With the NFL regular season rapidly approaching, the buzz around fantasy football is everywhere. On today’s show, our team looks at the strategies behind fantasy and dissects how it both reflects and distorts the game.The English Premier League has formally kicked off with familiar faces leading the pack. Reigning back-to-back champion Manchester City leads in our model. Liverpool, which fell just 1 point short of the title last season, is again slated for second place. We’ll discuss what to expect this season and which teams might shake up the top of the table.To wrap, Neil explores the Orioles’ unexpected win this weekend over the Astros and other historic baseball upsets in our Rabbit Hole of the Week.What we’re looking at this week:We still have not recovered from Simone Biles’s record-breaking, history-making, mind-blowing performance at the USA Gymnastics National Championships.If you’re looking to spice up your fantasy football league this year, here are some creative ideas from The Ringer.Make sure to read our guide to the 2019-20 English Premier League title race.Club Soccer Predictions are up!Is this the worst throw in baseball history? More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Embed Code
1981Oregon State19.84.0Round of 32 1998Princeton11.3-4.8Round of 32 2008Memphis23.14.0Final 1996Texas Tech14.40.8Sweet Sixteen 1980DePaul14.34.2Round of 32 2012Syracuse21.37.2Elite Eight 1988Temple18.22.1Elite Eight 2004Stanford17.64.4Round of 32 1991UNLV31.62.7Final Four 2014Wichita State16.71.6TBD 2005Illinois24.47.4Final 1986Bradley9.51.9Round of 32 1984North Carolina24.58.4Sweet Sixteen 2012Murray State8.3-3.5Round of 32 1996Massachusetts20.68.1Final Four 2012Kentucky24.56.9Champion 1996Kentucky31.49.2Champion 1982DePaul15.22.5Round of 32 Wichita State — with 34 wins and zero losses heading into the men’s NCAA basketball tournament — is six wins from becoming the first undefeated champion since Indiana in 1976. But apparently perfect isn’t good enough. Critics have pointed to the team’s soft schedule and argued that the next six wins will be much harder to come by than the first 34, even though the selection committee awarded the Shockers the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region.This critique of Wichita State’s achievements is unfair. The Shockers’ real problem isn’t whom they played, it’s how much they won by. The team didn’t dominate its opponents enough to make up for the weakness of its schedule relative to those of big-conference rivals.The evidence against Wichita State’s credentials goes like this: It played two-thirds of its games against fellow Missouri Valley Conference teams; the conference is the 11th strongest in Division I, according to Sports-Reference.com. The Shockers’ schedule was the 129th toughest in the nation, and the weakest among the top 32 teams in Ken Pomeroy’s rankings.Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall reasonably responded, after winning No. 34: “We’re not flawless. Our record is flawless.”Indeed, no team is flawless, but Wichita State approached that impossible standard more closely than most do. Its schedule strength was inherently limited by its conference, yet it holds up well compared to other teams with records nearly as spotless.I looked at every Division I team since 1980 that entered its conference tournaments with either one or zero losses — 25 teams in all. I used Sports Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS) to estimate each team’s strength at the end of the season, as well as the site’s strength of schedule (SOS) ratings to analyze each team’s schedule. I then subtracted from those figures each team’s performance in the NCAA tournament to get its pre-tournament ratings. The Shockers’ accomplishment looks impressive even after considering schedule strength. Six of the 25 teams had weaker schedules than Wichita State’s, but just one managed to match its undefeated feat: UNLV in 1990-91. And the Runnin’ Rebels’ schedule was just barely tougher than Wichita State’s this year, by a slender margin of 1.1 points per game.This rosy take on Wichita State doesn’t make its task any easier in the tournament. Just eight of those 25 teams reached the Final Four, and only two won the title: Kentucky in 1996 and again two years ago. Moreover, all eight Final Four teams entered the tournament with an SRS above 20; Wichita State’s is 16.7. The Shockers outscored their opponents by 15 points per game — good but not impressive enough against its schedule to look like a championship contender. Their projected Sweet Sixteen opponent, Louisville, has an SRS of 25.3 and outscored opponents on its relatively tough schedule by 21 points per game.This isn’t to say the Shockers can’t win it all. They can. But if you’re looking for a reason to doubt them, their margin of victory is a better cause than their schedule. 1987UNLV23.15.3Final Four YearTeamSRSSOSFinished 1999Duke35.19.7Final 1990La Salle13.1-2.2Round of 32 1981DePaul15.92.6Round of 32 2006George Washington9.6-1.4Round of 32 1980Alcorn State11.0-6.3Round of 32 1997Kansas27.68.0Sweet Sixteen 2004St. Joseph’s20.23.9Elite Eight
