack/midfield Colby Smith.That hot streak transferred right over to Hofstra (2-4) as the Pride answered back with two goals to end the first quarter and continued that momentum in the second, scoring two straight again to tie the Buckeyes with four unanswered goals of its own. Every goal for the Pride came from a different player in the run.After the Pride’s breakout, the rest of the second quarter was all Buckeyes. Ohio State scored five straight before halftime to make it 9-4 at the half. The five goals included two from freshman attack Jack Myers and LeClaire’s third of the game.Though the Buckeyes had the lead at the half, the anticipated face off battle between Hofstra’s sophomore midfield/forward Brian Heber and Ohio State’s sophomore midfield Justin Inacio was in favor of Herber 8-7. Herber finished with 14 wins on 26 faceoffs, while Inacio won 10 of his 18 attempts.Although the faceoff may have been won in the second half, the game quickly became about Ohio State’s dominance in the third quarter. Ohio State scored four more goals from four different players — LeClaire scoring his fourth of the game, Myers getting his third to complete the hat trick and senior midfielder Jack Jasinski got his first of two.Leclaire is up to 20 goals on the season to led the team, while Jasinski is No. 2 with 16.With the game looking out of hand, the Pride came roaring back, again scoring four straight goals. But it came too late, ending the game 14-8. No. 9 Ohio State comes back home to Ohio Stadium against No. 8 Denver at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Nearly 120 nations including Britain have signed a 2008 treaty banning the use of cluster bombs because of the indiscriminate risk they pose to civilians. The bombs shower an area of ground with dozens of smaller “bomblets”, which explode on impact or can lie dormant until detonated by unwitting victims.Saudi Arabia has not signed the convention.Britain delivered its last batch of cluster bombs to the Gulf kingdom in 1989.Since Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, the UK has licensed £3.3 billion worth of arms to its ally, including £2.2 billion worth of aircraft, helicopters and drones; £1.1 billion worth of grenades, bombs, and missiles; and £430,000 worth of armoured vehicles. People search for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes near Sanaa Airport, Yemen, in March 2015Credit:Hani Mohammed/AP Saudi Arabia has confirmed it used British-made cluster bombs during its military campaign in Yemen.A statement from the Saudi-led coalition fighting in in the country said BL-755 bombs were used earlier this year “against legitimate military targets to defend Saudi towns and villages”.The admission came after a British government analysis indicating the UK-made munitions were used in the campaign in which Saudi-led forces are fighting Houthi rebels who rose up against the Yemeni government.Saudi Arabia has now agreed to stop using the weapons, according to the statement.The use of the controversial weapons has again turned the spotlight on Britain’s support for the Saudis during a conflict which has seen at least 10,000 people killed and caused a humanitarian crisis for many. 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.
A nurse giving food to patients as the NHS is gearing up for delivering nearly 400,000 Christmas lunchesCredit:Peter Byrne/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. Around 97,000 nurses and 53,000 healthcare assistants will be working in hospitals, while in care homes across England some 200,000 care workers will support the vulnerable and elderly.Some 1.5 million items of linen including bedsheets will be used in hospitals, while nearly 40,000 cleaners and more than 12,000 porters will be on duty.Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “I want to thank everyone across our health and care system, from the cooks making hundreds of thousands of Christmas dinners to the cleaners, nurses, doctors, care workers, paramedics and countless other staff making sure patients get outstanding care this Christmas.”No-one wants to be away from home over Christmas but I know that staff are again pulling out all the stops so patients have the best possible time.”Meanwhile, the NHS has offered a series of tips for making Christmas dinners healthier – including not eating the turkey skin and swapping roast potatoes for baked spuds.The advice says to serve plenty of vegetables – but do not smother them in butter – and highlights the health benefits of Brussels sprouts, which contain both folate, a B vitamin and vitamin C, which can help protect against heart disease and cancer.The NHS guidance also notes that sprouts contain fibre “which helps to keep the digestive system healthy” – something which could be essential given the amount Britons are expected to eat over the Christmas period. The NHS is gearing up for delivering nearly 400,000 Christmas lunches – and 1,800 Christmas babies.Cooks will serve up food to patients spending the festive period in hospital, while 12,000 midwives will be on duty for babies born on Christmas Day.Around a million people are expected to work on Christmas Day in the UK, with NHS staff making up a high proportion of those missing out on festive fun.
