Spain Must Beat Chile If It Hopes to Advance in the World

I’ve arrived here in Rio de Janeiro for a few days. I know how lucky I am — especially since the match I’ll see later on Wednesday, between Spain and Chile at the Maracana stadium, might be the most important of the group stage. (For more on Wednesday’s other matches, see our Crib Notes.)ESPN’s Soccer Power Index doesn’t have much in the way of a prediction for this game — it sees a Chilean win and a Spanish win as about equally likely, with a draw also a decent possibility. But of course, the match matters greatly for Spain’s chances of advancing.Let’s follow the format we used for breaking down the United States’ chances and consider the rest of the group stage from Spain’s perspective. The nine scenarios I’ll cover detail the possible results of the two games Wednesday in Group B — before Spain kicks off with Chile, the Netherlands and Australia will have completed their match in Porto Alegre (the Netherlands is heavily favored). I’ll list what the group standings will look like at the end of the day after each result — assuming that Spain remains behind on any goal differential tiebreaker because it lost by four goals to the Netherlands earlier in the group stage. (That goal differential tiebreaker makes Spain’s path much more difficult than it otherwise would be and is a big part of why our simulations give the La Furia Roja only about a 25 percent chance of advancing.) I’ll then consider how the final two matches (between Spain and Australia, and between the Netherlands and Chile) might play out.Netherlands wins, Spain wins: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 3, Spain 3, Australia 0. Obviously, this is one result Spain would be happy with. A follow-up win against Australia would probably get Spain to the knockout stage — and there are some cases in which a draw against Australia could, too. Even two wins wouldn’t leave Spain 100 percent safe, however. If Spain beats Australia but Chile beats the Netherlands, three teams would be tied atop the group with six points, and Spain would probably have the worst goal differential.Netherlands draws, Spain wins: Netherlands 4 points, Chile 3, Spain 3, Australia 1. This is more promising for Spain as there’d then be some chance it could leapfrog the Netherlands. Spain would control its own destiny without having to worry about goal differential: Win against Australia by any margin and Spain would make it to the knockout stage. Spanish fans should be rooting for the Socceroos to grab at least one point today.Netherlands loses, Spain wins: Netherlands 3 points, Chile 3, Australia 3, Spain 3. A heck of a mess in the short run as all teams would be tied at three points. However, Spain would still control its own destiny and a win against Australia by any margin would put Spain in the knockout stage.Netherlands wins, Spain draws: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 4, Spain 1, Australia 0. Spain is very probably out. The only exception is if it beats Australia and the Netherlands beats Chile — and the margins are wide enough to swing the goal differential back in Spain’s favor.Netherlands draws, Spain draws: Netherlands 4 points, Chile 4, Australia 1, Spain 1. This scenario is extremely problematic for Spain and probably means its elimination. The best Spain could hope after these results is a tie for second, which it would probably lose on goal differential. Another problem is that even if Spain were to beat Australia, the Netherlands and Chile could guarantee their entry into the knockout stage by drawing with each other. FIFA and fans hate it, but soccer teams have a way of playing for the draw when such incentives are in place.Netherlands loses, Spain draws: Chile 4 points, Netherlands 3, Australia 3, Spain 1. Only marginally better. In this case, Spain can finish in sole possession of second place if it then beats Australia and Chile beats the Netherlands. If Spain beats Australia but the Netherlands draws or beats Chile, Spain finishes in a tie for second and is likely out based on goal differential.Netherlands wins, Spain loses: Netherlands 6 points, Chile 6, Australia 0, Spain 0. Spain is mathematically eliminated.Netherlands draws, Spain loses: Chile 6 points, Netherlands 4, Australia 1, Spain 0. Spain is mathematically eliminated.Netherlands loses, Spain loses: Chile 6 points, Netherlands 3, Australia 3, Spain 0. Spain is eliminated for all intents and purposes. It would have to beat Australia, have Chile beat the Netherlands, and then beat both the Netherlands and Australia on goal differential — not very likely.The short version: Lose to Chile on Wednesday and Spain is almost certainly out of the tournament. A draw and La Furia Roja is in grave trouble: Spain would need a win against Australia by an overwhelming margin and very probably some help on top of that. A win keeps Spain alive, but it remains vulnerable, especially if the Netherlands beats Australia (a 74 percent chance, according to our model).CORRECTION (June 18, 11:56 a.m.): A previous version of this post incorrectly listed Australia as having three points if the Netherlands beats Australia and Spain loses to Chile. In that scenario, Australia would have zero points. read more

US Open Forecast Serena Williams Has a 55 Percent Chance To Win

We’re forecasting every match of the 2016 men’s and women’s U.S. Open tournaments. See our predictions here » Less is at stake in the men’s draw, because of a series of near misses.Had Novak Djokovic won at Wimbledon, he’d be going for his sixth straight major title and trying to become the first man to sweep all four in one year since Rod Laver did it in 1969. But American Sam Querrey upset Djokovic in the third round.If Querrey’s win had sparked a great run, Americans might hope to see the first win at the U.S. Open — or any major — by an American man since Andy Roddick in 2003. But Querrey has lost more matches than he has won since that upset, and we don’t give him or any other American man even a 1 percent chance of reaching the final.If Andy Murray had won in Cincinnati a week ago, he’d be entering the Open on a 23-match winning streak, with the potential to make it 30 by winning his second major in a row. But he lost in the final to Marin Cilic.And if Roger Federer were playing the Open, we’d give him a decent shot at winning a record 18th major title and the first major title by a man 35 or older since Ken Rosewall won the Australian Open in 1972; our rating system thinks Federer is better than every active male player besides Djokovic and Murray. But Federer isn’t playing any more this year; he’s rehabbing a knee injury.1Though Federer came to New York last week to promote a new tennis event with Laver; Federer promises to play doubles with Rafael Nadal next year at the competition.There are still plenty of open questions to answer at the Open. Can Rafael Nadal win his first big event on hard courts in three years and pass Pete Sampras to rank second in career major titles? (We give him a 6 percent chance of doing so.) Will Djokovic overcome the wrist injury that caused him to skip Cincinnati and win his 13th major title, resuming his dominance of the tour? (57 percent) Will Murray win his fourth major title, tying Rosewall, Jim Courier and Guillermo Vilas on the Open-era list and giving him two in the same season for the first time? (17 percent) Can Stan Wawrinka win his third after an inconsistent start to the year? (2 percent) Can Milos Raonic become the first Canadian man to win a major in singles, or can Kei Nishikori become the first man representing an Asian country to do so? (3 percent and 7 percent) If either one does, it’d be the first big title won by a man born in 1989 or later and the first real sign of a crack in the dominance of the old guard of men’s tennis. It could happen, but our model suggests a triumph by Djokovic or Murray is almost three times more likely than a victory by anyone else.Check out our U.S. Open predictions. It took Serena Williams a year to get her 22nd major title, the one she needed to tie Steffi Graf for the most in the Open era. She got it at Wimbledon last month, after tough losses late in the previous three majors. We think Williams has a 55 percent chance to get her 23rd title much faster, at the U.S. Open in New York two months after her Wimbledon triumph.For the first time, FiveThirtyEight is forecasting a tennis tournament. (Read more about our methodology.) And it’s potentially a historic one: Williams is the favorite to win her seventh U.S. Open, which would complete her remarkable run at Graf’s record after turning 30. Williams has younger rivals, including two who beat her in Grand Slam finals this year, but we aren’t giving any of them better than a 9 percent chance at the title. Also looming: Roberta Vinci, the Italian who upset Williams in the U.S. Open semifinals last year but who has beaten only one top 10 player since then. Williams could face Vinci in the final — a round that we think Vinci has a 1 percent chance of reaching.Aiding Williams’s chances is the absence of the two women who have been the most consistent among her rivals over the past five years: Maria Sharapova, the five-time major champion who is serving a suspension for using a banned substance, and Victoria Azarenka, the two-time major champ who announced last month that she is pregnant and will resume playing after her baby is born. Sure, neither woman has beaten Williams at a major in the past 12 years, but you have to stretch to find a big threat to the dominant No. 1. Her toughest competition at this event might be her older sister, Venus, who is the No. 6 seed at age 36 and took a set off her younger sister in a quarterfinal meeting at last year’s Open. Or it could be her tricky first-round match against Ekaterina Makarova, who ousted Serena Williams from the 2012 Australian Open and has beaten top 10 players eight times at majors; we give Makarova a 6 percent chance to win the match. Williams’s other obstacle might be her right shoulder. Inflammation caused her to skip a pre-Open tournament in Cincinnati (our forecast doesn’t directly account for injuries). read more