You may not remember the vault. You probably remember her face.In 2012, McKayla Maroney performed at the Olympic Games what was deemed by women’s gymnastics judges and commentators as perhaps the best-executed vault in the history of the sport. Her jaw-dropping Amanar, which includes two-and-a-half twists, came in the team portion of the competition: But in the Olympics’ event finals, when gymnasts can win individual medals on apparatuses, the then-16-year-old American landed on her behind on an easier vault. That landed her the silver medal.Maroney wasn’t impressed, but she wasn’t deterred either. She returned next season with the same tough skill and won her second world vault title.Maroney is the highest flier in a recent line of fantastic American vaulters. But before 2005, only one American woman had ever won a medal in vault at the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships: Brandy Johnson tied for silver in 1989. A decade-and-a-half later came Alicia Sacramone, who won four of the eight medals the U.S. has claimed in the event since 2005 — gold (2010), silver (2006) and bronze (2005 and 2007). And since 2009, the American women have won four world vaulting titles.There’s a good chance the medal streak will continue in 2014. Maroney is sitting out the world championships this week in Nanning, China, following knee surgery, but Simone Biles (the current U.S. and world all-around champion) and Mykayla Skinner have qualified to compete in Saturday’s vault final. Of note, Biles posted the highest qualifying score for the vault, balance beam, floor exercise and all-around.Long gone are the days of the perfect 10. In vaulting finals, gymnasts perform two vaults from two groups, and each earns two marks — one for difficulty and one for execution. The difficulty score is predetermined and higher if there are more saltos and twists. For example, the Amanar that Maroney and Biles (below) generally perform has a 6.3 difficulty value, downgraded in 2013 from a 6.5; Skinner’s Cheng is worth 6.4.The execution mark is out of 10 and considers the gymnast’s form on the vaulting table and in the air; her height and distance from the table; and how she lands (i.e. whether she “sticks” the landing). Those values sum to produce a total score for each vault. The average of the two total scores determines the gymnast’s final score.So, Americans are good at vaulting, but just how good are they at eking out the best scores for particular vaults? I used results provided by USA Gymnastics to plot the 76 vaults completed in the most prestigious vaulting event each year since 2009 (for every season except 2012, an Olympic year, that event is the world championships). As the chart below shows, U.S. gymnasts have generally received some of the best execution scores for vaults at the highest levels of difficulty. (A technical note: I plotted only the raw difficulty and execution marks prior to penalties. I omitted four vaults that received a total score of 0.00; a gymnast earns a 0.00 if, for instance, she fails to land on her feet first, or touches the springboard or table without completing the vault.)The two outliers in the bottom right corner belong to Yamilet Peña Abreu of the Dominican Republic, who lacked in execution while performing the demanding Produnova at the London Games and the 2013 world championship. (At the 2011 world championships, she landed on her back and earned a 0.00.) Last year, the vault — a front handspring onto the table followed by two front somersaults — was downgraded by 0.1, to a difficulty score of 7.0. Peña Abreu was the first gymnast to complete it in competition since its namesake, Elena Produnova, in 1999. Two others have landed it in competition in 2014.
Michigan stayed the course after taking an early first-place lead in the men’s swimming and diving Big Ten Championships in Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday night. Ohio State finished second in the four-day event with 552.5 team points, 186 points behind the leader. Indiana and Minnesota tallied 549 and 403, respectively. The Buckeyes were led by title-winners junior Jason Schnur, in the 50 and 100 freestyles, and senior Andrew Elliott, in the 200 backstroke. Schnur and Elliott broke school records in the preliminaries Saturday morning. The 200 breaststroke was dominated by Indiana’s sophomore Cody Miller with a 1:54.07 swim. Miller broke his own record which gave him the title last year. Freshman Chris Cowley was the only Buckeye to score points in that event, placing 16th. OSU sophomores Shane Miszkiel and Christian Holstein took first and second place, respectively, in the one-meter dive Friday night. Miszkiel’s dive marked his first Big Ten title. Michigan took the 400 individual medley, 100 butterfly and 200 freestyle to expand its lead on OSU. The 200 freestyle relay team also posted a record-breaking time of 1:17.70 Thursday with performances from Schnur, senior Lincoln Fahrbach, junior Zach Holmes and junior Zach Birnbrich. Although the OSU relay team’s performance was enough to land in the school’s history books, Iowa placed first in the event, edging the Buckeyes by .09 seconds. Sophomore Alex Miller and senior Brent Hitchcock placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the 500 freestyle competition, while junior Luke Stirton finished ninth with a time of 4:20.63. In the opening day of competition, the Buckeyes swam into third in the 200 medley relay behind Michigan and Penn State. OSU and Michigan were separated by .04 seconds. OSU improved from its third place performance last season. In 2010, they claimed the Big Ten title for the first time since 1956. The Buckeyes return to the pool Sunday in the Last Ditch NCAA Qualifier at the McCorkle Aquatic Pavilion. The meet will give participating athletes a final opportunity to qualify for the 2012 NCAA Championships held March 22-24 in Seattle, Wash.