Giant otters the size of wolves lived in prehistoric waters six million years ago, scientists have discovered.US paleontologists discovered the biggest otter that ever lived while excavating an ancient lake bed in Shuitangba, in the Yunnan Province in Southwestern China.The species, called Siamogale melilutra, was about the size of a wolf and weighed approximately 110lbs, almost twice as large as the largest living otters.It belongs to an ancient lineage of extinct otters, which goes back at least 18 million years, that was previously known only from isolated teeth recovered from Thailand. The discovery of a complete skull, jawbone and teeth showed that the creature had evolved to live on extra large shellfish and molluscs which it cracked open with its powerful jaw.“From the vegetation and other animal groups found at Shuitangba, we know that it was a swampy, shallow lake with quite dense vegetation,” said Dr Denise Su, Curator and Head of Paleobotany and Paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.The teeth are similar to modern otters, and experts believe they evolved because of the diet of the creatures. 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. Modern otters are only around 30cm long “Multiple otter lineages have low-crowned, rounded teeth, leading us to ask the question if this was inherited from a common ancestor or if this was convergent evolution based on common dietary behaviours across different species,” said Dr Xiaoming Wang, lead author of the paper and Curator and Head of Vertebrate Palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.“Our analysis suggests that the dentition independently appeared at least three times over the evolutionary history of otters.”The skull was squashed flat during the fossilisation so researchers used a CT scanner to image the bones and then rebuild the otter using a computer. The restoration showed that the creature had some features in common with badgers, which led to it being christened ‘Melilutra’ – meles meaning badger in Latin and lutra meaning otter.“While the cranium is incredibly complete, it was flattened during the fossilisation process,” added Dr Su.“The bones were so delicate that we could not physically restore the cranium. Instead, we CT-scanned the specimen and virtually reconstructed it in a computer.“This groundbreaking discovery now has scientists trying to understand other aspects of the life of Siamogale melilutra.” The skull was squashed and had to be scanned and reconstructed virtually on a computer
With boots polished and caps perfectly placed, all the ship’s available company stood at the edge of the vessel as she arrived in the harbour and naval base. “Of course when Henry VIII built Portsmouth, it was designed for ships the size of Mary Rose so we have had to make a few little changes to make sure we can fit in and be supported there.”Preparations for the ship’s arrival saw more than 3.2 million cubic metres of sediment removed from the harbour to ensure the entrance is deep enough to allow the giant ship to access the Hampshire base. The 919ft (280m), 65-000 tonne vessel has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland’s Rosyth dockyard in June.Those on board and watching from the shore were treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters, the first featuring a Sea King, two MK2 Merlins and two MK3 Merlins, which were then joined by two Hawk jets for the second. “The UK’s future flagship, as well her sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, will be powerful symbols of Britain’s outward-facing global character and ambition.”The Royal Navy has a very special relationship with Portsmouth dating back half a millennium and both carriers will ensure the Navy’s city remains the focal point of our great nation’s maritime power for generations to come.”Captain: ‘It is really special coming home’ Mr Fallon added: “She has made good progress in sea trials and will now embark on the next phase of preparations that will see the return of Britain’s carrier strike ability.”When she enters service she will help keep Britain safe at a time of increased threats, able to fill multiple roles from providing air power anywhere at any time to fight future campaigns, supporting allies or delivering humanitarian aid.” A flotilla of craft follow HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails into the SolentCredit:Victoria Jones/PA During the dredging, more than 20,000 items were removed from the sea bed including eight cannons, an aircraft engine, 36 anchors, a British torpedo, a German sea mine, five large bombs and a human skull – which was passed to local police.The operation to prepare the harbour and base has cost £100 million and has included new jetties and a new power plant to meet the electricity needs of the ship which is set to be joined by its sister vessel the HMS Prince of Wales which is currently being built.The warship has been undergoing training and tests at sea after setting out from Scotland’s Rosyth dockyard in June, with more to take place over the coming months.The moment warship squeezed out of dockyard Admiral Sir Philip Jones, the head of the Royal Navy, said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth is the nation’s future flagship; the embodiment of Britain in steel and spirit. Louise Bond, 30, from Fareham, Hampshire, whose husband, Petty Officer Greg Bond, 33, is serving on board, said: “It’s my first homecoming, it’s brilliant, I was up at 2.30am, first in line. A flotilla of craft followed the behemoth aircraft