Reid Considering Benching Vick In Hopes Of Sparking Eagles

Firing his defensive coordinator didn’t work all that well, so Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid is considering a change at quarterback in hopes of saving his team’s floundering season and his own job.The Star-Ledger is reporting that the embattled coach is “leaning towards” benching star quarterback Michael Vick in favor of rookie Nick Foles in the hopes to getting something going for the underachieving Eagles, who fell to 3-4 following a listless 30-17 decision at the hands of visiting Atlanta on Sunday.“Whatever decision Coach makes, I’ll support it,” Vick said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.Reid, who was informed by team owner Jeffrie Lurie prior to the season that he needed to go 8-8 to save his job, seems desperate to try anything at this point to salvage what was supposed to have been a promising season.His abrupt mid-season dismissal of Juan Castillo in favor of Todd Bowles didn’t do much against the Falcons to help a Philly “D” that has been plagued all season with costly mental mistakes, as well as schematic ones.Vick is clearly not exclusively the problem, although the four-time Pro Bowler and 11-year veteran has not played well this season. His propensity to turn the ball over and inconsistency in making the proper pre-snap reads have made Vick the most obvious target for frustrated fans.Reid was measured when asked about a quarterback change in his post-game comments on Sunday.“I’ll go back and look at everything,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and make decisions right now. I’m going to go back and look at it and analyze it.”But Reid’s suspect play-calling and a shaky offensive line are equally as culpable in the team’s current three-game losing skid. Changing quarterbacks is always the easiest would-be solution.The talk of a possible quarterback change has dominated the headlines in the City of Brotherly Love and nationally as well.Sports Illustrated‘s Peter King argued in his weekly Monday Morning Quarterback column that that the Eagles ought to give Vick one more week, but his SI colleague Don Banks pointed out how resigned Vick seemed to a benching following Sunday’s loss.Vick has continued to deal with turnover problems this season, though he’s taken care of the ball well in his last two outings. But that has not led to positive results.Foles, a third-round pick out of Arizona, was impressive during the preseason, but is yet to throw a regular season NFL pass.Philadelphia plays at New Orleans this Sunday.Vick sounded resigned to the fact that a change could be imminent.“Obviously, he’s thinking about making a change at the quarterback position,” he said. “The thing I do know is that I’m giving us every opportunity to win. I’m trying my hardest. Some things don’t go right when I want them to. Some things do. So if that’s the decision that (Reid) wants to make, then I support it.” read more