OSU coach Thad Matta signals to the official that a foul should have been called in a game against Purdue on Jan. 5 at the Schottenstein Center. Courtesy of Tino BovenziThe speculation on Ohio State men’s basketball coach Thad Matta’s job safety has been rampant for much of the past two seasons, only amplified with this season’s 17-14 record and 11th-place finish in the Big Ten.The Department of Athletics has offered no clarity amid the speculation, until Wednesday.Ohio State Athletics Director and Senior Vice President Gene Smith cleared the air in an official statement, voicing his confidence in Matta’s ability to return the program to national prominence.“While we are not currently where we aspire to be with our performance on the court, Thad understands better than anyone that component has to improve,” Smith said in a statement. “I am confident in his leadership to return the program to the winning ways that we have all enjoyed during his 13-year tenure.”Smith’s statement comes after Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports reported Monday night that Matta would return to the program despite concerns about the coach’s health. Matta fielded questions on Tuesday about the report, his general well-being and the university’s lack of public support for him.Matta said that he didn’t care whether the athletic department publically supported him or not, but affirmed that his health would not affect him enough to step down from his his post.In the statement, Smith said that he and Matta had a discussion about the future of the program, and Smith mentioned Matta’s 337-122 all-time record, five Big Ten titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances as reasons to retain Matta as head coach.Earlier this season, Matta said that his travel for recruiting is indicative of his commitment to the future of the program. The Buckeyes currently have two players signed for the 2017 recruiting class, and three verbally committed in the 2018 class.Matta’s current contract runs through the 2018-19 season.
Disgraced Radio 1 DJ Chris Denning has pleaded guilty to 21 historical child sex offences as part of a police investigation into a youth disco.The prolific paedophile, 75, admitted abusing 11 children, some as young as eight, between 1969 and 1986.He pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court in London to 21 sexual offences, including indecent assault of men and boys and inciting boys under 16 and 14 to commit acts of gross indecency.He denied another three counts of indecent assault.The offences relate to an investigation by Surrey Police, named Operation Ravine, into alleged sexual offences connected to the Walton Hop Disco, a teenage disco which ran from 1958 until 2001.Denning, one of the founding presenters on the flagship station, appeared in the dock on Monday wearing a faded red T-shirt and tracksuit bottoms.He donned a pair of glasses and followed a written copy of the charges as they were read to him in full.He is due to be sentenced at the same court on October 6 by Judge Alistair McCreath.Denning, from London, has a string of previous convictions for abusing young boys.He is currently serving a 13-year jail sentence for a catalogue of sexual assaults against 24 victims, including one allegedly at Jimmy Savile’s house, from the 1960s to 1980s.Judge Peter Testar said: “Judge McCreath sentenced this defendant in November 2014. It must make sense, Judge McCreath having passed that sentence, for him to sentence this man for these offences because the question which must arise is the relationship between any sentence passed today and any sentence passed then.”The three charges he pleaded not guilty to were ordered to lie on the file.Prosecutor Jonathan Polnay said: “He has a very long record of offences against young boys. Given the very long indictment he has pleaded guilty to, we take the view that these counts would not make a difference to sentence.” 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.