carrier as she sailed into the Solent before heading into Portsmouth, where, at its narrowest point, there was less than 66ft (20m) clearance on each side. Leading Airman Liam Forgeron, 28, from Portchester, Hampshire, is an aircraft handler on board HMS Queen Elizabeth.He said: “Being a local lad, I am extremely proud that Portsmouth will now be the base port for the nation’s future flagship.”The historic port has a long and proud association with the Royal Navy and the arrival of HMS Queen Elizabeth will cement this relationship for a further 50 years. As a Royal Navy aircraft handler, serving on board this mighty vessel is a real honour, as I too get to make history in my home town.” As eager crowds waved and welcomed her in, Commander Darren Houston could be heard saying over the tannoy to those on the shore: “Good morning, Portsmouth.”Some of the keen well-wishers had camped out over on the Round Tower, the traditional spot in Old Portsmouth to view navy ships leaving and arriving at the base, in order to get a good view. Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, said: “HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first entry into her home port of Portsmouth is an historic, proud and exciting occasion, not only for those of us serving in her, but also for the wider Royal Navy, the city of Portsmouth and the entire nation. HMS Queen Elizabeth squeezes into Portsmouth Harbour, where – at its narrowest point – there was less than 66ft clearance on each sideCredit:Steve Parsons/PA Lt Cdr Neil Twigg, a fast jet pilot responsible for integrating the F35 fighter jet into the carrier group, said: “We are very ready, there is still a lot more work to be done, the aircraft is still going through its testing programme in America and the ship has still some more sea trials but we are on the right track.”The sheer size, this is the 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier, the largest the Royal Navy has ever had, she is specifically built for the F35, the only aircraft carrier in the world designed for that air system, so a pretty unique capability the UK now has.” Crowds line the port at Portsmouth Harbour to witness the warship’s arrivalCredit:Leon Neal/Getty Navy officers and family members also lined the jetty in the Navy base to welcome the ship, while the band of the Royal Marines played to entertain the crowds.Lieutenant Commander Ian Pratt, who took a moment to take a photograph of the carrier as it sailed past, said: “Absolutely fantastic.”What a wonderful day for the Royal Navy, for Portsmouth and the whole of the country, the flagship of our nation is home. Fantastic.” Tanya Baker, from Grantham, Lincolnshire, came with daughter Eloise, two, to meet her partner Petty Officer Craig May.She said: “We are really proud that my partner is coming in on the Queen Elizabeth, it’s been a long time since I’ve seen him and we are both proud to be part of the aircraft carrier.” Crew on the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth as the ship arrives in PortsmouthCredit:Ray Jonesn/Royal Navy/PA During her estimated half a century working life, the vessel can be pressed into action for various work such as high intensity war fighting or providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief.”We have never had a ship of 65,000-tonnes before in the Royal Navy so we have had to put in a bit of investment,” said Capt Kyd, who has served in the Navy for 32 years, and has been captain of HMS Illustrious and HMS Ark Royal. Those watching from the shore were treated to treated to two separate flypasts of Royal Navy helicopters Credit:Gareth Fuller/PA Crowds lined the seafront to great Britain’s largest and newest aircraft carrierCredit:Gareth Fuller/PA Speaking about the arrival in Portsmouth, he said: “It is going to be a good day, we are bringing our ship in. But what I wouldn’t want to do is to sell the story that this is it, the bees knees and we are bringing our new Ferrari out of the garage.”It is not Ferrari yet we have still got some work to do. She’s not finished.” Members of the public take pictures of HMS Queen Elizabeth as she arrives in PortsmouthCredit:Leon Neal/Getty HMS Queen Elizabeth crew members muster on the deck ahead of the ship’s arrival in PortsmouthCredit:Andrew Matthews/PA HMS Queen Elizabeth crew members watch as crowds line Portsmouth HarbourCredit:Victoria Jones/PA Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “Today we welcome our mighty new warship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to her home for the very first time.”She is Britain’s statement to the world: a demonstration of British military power and our commitment to a bigger global role.”The thousands of people across the UK who have played a part in building her and her sister ship, HMS Prince of Wales, should be immensely proud as our future flagship enters Portsmouth.” The UK’s new £3 billion aircraft carrier is a clear signal the country will remain a fully engaged global power, Theresa May said as the ship arrived in Portsmouth.Tens of thousands of people lined the harbour to welcome HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has berthed at its home port for the first time.The Prime Minister hailed the ship as a symbol of the UK as a “great global maritime nation”.Speaking on board the Royal Navy’s newest and biggest ship, Mrs May said: “Britain can be proud of this ship and what it represents.”It sends a clear signal that as Britain forges a new, positive, confident role on the world stage in the years ahead we are