The 53 Best Franchise Players In The NBA

35. Greg Monroe (24.4)Monroe, the newly signed Buck, is “an offensive-minded center who can average a double-double [and] score inside and from the perimeter,” as Ohm Youngmisuk wrote. His skilled footwork in the post makes the Al Jefferson comp perfect. Still, Monroe didn’t improve his productivity between his age-22 season in 2012-13 to his age-24 season last year. He could be a WYSIWYG player: someone whose current skill set provides plenty of value to an NBA lineup, but who isn’t a great bet to develop further. 24. Eric Bledsoe (30.4)Bledsoe is a long way from being “mini LeBron,” but he has a lot going for him: strength like Kyle Lowry’s alongside the speed of Ty Lawson. What he lacks is a consistent outside shot: His .324 3-point percentage last year ranked just 69th out of 76 players who took at least 250 3-point shots. He turns 26 this season and has passed the point where he can necessarily expect rapid improvement; he might be better off mothballing his 3-pointer and concentrating on the rest of his otherwise well-rounded game. 52. Cody Zeller (20.0)CARMELO’s best guess is that Zeller will produce like a solid starter over the next handful of seasons. But remember, that’s just the mean forecast. The variance is wide because Zeller’s closest historical comparables are all over the place. Maybe he’ll develop into a star, like No. 1 comp Jack Sikma,3Yes, Jack Sikma! Check the numbers if you don’t remember how good he was. Al Horford (No. 3) or Rasheed Wallace (No. 9). Then again, maybe not — Zeller’s comp list is also littered with names like Kwame Brown, Tyrus Thomas and Stromile Swift. 16. Draymond Green (36.4)Arguably the breakout star of last season, Draymond Green is a defense-first bulldog with versatile offensive skills. A Dan Majerle comp beside a Robert Horry one? Yeah, it’s a strange pairing — but Green is an unusual player. The only caveat was that Green improved so much last year that he could be due for a pinch of reversion to the mean. Even so, CARMELO projects that he’ll produce $130 million worth of value to the Warriors over the next five seasons, a great return on his $85 million contract. 25. D’Angelo Russell (29.6)CARMELO would have taken D’Angelo Russell ahead of Towns for the No. 1 pick, however. With good size and strength to round out a nice shot and excellent passing, Russell draws comparisons to other scoring point guards/combo guards such as Derrick Rose and James Harden. Don’t expect much efficiency this year: As Baxter Holmes wrote, the rookie “will probably pile up some head-shaking turnovers” for a Lakers team with miserable discipline. But Russell has superstar upside. 39. Marc Gasol (23.3)The big Spaniard (and Conley’s fellow Grizzly) was once again one of the league’s best centers last year, and he’s definitely inherited comp Vlade Divac’s gene for great post passing. But at 31 years old, Gasol has only so many years left. Big men tend not to age as well as wings and point guards, and the Grizz should worry about a decline to Brad Miller levels of production. 44. Nikola Mirotic (21.2)Mirotic finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Wiggins, and is now a huge building block for the Bulls. The Detlef Schrempf comp is just too perfect: a tall, international forward with an excellent 3-point shot. Now all that’s left is for Mirotic to guest star on the 2040 equivalent of “Parks and Recreation.” 30. Ricky Rubio (26.5)Can Rubio, an exceptionally gifted passer and ball thief, ever develop a jump shot like comparable Jason Kidd did in his later years? CARMELO, seeing how Rubio is just 25, is optimistic, projecting him to improve his offensive efficiency to career-high levels. But if not, the shadow of his Brevin Knight comp looms over him. 13. Marcus Smart (38.2)Given how much CARMELO likes Payton, it’s not surprising that it likes Smart also. He fits a broadly similar profile: His shooting just isn’t there yet, but most of his other skills were already league-average or above last season, when he was just 20. The thing about players like these is that they can be superstars if their scoring develops (Smart’s No. 1 comp is James Harden, for instance) but reasonably valuable all-around players even if it doesn’t. 51. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (20.1)Kidd-Gilchrist, like Embiid, will miss the 2015-16 season. The injury could preclude the Hornets from what might otherwise have been a breakout season. It will also preclude Kidd-Gilchrist from gaining a year of experience he needs to round out his offensive game. So far, he has neither been adept at creating good looks for himself nor shooting the ball well when he has. Nonetheless, Kidd-Gilchrist has precocious defensive abilities and will be just 23 when he returns to competition next season. Health willing, he could develop into a Matrix-like player. 27. Jusuf Nurkic (27.2)The big Bosnian defies every outmoded stereotype of “soft” European players. Instead he has a mean streak as a bruising defender and talented young rebounder. Aside from Shawn Kemp, the top comps may not wow you, but if Nurkic’s shooting efficiency improves, the Nuggets have landed their franchise center. 43. Jared Sullinger (21.2)With a bevy of crafty post moves, the undersized Sullinger has made an old-school playing style work for him. Although he sometimes struggles to score around the basket, the development of his outside shot keeps the Celtics happy and is one of several reasons CARMELO expects the Celts to have a breakout season. The throwback comp to Lonnie Shelton is dead on, though Sullinger has to do some work to move past where Shelton was at the same age. 42. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21.2)Caldwell-Pope is young and athletic and has a silky-smooth jumper. The problem is that these skills offset weaknesses elsewhere: His shot selection, playmaking and rebounding all need work. As we wrote in our Pistons preview: A “second coming of Ray Allen (Caldwell-Pope’s sixth-closest comp) would be a bonanza, but don’t bank on it.” Still, players as young as Caldwell-Pope have lots of opportunities to defy the odds. 34. Serge Ibaka (25.0)As Royce Young observed: “Ibaka isn’t quite ‘big’ enough to help form a Thunder big three, but he’s without question integral to the team’s success.” But is there any chance Ibaka could develop into more than that: an All-Star talent alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook? Just maybe. Kevin McHale, Ibaka’s No. 1 comp, is a favorable precedent: He had his best seasons in his late 20s and early 30s as he developed more of an outside shooting stroke. Ibaka, likewise, has improved his outside shooting almost every season and shot .376 from 3-point range last year. 40. Mike Conley (22.5)The Isiah Thomas comp provides a vision of Conley at his best: a gritty, undersized point guard with a great passing instinct and solid jumper. But as Carl Bialik notes, “his defense has dropped off in recent years,” so there is reason to worry he’ll be a worse-shooting Jason Terry in his later career. 31. Klay Thompson (26.2)Thompson’s No. 31 slot on CARMELO’s list might seem disappointing; by contrast, he slots in at No. 16 in #NBARank. His scoring is superlative, of course; Thompson is not only one of the best shooters in the game but also has the size and quickness to get to the rim. However, his defense and rebounding are below average. You can be an All-Star on the basis of scoring alone, but probably not a superstar. 41. Chandler Parsons (21.8)Parsons is a lanky wing defender with an efficient outside shot. He’s a blend of Tayshaun Prince on defense and Rashard Lewis on offense — and his skill set could become even more diverse if, as Tim MacMahon writes, the Mavs have him play more point-forward. The question is whether, at age 27 this season, Parsons can develop a signature skill that transforms him from a well-rounded, above-average player into a star. 15. Blake Griffin (36.5)Griffin would have ranked higher on this list a year ago. There are a few mildly troubling signs in his stats, particularly a decline in his rebound rate last season. Furthermore, a number of his comparables (such as Terry Cummings and Derrick Coleman) had fairly early career peaks. But let’s not get carried away. Although his fame may stem from his ferocious dunks, Griffin has evolved into a great all-around player whom every NBA team would love to have. He’s increasingly stretching opposing defenses with his outside shot, and he’s an underrated passer and defender. 36. Danny Green (24.3)Green already has overshot low expectations since he was chosen with the 46th pick in 2009. Green is a 3-point threat — comps to Brent Barry and Dan Majerle show that. But he’s also a great wing defender, like Bryon Russell. The only catch is that players who overachieve as much as Green don’t necessarily have much room to get better as they enter their late 20s. CARMELO gives Green only about a 15 percent chance of bettering his career-high 9.2 WAR from last season. 4. LeBron James (59.9)LeBron is a multipositional freak of nature, as his Larry Bird-Magic Johnson-Charles Barkley comps demonstrate. (What about Michael Jordan? He’d rank high on LeBron’s list too if he hadn’t spent his age-30 season playing minor league baseball.) Even on the downward slope of his career, the King is still the King and projects to have several good years left. We know that some of you will object to any list that doesn’t have LeBron at No. 1, but consider the following: The only other 31-or-older player to make our long-term value list is Marc Gasol, and LeBron projects to have almost as much career value remaining as three Gasols put together. 48. Jahlil Okafor (20.7)Okafor is a great prospect, though possibly also a guy who will look better in the box score than on the court. His lack of elite athleticism and sketchy defensive potential could make him something like Kevin Love without the outside shooting (hence the comp to bust Derrick Williams). But he’s also a great rebounder with nifty post moves, a classic combination for any aspiring big man. And if he does develop like top comp Derrick Favors on defense, the sky could be the limit. 11. Kyrie Irving (40.6)The upside is obvious: Irving has the killer first step and tight handle of Stephon Marbury. And while he’s not an all-time great passer like Isiah Thomas, he’s every bit as good a shooter. Plus, he’s just 23 years old this season. Advanced stats still don’t like his defense, however, and while Irving became a much more efficient offensive player last season, there’s some question about how much of that can be attributed to playing with LeBron and Love. Still, we have to give Kyrie the benefit of our doubt. More than a year ago, back in our unenlightened, pre-CARMELO days, we wrote that Irving probably wasn’t worth his $90 million extension. Now it looks like a good deal for the Cavs. 50. Victor Oladipo (20.3)Although CARMELO loves the other young Magic point guard (Elfrid Payton) even more, Oladipo’s projection isn’t too shabby. But of course, there’s still some uncertainty about what Oladipo can become: “His first two seasons have been so hard to get a bead on that you can peg him for just about any future you want,” we wrote. Whether Oladipo turns into Ray Allen or Ben Gordon will depend largely on whether he can develop a more consistent shooting stroke. 21. Kevin Love (31.3)If everyone was a bit too optimistic about what the addition of Love might mean for the Cavs last season, he may be underrated now. Sure, Love had trouble integrating into Cleveland’s system last year and experienced a major decline in the number of shots he generated near the rim, which also had some knock-off effects on his other statistics (for instance, he drew fewer fouls and grabbed fewer offensive rebounds). But as was the case for Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, he may be better in his second year playing with LeBron, and he still projects to be a valuable rebounding hawk/stretch power forward. 14. Elfrid Payton (38.0)So we have bona fide stars like Jimmy Butler, Draymond Green, Blake Griffin … and then we have Elfrid Payton?!? Is this CARMELO’s version of PECOTA’s infamous Wily Mo Pena projection? Time will tell, but Payton logged almost 2,500 minutes as a 20-year-old rookie last year while flashing excellent passing and defensive skills. He can’t shoot at all yet, but one thing we’ve learned from CARMELO is that shooting skills sometimes take a few years to develop. If Payton develops some shooting touch, he could be the next Isiah Thomas; if he doesn’t, then for better or worse, he could be Ricky Rubio or Rajon Rondo. 17. Jimmy Butler (35.4)Bulls fans won’t be happy with the omission of Derrick Rose from our list (Rose ranks just 165th after three injury-filled seasons). But that’s OK: The Bulls have a new star in Jimmy Butler, an athletic wing defender with a growing arsenal of offensive moves. If Butler’s comps seem a little underwhelming, that’s partly because, consistent with the Bulls’ team-oriented philosophy, some of his contributions are subtle and unselfish. He’s outstanding at drawing fouls and avoiding turnovers, for example. 7. Kevin Durant (48.9)The 2014 MVP winner was out with injuries most of last season. But even with the typical reduction in long-term value for a player who suffers a severe injury, Durant still ranks seventh on our list. At age 27, he remains a scoring monster — a lankier Bernard King, with Ray Allen’s shot. Royce Young said it best: “Not only does he want to re-establish his rightful place among the game’s most elite, but also this could possibly, maybe, potentially be his last chance at a title in Oklahoma City.” 3. James Harden (64.8)Harden’s stats were nearly as ridiculous as Westbrook’s last season. Compared with Westbrook, however, it’s not as clear how Harden can improve. He’s already an incredibly efficient offensive player. He can’t stay much healthier, having led the NBA in minutes played last year. So Harden might have to settle for 2014-15 as his career year unless … he keeps working on his defense, which while better than past seasons still rates as league average. 29. Derrick Favors (26.6)Why are we optimistic about the Utah Jazz? Because Favors ranks among the top 30 long-term NBA players — and yet, he ranks only third on the list among members of the Jazz frontcourt. Coming off his best year yet, Favors is, as Ian Levy writes, “already one of the better defensive bigs in the game,” with an improving offensive skill set. The Jazz hope he blossoms into the next Reignman. 