But earlier this month the entire team of ten litter wardens were suspended while chiefs at Maidstone Borough Council conducted a “review” of the contract with Kingdom Security.A spokesman for the council confirmed the review was “in part” due to the improper fine for feeding ducks.Alison Broom, chief executive of the council, said: “”It was decided at an operational level that the litter enforcement service would be reassessed with the aim of ensuring that Kingdom Security is providing the best response to our priority of providing a clean and safe environment.”In July this year, two men were threatened with fines for “dropping cigarette butts” in the Detling area of Maidstone as they put up a church fence.The men said they had put their cigarette butts in their wheelbarrows and the warden decided against the fine. But footage of the incident was uploaded onto Facebook and viewed nearly 300,000 times.According to the council nobody has lost their jobs as a result of the review and that the jobs have merely been ‘on hold’ since September 16 while the review takes place.Local Richard Brand, 43, said: “I thought I hadn’t seen these litter wardens hanging around for the last couple of weeks.”They usually wander around Maidstone town centre and pounce on anyone – I saw one of them speak to an old lady who accidentally dropped a receipt as she came out of a shop.”Three people went over to speak to the warden and he didn’t issue the fine in the end – but they are like vultures most of the time.” Over-zealous litter wardens have been suspended by a local council after a woman was given an £80 fine for feeding the ducks.The unnamed woman was handed the on-the-spot penalty after she was caught throwing breadcrumbs near the River Loose, in Maidstone, Kent.The warden insisted he “couldn’t see any ducks” and fined her for littering.Following an appeal in front of Maidstone Borough Council, the fine was cancelled and the town’s entire litter patrol taken off the streets for retraining.The council has used a team of litter wardens from private firm Kingdom Security since 2011, during which the group has issued more than 20,000 tickets. Since September 2015, the litter wardens have handed out 2,116 penalties worth just under £170,000 – half of which goes to the council and the remaining funds paid to Kingdom Security. In July this year, two men were threatened with fines for “dropping cigarette butts”Credit:Friends of Richmond Park/ SWNS Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
The band’s car plummeted 25 metres into the water below the bridge in SodertaljeCredit:JOHAN NILSSON/AFP/Getty Four band members of Viola Beach “living the dream” on tour abroad were killed when the manager drove their car through two crash barriers into a raised bridge before plunging into a canal below, an inquest heard.Craig Tarry, 32, was behind the wheel of the hired Nissan Qashqai taking the band back to their hotel after playing at a festival for upcoming bands near Stockholm, Sweden, last February.The four-piece Warrington-based band of Kris Leonard, 19, River Reeves, 19, Tomas Lowe, 27, and Jack Dakin, 19, had flown out from Manchester the night before and were “very much in the ascendancy” with foreign tours planned.But the inquest into their deaths at Cheshire Coroner’s Court in Warrington heard all five died around 2am on February 16 earlier this year following the crash. What the post-mortem reports showedPost-mortem reports by medics in Sweden, read to the courtroom which was packed with family members of the band, revealed all died from head injuries apart from Mr Lowe whose cause of death was given as drowning.There were no drugs or alcohol found in Mr Tarry, and no drugs and only small amounts of alcohol found in the band members.Coroner records verdict after day-long inquestCoroner Nicholas Rheinberg, recorded all five died as a result of a road traffic accident, at the end of a day-long inquest, which was attended by more than 20 family members of the deceased men.He added: “It’s not for me to speculate, it is now known, I don’t think it ever will be known what happened.”Addressing the families he added: “The events we have been hearing about reveal the most awful tragedy for all of you. I’m very sorry you have suffered this terrible loss.”Band’s posthumous debut album topped chartViola Beach, who had featured on BBC Introducing, which showcases up-and-coming music artists, described themselves as an “indie pop” band.Their debut album was released after their deaths and their debut song Swings & Waterslides entered the official singles chart and topped the iTunes chart as tributes poured in from the music world. Technical examination showed there was nothing wrong with the car, or the signalling or barrier system or the procedure for raising the bridge, and the road was wet but not frozen with ice.The alarm was raised when police were informed of car parts and damaged barriers on the road – then realised a car had gone into the canal.Crash happened after gig that ‘went down very well’Two officers from Cheshire Police went to the scene of the crash on the E4 motorway at Sodertalje, outside Stockholm, to liaise with the Swedish authorities.The band were making the 125-mile (200km) journey from the Where’s The Music? festival in Norrkoping back to the airport hotel were they were staying.Graham Bennett, the band’s agent, said the group had been on stage at 9.45pm on the Friday night to perform.”It went down very well, very high level of promoters in the room, who were all enthusiastic,” Mr Bennett said.He left at midnight, as the band set off, with Mr Tarry in the driver’s seat. Viola Beach band members pictured in Norrkoping, Sweden, hours before they were killed Credit:jholsson/Twitter As the car drove down a motorway, flashing yellow lights and signals warned a bridge ahead over a ship canal was about to be raised, with the middle section of the road lifted horizontally, the inquest heard.Mr Tarry drove down a verge past stationary queuing traffic and through the first set of barriers around 120 metres from the bridge, the court heard.It then drove in a “controlled manner” at between 70 and 90kmh down the centre of the road, with the white lines going under the vehicle. The court heard it then went through a second set of barriers, 30 metres from the drop into the canal and crashed into the raised section of the bridge before plummeting 25 metres into the water below.The impact caused “substantial deformation” of the vehicle, the court heard, with scraping and damage to the underside of the bridge section.A tanker that had requested the bridge to be lifted then passed over the crash spot and “contact” between the tanker and car could not be ruled out. Tribute to ‘boys with huge dedication to music’After the crash, a statement from the families of the band said: “We are tremendously proud of everything the boys achieved in such a short space of time.”Craig, Jack, Kris, River and Tom shared a huge passion, talent and dedication to music.” 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.