determined to remain a fully engaged global power, working closely with our friends and allies around the world.” “In the years and decades to come, she and her sister ship will demonstrate the kind of nation we are – not a diminished nation, withdrawing from the world, but a confident, outward-looking and ambitious nation, with a Royal Navy to match.”So this is truly a proud moment for Portsmouth, for the Royal Navy and for the United Kingdom. Today, we’ve shown the world how to welcome a Queen.” An 820ft (250m) exclusion zone, enforced by armed police in small boats, meant the port was effectively closed to the flotilla of boats which had turned out to greet the Queen Elizabeth.A Champagne breakfast was held on board the Type 45 destroyer HMS Diamond for “VIPs and “VVIPs” from the Ministry of Defence. Mark Deller, Commander Air on HMS Queen Elizabeth, said the four-acre flight deck is a capability the Navy has not had before. “It’s amazing, I wouldn’t miss it for the world, it’s a historic moment, once in a lifetime to see.” Crowds watch as HMS Queen Elizabeth comes into PortsmouthCredit:Victoria Jones/PA A flotilla of craft follow HMS Queen Elizabeth as she sails into Portsmouth HarbourCredit:Gareth Fuller/PA Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Mum Natalie Miura, 30, who took her two children aged six and two, said her children were bored after being shown a DVD advertising aspects of the hotel.They were then taken to enjoy the festive experiences but she added: “It was just so disorganised. We were like cattle being herded into room after room. “The elves who were there were all quite young and not in character. When we finally got to see Santa it had been a long wait, there were water bottles littered all over the place. “You could hear other Santa’s talking in different rooms, which didn’t affect my two-year-old but my six-year-old started asking questions about who was talking and what was going on.” A winter wonderland event has attracted complaints from parents whose children were confused by hearing multiple Santas talking to youngsters in different rooms.The Celtic Manor hotel resort in Newport, Wales, has run its Christmas Kingdom since 2012 and includes a Santa’s Grotto, ice skating area, bratwurst hut and food stands.However, this year the event has seen people complain about the festivities on social media. You could hear other Santa’s talking in different rooms, which didn’t affect my two-year-old but my six-year-old started asking questions about who was talking and what was going on.Mum Natalie Miura She added: “It was not a magical experience for the children and it was very disappointing.” A spokesman for Celtic Manor said: “We aim to make the Christmas Kingdom a truly magical experience for all the family. We are disappointed to hear that some of our guests do not feel that this was the experience they received this year. “The event has been running at the resort since 2012 and has always been hugely popular, with many families returning year after year to enjoy Santa’s Grotto and the other many festive activities at the resort. “However, we take all customer feedback on board and are always looking for ways to build on our customers’ experience at Christmas Kingdom to ensure that we deliver an enjoyable event for our guests.” 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.
Lancashire police is using the Amazon Alexa app to stream daily briefings to people’s homesCredit: Peter Byrne/PA The Alexa is a cloud-based voice service which can be used to make calls, set alarms, read the news, and even order a pizza, via a compatible speaker system.The app was released in 2014 and originally worked solely with Amazon’s Echo speaker but the company has since integrated it with devices from thermostats to cars, to security systems, and it has become a rival to Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. A police force is using the Amazon Alexa app to stream daily crime briefings directly to people’s homes.Customers can use the voice-activated app to receive the latest news and information hourly from Lancashire Constabulary, including images of wanted and missing people.The information is streamed directly to the app as it is read out, giving users the option of looking at the app to see visual content.The project is the brainchild of Pc Rob Flanagan, Lancashire Constabulary’s innovations manager, who has worked with developers from Amazon to bring the idea to life.The force said it was the first in the UK to use smart speaker technology to engage with the community.Mr Flanagan said: “As a police force we are always looking at ways to engage with our communities. “Alexa works alongside traditional policing methods to inform the public about the important issues in their neighbourhoods.”Voice-activated searches now account for 10 per cent of online searches and are expected to rise to 50 per cent by 2020.”We want to be at the forefront of this new technology to make it easier for the public to access the information they want to know.”The Alexa launch coincides with a recruitment drive in the county which will see around 200 new police officers sworn in to front line policing duties in 2018/19. Lancashire police is using the Amazon Alexa app to stream daily briefings to people’s homesCredit: Daniel Berman/Bloomberg Pc Flanagan added: “It is still very much in its infancy but we are looking forward to exploring the ways in which we can use this technology in the communities we serve.” 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.