47. Nicolas Batum (20.7)Batum’s shooting regressed last season in Portland, but the newly signed Hornet still provides stellar perimeter defense. Hence the two types of comps: shooters such as Robert Horry and Dorell Wright, and defenders such as Tayshaun Prince. Players who combine both of those elements — i.e., the 3-and-D player — are all the rage in today’s NBA, but unlike many of his peers in that category, Batum also adds a playmaking dimension to his team’s offense. 45. Paul George (21.0)George’s future was in jeopardy after he suffered a catastrophic leg injury in the summer of 2014. So his playing at all last season (he came off the bench in six games late in the year) was a moral victory. There’s some further good news: Seriously injured NBA players like George have a better track record of recovery than their counterparts in other sports. Nonetheless, the Clark Kellogg comp is scary; a fellow Pacer, he started his career with great promise, only to be rendered a shell of his former self after a series of knee injuries. 23. Rudy Gobert (30.7)The second member of the Jazz frontcourt to make the top 30, Gobert went from an afterthought in his rookie season to a guy who leads his draft class in WAR. Ian Levy summed up the Stifle Tower nicely: “an elite rebounder and shot-blocker and an efficient finisher around the rim.” He also lacks much in the way of a jump shot, having shot under 22 percent last season on shots more than 3 feet from the basket. But if Gobert proves to be the next DeAndre Jordan or Tyson Chandler, Jazz fans won’t have much basis to complain. 2. Stephen Curry (65.4)Shocker: The 27-year-old reigning MVP has a bright future. An ultra-efficient shooter and a high-usage passing talent, Curry is a legitimate fusion of Ray Allen and Chris Paul — and is one of the few players to draw Michael Jordan as a top five comparable. But let’s pose the same question that we did for Westbrook and Harden: What might Curry do to become even better? The answer is probably to shoot a bit more. His usage rate is a couple of ticks behind Harden’s and well behind Westbrook’s and Jordan’s. 53. Joel Embiid (Upside WAR projection through 2020-21: 19.9)Embiid sneaks onto our list at No. 53. (Where would he rank if he hadn’t been hurt for the past two seasons? A lot higher — probably about where Karl-Anthony Towns does at No. 26.) CARMELO still harbors dreams about how Embiid’s shot-blocking could make him the next Joakim Noah. But given Embiid’s injury history, the Greg Oden comp looks increasingly scary. 20. Bradley Beal (31.5)Beal, the Wiz’s 22-year-old shooting guard, doesn’t have any stunning comps among his top five. But look down to No. 10 and you’ll find … Kobe Bryant. Guys who log so much playing time at such a young age can sometimes see radical improvements in their shooting efficiency, and if that happens, Beal will be an All-Star-caliber player. Below is a sortable table for all 572 players in our database, as of Oct. 27. 33. Jrue Holiday (25.0)Holiday has loads of talent and even made an All-Star team a few years back, but injuries have plagued his development. They’ve also concealed improvement in Holiday’s efficiency, however. When he played last season, Holiday shot the ball better and turned it over less often than during his All-Star campaign in 2012-13. The Pelicans will limit Holiday’s playing time at the start of the season, perhaps recognizing that all that may stand between Holiday and a breakout is being healthy enough to play in 82 games. 22. Gordon Hayward (31.2)The third jewel in the Jazz’s frontcourt crown, Hayward has come an awfully long way for a guy who — we mean this as a compliment — once came across as a bit of a nerd. The question is not whether he’s a legit NBA player (Hayward was already playing at a borderline All-Star level last season), but which path his future might take. His comparables include a mix of versatile, jack-of-all-trades players such as Andre Iguodala and hard-edged scorers such as Chris Mullin. The Mullin comp is particularly interesting given that Mullin (like Hayward) struggled with 3-point shooting consistency early in his career. 9. DeMarcus Cousins (42.6)Speaking of high upside: Wow. Hakeem, Garnett, Duncan — those are some awfully exciting comps for Cousins. We even have a Shaquille O’Neal sighting on Boogie’s list (Shaq, who rarely appears as a CARMELO comparable because he was such an outlier, is Cousins’s No. 10 comp). But Cousins has never quite gelled into a superstar, as factors ranging from injuries to his frustration with Kings management have gotten in the way of his success. He can’t rest on his laurels because so far he’s just an average finisher around the rim, where he’ll need to improve before the Hakeem and Shaq comparisons bear out. 28. Andre Drummond (26.7)Drummond is a “100th-percentile rebounder and elite rim protector,” as we wrote in our Pistons preview. That’s nice, but it can also be a recipe for being too one-dimensional, and Drummond’s dreadful free-throw shooting limits his value on the offensive end. At age 22, he has reasonable odds of making a leap forward at some point, but he’s an oddball player with comps ranging from Andris Biedrins to Moses Malone. 18. DeAndre Jordan (35.1)You know what you’re getting here. Jordan’s skills are either elite (rebounding, shot-blocking) or cringe-worthy (shooting, passing). But as we wrote in our Clippers preview, “dunk-and-defense” guys like Jordan, Dale Davis and Tyson Chandler can be cogs in championship-caliber teams. 12. Damian Lillard (40.5)Lillard is now the face of the franchise in Portland. Although he has the complete package on offense as a high-volume, efficient scorer and excellent passer, he’s a middling defender. Since high-usage point guards like Lillard want the ball in their hands as much as possible, the question is whether they’re good enough that you can build a championship-caliber roster around them. The results in Lillard’s case are mixed on that question, according to CARMELO. Lillard draws Steph Curry as a comp, but also Steve Francis and Gilbert Arenas. 19. Giannis Antetokounmpo (34.2)The sky’s the limit for the Greek Freak. Antetokounmpo has an unusually well-rounded skill set for someone who’s about to turn 21 years old, including certain skills (he’s already a good defender and excellent at drawing fouls) that are usually associated with more mature players. He’s still working out what sort of player he wants to be on the offensive end — he dramatically cut down on his 3-point shot last year (but, oddly enough, took a lot of long twos). All of this leads to an eclectic set of comparables that includes superstars like Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGrady — along with busts like Darius Miles and Marvin Williams. 32. Khris Middleton (25.3)Middleton is a Swiss army knife. As Ohm Youngmisuk writes, Middleton’s comps indicate that his game is old-school: “Middleton may not be flashy, but he plays hard, and his throwback game is a nice complement to his flashier and younger teammates.” He has one decidedly new-school skill, however: Middleton is a career .403 shooter from 3-point range. There’s a universe where Middleton develops into Peja Stojakovic (his No. 10 comparable) but with much better defense. 10. John Wall (41.1)We wrote about Wall extensively in our introduction to CARMELO. Coming off his best season ever, and second All-Star nod, he’s entering what should be his peak. But the variance on his projection is high, with outcomes ranging from future MVP to overrated ball-hog. 26. Karl-Anthony Towns (27.4)As we pointed out in our Timberwolves preview, Karl-Anthony Towns has some discouraging comps. If the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft flames out like Anthony Bennett or Greg Oden, that’s a disaster for Minnesota. But CARMELO projections are based on dozens or hundreds of comparables for each player and not just two — and there are plenty of more optimistic names (such as Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins) farther down Towns’s list. 37. Kyle Lowry (24.0)Lowry is a stout and tough point guard, so his comps to Rod Strickland and John Starks are spot on — and both players aged relatively gracefully. But if he can expect a gentle decline, a breakout season is probably not in the cards. “Many of the guards CARMELO sees as most similar to Lowry had already peaked by his age,” Carl Bialik noticed. In other words, at 29 years old, Lowry’s probably not getting any better. NBA player rankings, from ESPN’s #NBARank to Bill Simmons’s annual trade value column, are like the honey butter chips of sportswriting: just way too hard to resist. So — with the regular season starting today — here’s our special recipe, fueled by CARMELO, our new NBA player projection system.What makes our version a little different is that we’re focused on the long term and not just this season. Specifically, we’ve projected the next six seasons of wins above replacement (WAR) for all 572 players in our database. Then we added the cumulative WAR totals over six seasons, with a slight tweak to reflect upside potential.1In calculating this version of our ratings, comparable players who project to have a negative WAR are zeroed out instead. The thinking here is that, while some players are projected to have negative WAR totals, it’s hard for a player like Zach LaVine to have negative long-term value when his teams could always bench him if he’s not playing well. This has little effect on players in the top 53, however. You can check out all the rankings in the sortable table (way, way down) below, but we also wanted to count down the top 50 players — well, make that the top 53 players2Why 53? Because, ya know, it’s in our name. — first.Two things we can’t stress enough: First, these ratings are purely statistical; there’s no manual tweaking involved. And second, focusing on the long term makes a lot of difference. Tim Duncan doesn’t appear in the top 53, but Jusuf Nurkic does.A few more notes: Player ages are as of Feb. 1, 2016. And because we’re trying to forecast what the NBA will look like a few years out, these WAR projections do not account for injuries or minutes limitations — with the exceptions of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Joel Embiid, who are out for the season and whose WAR figures we’ve zeroed for this year. These upside WAR totals will not necessarily match the raw six-year WAR totals in the player cards. 6. Kawhi Leonard (53)We might call Leonard a sleeper — except that the rest of the basketball analysis community has woken up to his talents as the best lock-down wing in the game. Leonard won the Defensive Player of the Year award last season, and ESPN’s #NBARank list places him among the top 10 overall players in the game. Leonard’s offensive game has also developed, and, as Michael Wright notes, he could see fewer double-teams with LaMarcus Aldridge on the Spurs’ roster, leading to even better production. All of this is why Leonard is one of just eight players CARMELO labels as MVP candidates. 5. Russell Westbrook (54.9)What is there to say? Westbrook averaged a triple-double per 100 possessions last season. And yet CARMELO gives him about a 40 percent chance of being even more valuable this year. His path to achieving that is obvious enough: by improving on his wildly entertaining (but often just plain wild) shot selection, which can sometimes overshadow the ridiculous box-score stats. 46. Andrew Wiggins (20.8)Wiggins’s top CARMELO comp is … well, Carmelo (Anthony). As we wrote, the NBA’s reigning Rookie of the Year could be “very good, but between mediocre defense and average efficiency, not quite as good as his box-score stats suggest.” Wiggins’s upside and versatility are apparent in his comp list, though — witness the presence of Derrick Rose (No. 5) and Chris Bosh (No. 8), two stylistically different players who were bona fide superstars at their peaks. 49. Paul Millsap (20.6)Last year Millsap had a banner season, making his second All-Star team. It came because of all-around excellence: Millsap is a solid defender, like top comp Gerald Wallace, and well-rounded on offense (even if the Julius Erving parallel is a bit much). But as we’ve pointed out, Millsap is projected to regress a lot this season; more often than not, a career-best season at age 29 proves to be a career year. 38. Nerlens Noel (23.9)Noel’s defense was a bright spot among the garbage heap that was the Sixers. As Ian Levy wrote, Noel ranked “among the top 5 percent of all players in steal rate, block rate and overall defensive plus-minus.” That’s awfully impressive for a guy who was just 20 years old. But with no discernable offensive skills — his 49 percent true shooting percentage was abominable for a guy who spends so much time around the rim — he gets stuck with a Stromile Swift comp along with more optimistic options like Nene. 1. Anthony Davis (73.8)The Brow combines Kevin Garnett’s ferociousness in rebounding and on defense with the stretch shooting ability of Chris Bosh. But even those names might understate his upside: There’s never been a player quite like him. (Garnett and Bosh, Davis’s top comparables, have just medium-high similarity scores when compared with him.) In other words, Davis will be terrorizing teams on both ends of the court for the foreseeable future: We’re just not quite sure how. The one thing to watch out for is injuries, which shorten big men’s careers more often than those of guards. 8. Chris Paul (46.3)Paul is one of just two players in his 30s to make the top 10 (you’ll have no trouble guessing the other). The precedents are reasonably favorable here: Point guards tend to age well compared with players at other positions, and well-rounded players like Paul tend to age better than one-dimensional ones. Given his reputation for postseason struggles, however, we couldn’t help but notice that none of Paul’s top five comps (Mark Price, John Stockton, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Terrell Brandon) won an NBA title in his prime.4The “in his prime” qualifier is important. Kidd won a title as a 37-year-old with the 2010-11 Dallas Mavericks, and Payton did so at the same age with the 2005-06 Miami Heat. read more