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 breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survivalDr Sheraz Markar, one of the trial researchers from Imperial College London A simple breath test could save lives by diagnosing deadly cancers early.British research shows the breathalyser is 85 per cent accurate at identifying stomach and oesophageal cancers, which between them affect 16,000 men and women a year.Both types of cancer are often diagnosed late, leading to poor survival rates.Scientists hope the new breath test will ultimately lead to cancers being spotted earlier, resulting in more effective treatment and saved lives.It is also expected to help doctors avoid unnecessary endoscopy examinations – unpleasant diagnostic procedures that require a flexible telescope to be inserted down the throat and into the stomach. The results, presented at the European Cancer Congress meeting in Amsterdam, showed that the test was both good at identifying those patients who had cancer, and unlikely to produce a false diagnosis.Over the next three years, the researchers plan to run a larger trial including patients not yet diagnosed with cancer.The team is also working on breath tests for other types of cancer, such as those affecting the bowel and pancreas.Dr Justine Alford from Cancer Research UK welcomed the findings. “The next step is to see if it can detect the disease at its earliest stages,” she said. The procedure is expensive and can be uncomfortable. Once diagnosed, around 85 per cent of sufferers die within five years. By the time symptoms appear, the disease is often in later stages.But scientists believe the new tests, which measures five different chemicals in each breath, could make it simpler to screen patients earlier.The chemicals give vital clues on whether someone has cancer or a less serious gastric condition.Dr Sheraz Markar, one of the trial researchers from Imperial College London, said: “At present the only way to diagnose oesophageal cancer or stomach cancer is with endoscopy. This method is expensive, invasive and has some risk of complications.”A breath test could be used as a non-invasive, first-line test to reduce the number of unnecessary endoscopies. In the longer term this could also mean earlier diagnosis and treatment, and better survival.”Each year in the UK around 6,682 people are diagnosed with stomach cancer and 4,576 die from the disease.There are 8,919 cases of oesophageal cancer, affecting the food pipe or gullet, with 7,790 deaths.For the new study breath samples were collected from 335 patients at three London hospitals. Of these, 163 had been diagnosed with oesophageal or stomach cancer while 172 were shown to be cancer-free after undergoing endoscopy tests.
Quiz show Mastermind has cut travel by conducting auditions online instead of in person.Mandatory green targets will apply to all the BBC’s shows, from factual and daytime to comedy, drama and entertainment as part of the broadcaster’s environmental efforts.BBC director of content Charlotte Moore said: “The BBC is an industry leader in sustainable television production, and the Albert scheme has played a large part in that.”Making the calculator mandatory is a practical way to help production teams reduce their impact on the environment and to embed sustainable production values in all our shows.”The Albert scheme to assess environmental impacts of programmes and promote sustainable working was devised by the BBC, and is managed by the Bafta Albert Consortium backed by major UK broadcasters and production companies.Calculating a show’s footprint can help identify carbon “hot spots” in the production process, and allow them to take steps to cut the impact on the environment.Shows that reduce their negative environmental impact, boost green behaviour with cast, crew and the supply chain, and promote sustainable production more widely can receive certification.The BBC’s move is backed by trade association Pact, which represents UK independent television and media companies. BBC dramas will scrap paper scripts to cut down on their carbon footprint as part of the corporation’s new energy-saving targets for shows.From April, all programming will have to calculate their environmental impact using the “Albert” carbon calculator.Shows such as Casualty have already halved the paper they use from scripts as part of their green measures, estimating they have saved the equivalent of 90 trees. 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. BBC drama CasualtyCredit:BBC Judges from a series of Dragons’ DenCredit:BBC The Casualty production team has adopted an ‘opt in’ system for paper scripts, where the cast have to actively choose to be sent paper scripts.Actors have also been encouraged to use digital scripts with people using their own tablet devices on set instead of printing additional copies. Springwatch has reduced carbon emissions by using waste vegetable oil and solar-powered generators to power their base on location at RSPB Minsmere, Suffolk.The Dragons’ Den team uses low energy lighting to keep temperatures – and the pressure on contestants – down, while BBC Breakfast has focused on reducing emissions from transport.