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge gives the keynote speech at the 2018 Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference in London Credit:Chris Jackson/AFP “This is not a war that can be won by one state. We must look at organised crime at an international level.”“The natural heritage in African countries is not just our heritage. It is global heritage. But there is a paucity of resources. There is often no budget and we need some commitment in terms of funding.”The British government announced it would spend £900,000 to develop a new military anti-poaching task force. The unit will see soldiers deployed to train wildlife rangers in counter poaching techniques. It expands on ranger training programs launched in Gabon and Malawi earlier this year. However, African leaders and conservationists have warned that rhetoric has not translated into the commitment of resources equal to the scale of the challenge. The Duke of Cambridge has urged international law enforcement to follow the tactics used to snare Al Capone to catch drug lords and people traffickers, in a bid to end the illegal trading of ivory.The Duke, who gave a landmark speech outlining plans to end the illegal wildlife trade at a conference in London, said the world must treat it as the “serious organised crime that it is”.Saying the trade of animal parts was too often seen as “a lucrative and relatively low-risk activity”, he urged police and border forces to use it as a way to capture international criminal gangs.His comments came as African governments called for a $1 billion commitment to help them fight international poaching syndicates who are though to slaughter tens of elephants every day. Trafficking in ivory, rhino horn, and other wildlife products is thought to be worth £18 billion a year, making it the world’s fourth largest organised criminal industry. The first illegal wildlife trade conference in London in 2014 led to a ban on the ivory trade in China which came into force earlier this year. The Elephant Protection Initiative, an alliance of 19 African countries who have drawn up their own national plans to combat poaching, called for £1 billion in funding for national action plans over the next 10 years.Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, Tanzania’s minister for natural resources, told the Telegraph: Addressing conservationists, businesses, and political leaders gathered in London to discuss efforts to combat the illegal wildlife trade yesterday/THURS, the Duke said: It is heart-breaking to think that by the time my children George, Charlotte and Louis are in their twenties, elephants, rhinos and tigers might well be extinct in the wild.I for one am not willing to look my children in the eye and say that we were the generation that let this happen on our watch.“I am not asking anyone in this room to prioritise efforts to fight the illegal wildlife trade above drug trafficking or money laundering,” he said. “But I am asking you to see the connections. To acknowledge that the steps you take to tackle illegal wildlife crime could make it easier to halt the shipments of guns and drugs passing through your borders. Remember – Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, not murder.”
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. A jury has failed to reach a verdict in the case of Labour MP Fiona Onasanya. She was accused of perverting the course of justice by allegedly lying about a speeding ticket issued last year, which she denied. Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC sent the 11-strong Old Bailey jury out to deliberate on its verdict just after 10.30am last Thursday.On Friday afternoon, he said he would accept a verdict on which 10 jurors were agreed.After two-and-a-half hours of deliberations on Monday, the jury indicated they could not agree a verdict, even if they had more time.Discharging the jury, Mr Hilliard QC said: “I have had a note from you saying you do not need any more time.”Thank you very much for the evident care and attention you have given this case. The case will have to be retried in due course in front of a different jury.”The retrial is due to start on December 11.