The Panthers Are Alone Atop The NFC South

How will your favorite NFL team do this year? See all of our predictions for the 2016 season » After losing the Super Bowl to the Denver Broncos, the Carolina Panthers dropped from first in Elo to third, directly behind the rival Seattle Seahawks (whom Carolina blew out 31-24 — in the most lopsided one-score game of the playoffs — en route to the big game). The Panthers had a mixed offseason, bringing back defensive end Charles Johnson but also losing All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman after rescinding his franchise tag. Even so, Elo considers Carolina to be far and away the most talented team in the NFC South, a mantle the team will likely carry throughout the season. To go with our 2016 NFL predictions, FiveThirtyEight is previewing each division.The NFL is back, and we’re booting up our Elo ratings again in preparation for the 2016 season. For those new to Elo, it’s a power rating that tries to estimate each team’s strength at any given moment, based on who it beats (or loses to) and by how much. The ratings can also be used to simulate the season thousands of times, which allows us to estimate how likely each team is to win its division or the Super Bowl and can give us a sense of which teams play the toughest schedules.One drawback to Elo is that its preseason ratings are simply each team’s number from the end of last season reverted to the mean. So to flag teams whose Elo ratings might need some mental adjustments from last year, we’re also looking at a composite ranking of three well-regarded offseason grades.1Specifically, the grades from ESPN’s Bill Barnwell, ProFootballFocus.com and an ESPN panel of experts.Here, we take a look at the NFC South, home of the defending conference champion Carolina Panthers … and some other teams. In a division that was once infamous for its turnover — no team repeated as champ in the division’s first 12 years of existence — the Panthers have a 66 percent chance of winning the South for a fourth consecutive season. The biggest question for Carolina will be whether a defense that ranked as the NFL’s second-best last season (trailing only the historically great Broncos) can continue to dominate without Norman. But last year’s breakout season from quarterback Cam Newton and the Panther offense makes Carolina a safer division choice than if the team were relying on its defense alone.Behind the Panthers, Elo considers the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints to be near-equals, although both teams are long shots to wrest the division away from Carolina. The Falcons improved to 8-8 last season, but they’ll have to contend with one of the NFL’s toughest schedules this year, with trips to Denver and Seattle among their most daunting non-division matchups. Atlanta posted a below-average Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) in each phase of the game last season; Matt Ryan will probably have to rediscover his Pro Bowl form if the Falcons hope to have their first winning season since 2012.The Saints, meanwhile, have been trending in the wrong direction, with a point differential that has fallen from +110 in 2013 to -23 in 2014 and -68 last season. They still have legendary quarterback Drew Brees (despite our editor-in-chief’s suggestion that the two break up), but even he wasn’t able to overcome what was the NFL’s worst defense and seventh-worst special teams corps last season. The quarterbacks most similar to Brees (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Warren Moon) had a decent amount of production left in the tank at Brees’s age, but after the Saints spent an offseason shoring up cap space rather than getting better on defense, it’s doubtful things will be very different in the Big Easy this season.Bringing up the rear of the South are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs were one of the youngest teams in the league last season (weighted by the Approximate Value of each player on the roster), and QB Jameis Winston had a solid rookie season from which the franchise may be able to build a foundation. The team’s offseason contained just enough positives to make for an intriguing worst-to-first sleeper pick. But Tampa Bay probably isn’t ready to contend for the division yet, particularly because the Bucs, under new coach Dirk Koetter, are facing the NFL’s fifth-most-difficult schedule.That leaves the Panthers as commanding favorites in this division. They almost certainly won’t repeat last year’s 15-1 record, but Newton and company are at the top of the NFC South class and might use that perch as a springboard for another deep playoff run.VIDEO: How one spurned Rams fan found a new team read more

Clippers game postponed by rain team set to play Mothers Day doubleheader

After the fans were able to watch the live broadcast of the Kentucky Derby on the scoreboard at Huntington Park, Saturday night’s game between the Columbus Clippers and Lehigh Valley IronPigs was unable to get out of the starting gate as thunderstorms moved in. The two teams will play a doubleheader Sunday, consisting of two seven-inning games beginning at 1:05 p.m. The second game will begin 30 minutes after the first concludes.   Saturday’s scheduled starting pitcher, left-hander David Huff (3-0, 3.19 ERA) will pitch the first game and face right-hander Eddie Bonine (2-3, 3.38 ERA).  Columbus has won 14 of its past 15 games, and is currently atop the International League West Division with a record of 22-6. read more

Ohio States Meyer moves in on Fickells dire defense

Ohio State sophomore linebacker Ryan Shazier said words couldn’t describe the Buckeyes’ defensive performance against Indiana. The appropriate descriptors came to first-year OSU coach Urban Meyer with apparent ease during his weekly press conference Monday, and he wasn’t happy. Maybe that’s why, at least for the time being, Meyer will have an increased role in the defense – he’s targeted the problem and is already working with the unit to improve its play. In light of nearly blowing an 18-point, late-game lead against the Hoosiers, Meyer, who said he’d be more involved with the defensive unit afterward, said the Buckeyes need to eliminate big plays. To help facilitate the defense’s growth, he’s already upped his involvement with the unit – Meyer said he’s met with both the players and the coaches on the defensive side of the ball. You won’t hear a whine from co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell regarding these matters, though – he said he’s happy to continue collaborating with Meyer. After allowing 481 yards of total offense and 49 points, Meyer described OSU’s problem succinctly, saying it needs to cease allowing big plays. “Pressing issues, eliminate the big play. There were 14 plays in there (against Indiana), and I actually met with the entire defense and the defensive staff in there,” Meyer said. “Instead of just complaining and whining and making noise, we have to put a plan together. That’s eliminate big plays … I’m not happy at all with what’s going on defense. That includes players, coaches and I think we can all get better.” Fickell’s defense is a porous one – OSU has allowed more points through seven games – 172 ­- than in either the past two seasons. Last year, the Buckeyes allowed 114 points to the opposition through seven games and during the team’s 2010 Sugar Bowl-championship campaign, which was later vacated, the defense allowed 112 points through seven games. With concerns about the now No. 7-ranked Buckeyes’ defense bubbling over, Fickell didn’t offer any excuses. Instead, a simple solution – make more plays, he said. “We’ve got to do a lot better job. I think the big thing is you look at – we’ve got to finish,” Fickell said. “To me, the greatest thing is, you say, ‘Hey, let’s see how we learn from this.’” From the outside looking in, it might appear that Fickell, having drawn Meyer’s ire, will now have his toes stepped on by the Buckeyes’ head coach. While it’s true that Meyer will be more involved in the defense, Fickell said, he’s always been present, adding that increased criticism from Meyer should help speed the learning process up. “(Meyer’s) come over more, but I think he’s always been involved. I think his ability to get over there and make sure, you know, motivational things and make things uncomfortable at times, but that’s how you grow,” Fickell said. “Hopefully he continues to spend a little bit more time with us. “(Co-defensive) coach (Everett) Withers and I, (cornerbacks) coach (Kerry) Coombs, (defensive line) coach (Mike) Vrabel – we all do things together, same way we’ve done in the past … It’s a collaborative issue and it’s not about any one person. That’s what we ask our kids to do and that’s what we ask our coaches to be like.” Meyer’s arrival in the defense’s meeting room comes just in time, too. Players, such as Shazier, say they’re distraught about the team’s play. “The defense, we’re really, really mad right now … We discussed how we played (against Indiana) and we had a horrible game,” Shazier said. “I’m not saying anything bad about Indiana, but we shouldn’t have gone out like that. We gave up too many yards, too many points.” The pieces, Meyer said, are already in place to turn the defense’s performance around. “We’ve got good coaches, good players and we’ll move forward and get better,” he said. OSU is scheduled to continue Big Ten play Saturday against Purdue University at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for noon. read more

Opinion Troubles in Brazil could pose problem for World Cup

Demonstrators participate in a protest against the rising public transportation prices, and the Brazilian government’s lavish spending for the FIFA Confederations Cup and World Cup soccer events June 19 in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.Courtesy of MCTWhile most of the world is invested in the Winter Olympics, there are those of us that are counting down the days until June 12.That day marks the beginning of the greatest single event in sports: the World Cup.Brazil is hosting this year’s tournament, and the excitement has been building for four years since Spain claimed its first World Cup title in 2010.The questions from pundits are wide-ranging, to say the least. Can the Spaniards repeat? Will Brazil claim its record sixth title, this time on home soil? Will it be Argentina’s Lionel Messi or Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo who will solidify their claim at being the world’s best player by leading their team to glory on the sport’s biggest stage?When one pictures a Brazilian World Cup, images of Pelé, Garrincha, Zico and Ronaldinho come to mind. A truly beautiful version of the beautiful game.But while happiness and excitement run rampant, if you peel back the layers,  you will find a much darker scene.As the clock ticks down until Brazil take on Croatia in Sao Paulo June 12, there are still issues in Brazil.Five of the 12 host sites for matches at the World Cup were intended to be finished by the end of 2013 but were still under construction as of last Saturday according to a report by The Guardian.The worst of these was the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba, which until Tuesday was under threat of losing its right to host to another city if it did not pass a FIFA inspection.Although the city passed, the idea that this puts on display is a scary one: if Brazil can’t have these stadiums ready by its initial deadline, what faith can we have that it will be ready for the actual tournament?According to the same report by The Guardian, there have also been six worker deaths in the construction and renovation of these stadiums.Protests have also been a big problem in the lead up to the World Cup.Periodically throughout the summer of 2013 and stretching into this year, the youth of Brazil have poured into the streets to protest the money that’s being poured into the World Cup despite a failing economy, which pales in comparison to the violent deaths directly related to Brazilian football that have occurred in the past year.The situation right now seems like a powder keg, and that one little spark could cause the whole thing to blow.Will the tournament go on, even with the chaos in the streets and the questionable safety of the stadiums? Yes. But the likelihood that it will go off without a hitch decreases by the day.For an event so romanticized by soccer faithful — myself included — this is a frightening precedent that is being set. If a country thought to be so ingrained in soccer, particularly on the national level, is struggling like this, what will it be like for those less culturally impassioned by the sport (Qatar 2022 comes to mind).Will I still tune in to every match I can, voraciously cheering on the U.S. Men’s National Team as they attempt to escape their so-called Group of Death and advance? Of course I will.But some part of me will be on the edge of my seat for a different reason. I will be waiting and wondering if and when the next negative thing will happen, and what could happen to the legacy of the greatest sporting event in the world. read more

Ohio States JT Barrett named Big Ten Freshman of the Year

Despite being out for the remainder of the season with a fractured ankle, redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was named the Big Ten Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year on Tuesday.Barrett picked up the award a day after he was named first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media, and received the conference’s Quarterback of the Year award.The Wichita Falls, Texas, native started all 12 games during the regular season for OSU and set school records for total touchdowns in a season, passing touchdowns in a season and total yards in a season. He also broke the Big Ten record for total touchdowns, compiling 34 touchdown passes and 11 scores on the ground.Barrett added two single-game program records during the Buckeyes’ win over Minnesota when he had a quarterback record 86-yard touchdown run and a quarterback single-game high 189 rushing yards.The Rider High School product totaled 2,834 passing yards and threw 10 interceptions this season. He added 938 rushing yards to go with his 45 total touchdowns.Barrett also picked up weekly awards regularly throughout the season as he was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week a record seven times and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week three times.In addition to being named the the conference’s quarterback of the season, Barrett was also named the Big Ten’s Hardest Working Player of the Year on Monday.Barrett is the eight Buckeye to be named the Big Ten’s top freshman, and the third OSU quarterback to garner the honor in the past seven years. Senior quarterback Braxton Miller — who Barrett replaced after Miller was lost for the season when he tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder during fall camp — won the award in 2011.With Barrett injured, OSU is expected to turn to redshirt-sophomore quarterback Cardale Jones for the remainder of the season.The Buckeyes are scheduled to play Wisconsin on Saturday in the Big Ten Championship Game. Kickoff is set for 8:17 p.m. at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. read more

Ohio State retail jerseys will be limited to a pair of numbers

A rack of OSU jerseys is seen at Barnes & Noble at 1598 N. High St. For the 2015 season, stores such as Barnes and Noble will now only be allowed to sell Nos. 1 and 15 jerseys. Credit: Giustino Bovenzi / Lantern reporterFans looking to purchase new Ohio State football jerseys for the upcoming season will have two jersey options to choose from at Nike apparel-approved retailers: No. 1 and No. 15. Rick Van Brimmer, assistant vice president for Affinity Trademark Management, said that it is merely a coincidence that two team standouts in redshirt senior quarterback/H-back Braxton Miller (1) and junior running back Ezekiel Elliott (15) sport the two number choices that are represented.According to Van Brimmer, the decision to make those two numbers available to fans is because annually No. 1 is the most popular jersey number and No. 15 represents the upcoming 2015 football season.Van Brimmer said the decision came about after an internal meeting from peer institutions.“Given the current climate around use of players’ names and likeness, this seemed to fit philosophically with where we want to be,” Van Brimmer said. “Fans can still get any number they choose through our custom jersey program at the stadium and online at our official team shop, as long as they include their (own) name on the jersey.”Carter Marsch, a second-year in communication, said he approves of the decision to represent the year and the potential national championship awaiting the team at the end of the season, but he also realizes the problem with teams using players’ jersey numbers for profit.“There’s always been problems with representing students and making money off of them, and what the football team can bring in, compared to what the students make,” Marsch said. “I think that this is a good way to kind of cancel that out, almost.”Van Brimmer said some stores may have carryover stock from last year still available for a limited time.Kathy Smith, general manager at the Barnes & Noble in the South Campus Gateway, said her store was already clearing out last year’s inventory before the announcement came out.Smith said her store still has some of last year’s No. 5 jerseys — the number formerly worn by Miller — on clearance right now.“If (customers) are looking for any other numbers besides 1 and 15, then they can come in and look at what we have on clearance,” Smith said.Smith mentioned that a rivalry game jersey will be made available later this year as well, but she could not provide the details on those yet, as they have not been officially released.The new OSU jerseys are available in two styles, game and limited, and range from $90 to $135 on the Nike website. read more

Fencing Fresh off title MarcAntoine Blais Belanger turns focus to Olympics

Ohio State senior epeeist Marc-Antoine Blais Belanger is hoisted up by his teammates after winning the 2018 NCAA Fencing Championships on March 25 in State College, Pennsylvania. Credit: Ohio State AthleticsTwo years ago, the biggest opportunity of Ohio State fencer Marc-Antoine Blais Belanger’s career was met with disappointment. After reaching the men’s epee finals in the 2016 NCAA Fencing Championships, Blais Belanger fell just short of the title, losing to Jake Hoyle, the top seed from Columbia.On March 25 in State College, Pennsylvania, Blais Belanger once again found himself one victory away from becoming the NCAA men’s epee champion. In the waning moments of overtime, with the hard-fought title bout against Sean White of St. John’s nearing its conclusion, Blais Belanger trailed 14-13. It looked like history was doomed to repeat itself.Then, in the final bout of his career, Blais Belanger turned the tide.With the clock winding down, Blais Belanger scored a touch on White to tie the score. Moments later, Belanger scored the touch with three seconds remaining that clinched his 15-14 victory.Disappointment turned to triumph.“Two years ago I came so close,” Blais Belanger said. ”If I wouldn’t have won [this time] it would have been really hard to swallow.”Blais Belanger’s four-year Ohio State career reached a redemptive conclusion, but he does not plan on letting his fencing career come to an end. With a successful and memorable college tenure now behind him, Blais Belanger has turned his attention to the sport’s greatest competition: the Olympics.Although Blais Belanger’s NCAA eligibility has expired, he plans to remain at Ohio State for one more year to complete his degree in mechanical engineering. He will still spend countless hours honing his skills in the Steelwood Athletic Training Facility to prepare for the final push to qualify and represent Canada in the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.“[To qualify] you have to do almost every international competition and try to bank up on international points,” Blais Belanger said. “You have to be amongst the [best] in the Americas.”But Blais Belanger believes his collegiate career, during which he has competed at the NCAA championships all four years, has prepared him for the challenge of qualifying for and competing in the Olympics.“There’s so much pressure [in NCAA competition] because everyone’s [trying to] go out and be the best for their school,” Blais Belanger said. “There’s always so much intensity in every tournament … I think that’s going to help me a lot to handle pressure.”Blais Belanger also has competed for Team Canada at international competitions. Though he said the talent level is higher in international tournaments, they can’t match the intensity of NCAA competitions where team comradery and school pride inspire passion. “During international competition you focus on yourself,” Blais Belanger said. “Obviously if your teammate from your country does well you’re happy, but it’s not the same thing because you don’t depend on each other to win.”There are plenty of great college fencers who fail to reach the Olympics. While experience and preparation are important, a certain degree of natural talent is necessary to compete among the world’s greatest fencers. Ohio State fencing head coach Vladimir Nazlymov has an eye for Olympic talent. His lengthy resume includes three Olympic medals of his own when he competed for the Soviet Union in 1968, 1976 and 1980. He has been a member of the coaching staff of both the United States and Soviet national teams, and was the Soviet national team’s head coach in the 1988 Olympics. Nazlymov said he believes Blais Belanger has what it takes to be an Olympian.“[Blais Belanger has an] unbelievably strong neural system,” Nazlymov said. “He can be patient until last millisecond. It’s not timing. It’s [instincts]. In this case he’s unbelievable talent.”Maybe it was four years of learning to handle intense competition that allowed Blais Belanger to land the winning touch with three seconds remaining in his final college bout. Maybe the final strike was the type of instinctual response that his coach believes makes him a special talent.One thing is certain: as Blais Belanger comes closer to reaching the ultimate goal of his athletic career, he will need to thrive in big moments. If how he fared in the biggest moment of his collegiate career is any indication, he’ll do just fine. read more