Ucas, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, previously attempted to instigate a move to a post-qualification system but dropped the idea in 2012.At the time, university leaders claimed that the move would put too much pressure on admissions tutors by forcing them to consider hundreds of thousands of applications in just a few weeks over the summer.But there is now growing concern about the misuse of unconditional offers, with the number rising sharply. Students are now 30 times more likely to receive one than five years ago.Damian Hinds, the education secretary, said on Monday that he welcomes the review, adding that the rise in unconditional offers “may be symptomatic of wider issues within university admissions processes”.In a letter to Sir Michael Barber, the chair of the OFS, he said: “There is a need to establish whether current admissions processes serve the best interests of students”.The lifting of student number controls in England in 2015 gave universities free rein to recruit as many undergraduates as they see fit – but the move has led to accusations that they now act like businesses, seeking to maximise their revenue by recruiting as many students as possible.Fierce competition has emerged between universities to attract students, with sixth form pupils now offered places regardless of their exam results.Some institutions hand out “incentivised” offers, where they tell students that their offer will be unconditional but only if they accept it as their first choice university.The universities watchdog has previously warned that applying “psychological pressure” or “creating an impression of urgency” in decision making could be a potential breach of consumer protection law.The OfS published a report in January that examined the impact of unconditional offers on students’ decision making. It found that applicants who accept an unconditional offer are more likely to miss their predicted A-level grades by two or more grades.Headteachers have been increasingly concerned about the impact that unconditional offers have on student motivation and achievement.They have complained that students who are awarded unconditional offers “take their foot off the gas” because they are no longer concerned about their grades.The regulator’s admissions review will be launched this autumn, and is due to be completed in 2020.Universities UK has said it is working with Ucas to review guidance on unconditional offers. “It is essential that admissions processes and policies are fair and transparent, underpinned by clear criteria and in the best interest of students,” they said. The university entrance system could be overhauled so students only apply after they have their A-level grades.The higher education watchdog, The Office for Students (OfS), is to launch a major review later this year into the university admissions system.It follows concern from ministers that universities have been engaging in “unethical” practises such as “pressure selling” unconditional offers to students. While the OfS cannot dictate how individual universities make their offers, they are able to change the structures that govern the admissions system.A review is likely to consider whether a post-qualifications admission system should be set up, where students only apply to university after receiving their A-levels.This would remove the problem of institutions handing out unconditional offers which can lead to students slacking with their school work since they have a university place guaranteed.It would also solve the solve the issue of unreliable predicted grades, where universities complain that teachers make unrealistic forecasts about what students are capable of achieving. Students celebrate their A Level results at Brighton College in East Sussex 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.
Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)RelatedWest Indies to tour Pakistan in March for T20 seriesNovember 11, 2017In “Sports”PCB wants Windies for day/night TestApril 28, 2016In “latest news”Windies could play T20 series in HoustonFebruary 12, 2018In “latest news” LAHORE, Pakistan (CMC) — The proposed historic three-match Twenty20 series between West Indies and Pakistan scheduled for later this month here, is now unlikely to come off before after March next year.A Pakistan Cricket Board official told a local media house here Monday that the series was expected to be postponed because of an issue with smog in the city and the commitment of the leading West Indies players to the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League.“The PCB and the West Indies Cricket Board had agreed that West Indies will tour Pakistan in November, but now it is unlikely to happen because of the smog and some other reasons,” a senior PCB official told Dawn News.The “other reasons” refer to the unavailability of several West Indies players as the series, scheduled for late November clashes with the BPL, which started last weekend and wraps up December 12.The likes of T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, off-spinner Sunil Narine and batsmen Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and Evin Lewis, are all playing for various franchises in the T20 tournament.Additionally, West Indies are set to embark on a two-Test tour of New Zealand later this month, followed by a three-match one-day series and a three-match T20 series which starts late December and runs until January 3.According to the PCB source, the weather issue was also a serious one, with meteorological officials unable to say when the heavy smog over the city would ease.Smog over Lahore has been at a recent all-time worst, creating visibility issues especially at night. And with the floodlights at the Gaddafi Stadium having failed once in a match during the World XI series last September, the PCB believes proceeding with the Windies series in heavy smog could prove problematic.Other media reports said Cricket West Indies and the PCB also failed to agree on dates to have the series played this year, after the proposed November 23-26 itinerary proved impractical.CWI were pushing for the itinerary to be rescheduled until December but PCB officials were said to be worried by the threat of seasonal rains during that month.The news of the postponement will be a huge blow for the PCB as they were using the proposed tour as part of their campaign to have international cricket returned to the country after a long break, due to the country’s volatile security situation.Sri Lanka last month played the final T20 of their three-match series in Lahore after the first two contests were hosted in United Arab Emirates, and the Windies tour would have represented the first full bilateral series to be played in Pakistan in eight years, since militants attacked a Sri Lankan team bus en route to the Gaddafi Stadium.CWI announced last August it was “advancing discussions” with the PCB with the view to proceeding with the series but stressed the tour would be subject to the safe conclusion of the World XI series the following month and the “affirmation of manageable security”.The three-match series was successfully staged.