Nearly 1000 British tourists to be flown back from Gambia by Thomas

first_imgLast night the Foreign Office changed its guidance to advise against all but essential travel. The FCO warned of “ongoing political uncertainty and potential military intervention” in the wake of the December elections. We’ve cancelled all flights to The Gambia until the 20th January due to a change in FCO advice. Full details here: https://t.co/G1gN9QwGEr— Thomas Cook (@ThomasCookUK) January 17, 2017 Nearly 1,000 British tourists will be flown back from Gambia by holiday company Thomas Cook after the Foreign Office changed its travel advice because of political unrest in the West African country.The tour operator is implementing contingency plans, with an additional programme of flights from the capital Banjul on Wednesday to bring 985 package holiday customers back to Britain. A spokesman said it has an extra 2,500 “flight-only” customers in Gambia who it is contacting to offer the earliest flight back to the UK.  “The potential for military intervention and civil disturbance is high and could result in Banjul International Airport being closed at short notice,” the advice states.”You should follow events closely, take extra care, keep in regular contact with your tour operator and airline and continue to monitor travel advice and social media updates in case tensions rise as the current political deadlock continues.”It also warns those currently in Gambia to leave by commercial means if they have “no essential need to remain”.Meanwhile, president-elect Adama Barrow has left the country as the incumbent Mr Jammeh tries to challenge the election results through the courts, the FCO said.  Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh declared a 90-day state of emergency on Tuesday, two days before he is supposed to cede power after losing elections last month.He is refusing to step down despite international pressure and the threat by other West African nations of military intervention. Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh, who is refusing to stand aside for the president-electCredit:Michael Reynolds/EPA Gambian President Yahya Jammeh  #Gambia The FCO advise against all but essential travel due to the deteriorating political situation https://t.co/7tA9zyp0Ow pic.twitter.com/b4zB5qKvHr— FCO travel advice (@FCOtravel) January 17, 2017 Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Police appeal for paedophile who attempted to snatch girl only to discover

first_img 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 police manhunt for a paedophile who tried to snatch a child from the street ended when the man turned out to be an off-duty police officer who had been trying to help her. The unnamed girl and her family were walking along a road near Bucklebury, Berkshire, when the girl was approached by a passing driver, who stopped to offer her help.Reports suggested she was a considerable distance behind the rest of her family as they walked along the country lane on Sunday. The man drove off after seeing the girl’s father walking back along the road towards her. The incident took place close to the childhood home of the Duchess of Cambridge, where her parents Carole and Michael Middleton still live.Thames Valley Police began a search for the driver after the father called 999. But he turned out to be an off-duty police officer, who had his own children in the car and had showed the girl his warrant card.At the time of the appeal on Sunday Detective Sergeant Richard Vint said: “We are keeping an open mind in relation to this incident.”We are appealing to the driver of the baby blue Mazda to come forward to assist us with our inquiries. “We are also making inquiries internally and with other forces to trace the driver.”Less than a day later, police cancelled the appeal after being contacted by the Mazda driver, who said he was a serving officer. On Monday a spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “Following an appeal that was issued yesterday regarding an incident in Hermitage on Saturday afternoon, the driver involved has now been confirmed as an off-duty police officer. “The officer was concerned to see a young child who appeared to be walking alone and offered to drive her back to her family. “He had his own children in the car and showed his warrant card, before the girl’s father called her back towards the family.”The girl’s family have now been updated. We are no longer appealing for information and the incident has been safely resolved.”last_img read more

Britain and Germany to sign new defence pact after Theresa May triggers

first_imgThe US president took to Twitter to demand that Germany “pay more” to the United States for its defense, only hours after meeting with the German chancellor.Mrs Merkel told the president she believed Germany must work to pay its fair share to be in the Nato alliance – a key demand by Mr Trump, who has repeatedly said he believes America is bearing the brunt of the costs. The Royal Navy’s newest helicopter, the Wildcat, will also operate from a German frigate and take part in operations in the Mediterranean next year.News of a stronger German- British alliance comes after Donald Trump accused Germany of not spending enough on defence after he sat down with Angela Merkel for the first time on Friday.  Exercise Griffin Strike, a joint military exercise between English and French forces, watched by the respective Defence Ministers of both countries British Army’s 5 Rifles Regiment, The Royal Logistics Corps, Royal Artillery and Royal Millitary PoliceCredit:Estonian Defence Ministry Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, with his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian, oversees Griffin Strike, a joint military exercise between the two countriesCredit:David Rose Britain and Germany are poised to sign a new defence pact as Theresa May signals her intention to play a significant role in European security after Brexit.The Prime Minister is seeking to reassure European Union leaders that Britain will continue to cooperate on training, cyber security and maritime patrols.The UK defence ministry said it was working with Germany “on a joint vision statement on future co-operation”.center_img The Government is keen to emphasise that Britain is committed to Nato and European security. A new deal with Germany is expected after Mrs May triggers Article 50 later this monthIt comes after British troops began a long-term deployment to Estonia on Saturday, where the UK is playing a leading role in the Nato mission. The deployment is part of what Nato is calling an “enhanced forward presence”, designed to reassure eastern allies and deter potential Russian aggression.   The German defence ministry confirmed to the Financial Times that it was working on joint projects.It said: “Independent of the effects of Brexit, Great Britain remains a strong partner and ally in Nato and also bilaterally.” Sir Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, is understood to have spoken to a number of EU countries about building up military links.  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. British Army's 5 Rifles Regiment, The Royal Logistics Corps, Royal Artillery and Royal Millitary Policelast_img read more

Truancy detectives schools hire attendance ambassadors to doorknock parents of children who

first_imgHowever, the scheme has been challenged by several parents, who claim that the ambassadors threaten to breach privacy laws and increase the likelihood of confrontation between school staff and parents.Dave Blackwell, Canvey borough councillor, said that the schools involved should proceed with “extreme caution”, adding that the new staffing roles threatened to engender “friction” between the differing parties.“What I want to know is who these people knocking on the doors are going to be,” he added.”I would advise the schools to proceed with extreme caution over this, because it could lead to friction. My first reaction is that if someone were to knock on my door and ask where my child was, I would wonder what it had to do with them.”Further information on the ambassadors is yet to be announced. However, Canvey Schools Partnership confirmed yesterday that applicants for the roles are undergoing DBS checks. Should the scheme prove effective, more schools in the area will be invited to take part.Stephen Durkin, headmaster at Castle View, which is leading the scheme, said he hoped the steps would be seen as “positive and proactive” among parents.It comes less than a year after the school introduced a new behavioural scheme for pupils, which allowed those who had behaved well to leave school 10 minutes earlier than their naughtier counterparts. Details of the initiative, which is to begin next month, were released to parents in a recent school letter, which warns that parents will receive “warning” cards following a truancy visit.“After Easter, the Canvey Schools Partnership will be sending Attendance Ambassadors to the homes of any children whose parents have not notified us of a reason for their absence or who have been absent for several days,” the letter reads.”Following this visit you will receive a warning card and be asked for reasons why your child is not at school and you will be encouraged to send them in at the earliest convenience.” Four schools in Essex will employ full-time truancy detectives in order to track down children believed to be absconding from school, it was announced yesterday.Under the proposals, the schools will hire two full-time “attendance ambassadors” responsible for following up cases of truancy, with the new enforcers given licence to visit the homes of parents whose children are suspected of truancy.An academy, two primaries and a junior school in Canvey Island have signed up to the trial scheme, which headteachers argue will help improve school attendance.Sharon Parsons, leader of the Canvey Schools Partnership, said the new positions would reinforce the “value of attendance” in the minds of parents – some of whom can now expect a knock on the door should their child fail to be accounted for during registration.“It’s not just about tackling truancy – it’s about attendance generally,” she added.”Attendance is an issue at almost every school. You’re lucky if you’re a school without attendance issues. It’s about trying to make all parents see the value of attendance.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Three Britons injured after a helicopter reportedly plunged off a superyacht in

first_img 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. Three Britons have been injured after a helicopter reportedly plunged off a superyacht in Norway.The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said the trio were hurt on Wednesday, in what was believed to be a botched landing.Images show the aircraft being hoisted out of the fjord in Bergen, on the south-west coast of the Scandinavian country.According to reports, the helicopter had attempted to land on the luxury Bacarella yacht, but lost control when a tarpaulin became entangled in the rotors.An FCO spokesman said: “We can confirm that three British people were injured in an incident in Bergen, Norway on May 10.”We are offering assistance to them and remain in close contact with Norwegian authorities.”last_img read more

Nicola Sturgeon admits an independent Scotland might not seek immediate membership of

first_imgAsked whether that could mean Efta membership first and EU membership later, she said: “It may be by necessity, even if we didn’t want that. Alex Salmond, Ms Sturgeon’s predecessor, has argued that by following the so-called “Norway model” an independent Scotland could have “continuous” membership of the EU’s single market.However, the Scottish Conservatives said Ms Sturgeon’s position on Europe had descended into “complete chaos”.The First Minister told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that her position remained that she wanted an independent Scotland to be in the EU.She added: ”If Scotland is independent our position always has been, as long as I’ve been in the SNP and continues to be, that we want Scotland to be a full member of the European Union.”We have to set out, if we’re in an independence referendum, and we’re not in that right now, the process for regaining or retaining, depending on where we are in the Brexit process, EU membership. Now it may be that we have a phased approach to that by necessity.” “We have to set that out at the time because there are still some uncertainties, many uncertainties, around the Brexit process.”Ms Sturgeon said that at the end of the Brexit process Scotland should have a choice about its own future through an independence referendum.But she also said there was a “more immediate priority” in the general election, which was about making sure Scotland’s voice was heard in the Brexit negotiations.Borrowing language used by Theresa May during the campaign, she said her message to voters was that a vote for the SNP would “strengthen” her hand to make sure Scotland’s voice was heard in the negotiations and allow her to press the case for Scotland to remain in the single market after Brexit.Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservative deputy leader, said Ms Sturgeon wants a referendum on independence because we’re leaving the EU, adding: “Now, in a cynical attempt to win back Leave voters who have deserted the SNP, she now refuses to say whether an independent Scotland would go back in. “And her flirtation with Efta would leave us with all the obligations but no voice in decision-making. Nobody is going to be fooled by these political games. “Everybody knows the only principle the SNP has is not to get the best deal on Brexit, but how to use Brexit to bolster their case for separation.”Ms Sturgeon also found herself defending the SNP’s record on education on the programme and admitted that things had got much worse in terms of literacy and numeracy under the SNP. Nicola Sturgeon in Inverness last weekCredit:PA nicola sturgeoncenter_img Nicola Sturgeon has admitted for the first time that an independent Scotland might not immediately seek to rejoin the European Union.Despite calling for a new independence referendum over Brexit, the First Minister confirmed Scotland may need a “phased” approach to becoming a full EU member. She said that “by necessity”, in the event of a vote to break-up the UK, Scotland might have to pursue membership of the European Free Trade Association (Efta), whose members include Norway and Iceland, before achieving full EU membership.Her admission comes after The Daily Telegraph revealed in March that she was set to abandon the long-held SNP policy amid record Euroscepticism in Scotland.The move is understood to be seen by senior Nationalists as a more realistic goal than full EU membership after 400,00 voters who backed independence in 2014 also voted Leave in last year’s EU referendum. The latest Scottish survey of literacy and numeracy (SSLN) revealed last week that fewer than half of Scotland’s 13 and 14-year-olds are able to write well, while the writing performance of P4 and P7 pupils has also dropped.Ms Sturgeon said she had been “very open that that’s not good enough” but added that a massive programme of reform was under way to address the challenges.”We have had some advice that we need to have more of a focus within that curriculum on literacy and numeracy and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now,” she said.She denied that Scottish education as a whole was going backwards, adding: “On literacy and numeracy we have a particular challenge but on many other measures of Scottish education that is just not true.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Carpenter murdered wife then killed himself after note revealing affair was posted

first_imgA father-of-four murdered his wife then killed himself weeks after an anonymous note alluding to his wife having an affair was delivered through the family door, an inquest heard.Richard Pitkin, 65, fatally stabbed his wife Sarah, 58, in the neck then took his own life at the home they shared in Stowupland Street, Stowmarket, Suffolk, an inquest in Ipswich heard.They had been married for 37 years and had four children together.Suffolk’s senior coroner Dr Peter Dean concluded that charity shop deputy manager Mrs Pitkin was killed unlawfully and carpenter Mr Pitkin’s death was suicide.The couple’s bodies were found in a bedroom on February 26 this year after their son found a note on the door, which was barricaded shut, and called police.Detective Superintendent David Cutler told the inquest: “In late January an anonymous note was delivered through the family door alluding to Sarah having an affair with a local male. Following receipt of the note she decided to go and live with her mother.” It’s difficult to envisage a more tragic situation than thisSuffolk’s senior coroner Dr Peter Dean Police were called by the couple’s son and officers found the two bodies in a bedroom, with post-mortem examinations recording that Mrs Pitkin died of multiple stab wounds to the neck.In a statement, the couple’s son said that hours earlier his father had seemed fine and they were “laughing and messing around as normal”, then his father said his wife was coming round to discuss finances and he asked his son to “make himself scarce”.Mr Cutler said: “There’s some suggestion that Richard was abusive to Sarah during the relationship.”It’s not completely consistent in the nature of the accusations, with the different sides of the family having different thoughts about what that relationship may have been like.”He said it seemed they had “started to grow apart” and Mrs Pitkin had developed a new group of friends.”The arrival of an anonymous letter appears to have been the catalyst for the rapid deterioration of the relationship,” said Mr Cutler.He said there was evidence Mr Pitkin had conducted online searches about depression and suicide. Coroner Dr Dean said: “Clearly there were those difficulties and it’s also clear looking at all of the evidence that Mr Pitkin acted in a manner that was not spontaneous. He had thought through his actions before undertaking them.” He extended his sympathies to the couple’s family who sat in court, adding: “It’s difficult to envisage a more tragic situation than this.”Mr and Mrs Pitkin moved from London to Stowmarket in 2006 and renovated a home. Part of the house was converted into a tea room, which was run by Mrs Pitkin from 2009 until it closed around four years ago. The tea room area then became part of their home again.Mrs Pitkin later got a job as assistant manager at the St Elizabeth’s Hospice shop in Stowmarket.The charity described her at the time of her death as “a well-loved member of the team” and “an energetic character, full of life and joy” who loved her job. He added: “In the months leading to her death, Sarah had been in a relationship with this male.”He said police had no record of previous incidents involving the couple, adding: “They appeared to have had a normal loving marriage and the family was a close unit, however there was some suggestion that there were difficulties in the relationship.” Richard Pitkin had been married to his wife for 37 years and the couple had four children togetherCredit:East Anglia News Service  Richard Pitkin Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.last_img read more

Third of young women do not attend smear tests due to embarrassment

first_imgCancer minister Steve Brine said: “We must all take a stand against cancer, that’s why I’m pleased to support this campaign so we can continue to see cancer survival rates improve and more cases prevented.”Lives can be saved if women book an appointment for cervical screening when invited.” Many young women are not attending smear tests because they are embarrassed about their bodies, a cancer charity has warned.Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust said it was concerned that body image issues, including perception of what is “normal”, could be putting women’s lives in danger.One in four eligible women (aged 25-64) do not currently take up their invitation for a smear test, rising to one in three among 25-29 year olds. It is even as high as one in two in some areas of the UK.The charity conducted a survey which found that more than a third of women (35 per  cent) are failing to get tested because of their body shape. Concerns over smelling “normally” (38 per cent) were also a factor.The poll of women aged between 25 and 35 also found a third (31 per cent) admitted they would not go if they had not waxed or shaved their bikini area.But despite low screening attendance, almost every woman (94 per cent) said they would have a free test to prevent cancer if one was available.The charity is releasing the data at the start of Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and as it launches its smear test campaign #SmearForSmear. 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. #SmearForSmear 2018 is here! Share your #SmearForSmear to spread the message that smear tests save lives. It could be the reminder or encouragement someone needs to book their appointment https://t.co/xAtxGNcEG0 pic.twitter.com/t1xrNZiGGA— Jo’s Trust (@JoTrust) January 22, 2018 The charity’s chief executive, Robert Music, said: “Smear tests prevent 75 per cent of cervical cancers so it is a big worry that so many young women, those who are most at risk of the disease, are unaware of the importance of attending.”It is of further concern that body worries are contributing to non-attendance. Please don’t let unhappiness or uncertainty about your body stop you from attending what could be a life-saving test.”Nurses are professionals who carry out millions of tests every year, they can play a big part in ensuring women are comfortable.”center_img It is also concerned that not enough is being done to increase attendance, with a third of local authorities and Clinical Commissioning Groups in England not having done so in the last year. Cervical cancer is the most common cancer in women under 35, yet the poll of 2,017 women found three out of five (61 per cent) were unaware they were in the most at-risk age group for the disease.Just under 1,000 women die from cervical cancer every year in the UK. #smearforsmear💞💞💞 pic.twitter.com/NojJL0Utpb— nicola wood (@NMadgin) January 15, 2017last_img read more

Girl 11 murdered by stepfather after bravely defending her mother who was

Boon during a police interviewCredit:Gloucestershire Police “Having heard matters dramatically unfold in the kitchen, Ella got out of her bed and bravely came to the help of her mother,” Mr Smith said.”Eleven-year-old Ella must have witnessed, in part at least, the murderous attack on her mother before Boon also attacked his stepdaughter.”After the attack, Boon left the property and phoned his mother to tell her what he had done.His mother’s partner called 999 after arriving at the scene and officers from Gloucestershire Police attended within 10 minutes.The court heard Ms Mortimer and Boon had been married for about five years and he was stepfather to Ella, but in early 2018, Boon had an affair and Ms Mortimer told him she wanted a divorce in May.”On May 27, Laura went out for the evening,” Mr Smith said. “She told friends who were there that she had asked Christopher Boon to leave within two weeks.”Laura said her husband wasn’t happy at being told he had to leave.”Boon previously denied the charges against him but entered guilty pleas at a hearing on Monday.Ms Mortimer ran her own business, Sweet Beginnings, offering bespoke bridal gowns and wedding planning services.Ella was a student at Barnwood Park Arts College, where she had a passion for dance. Ella’s father, Tom Dalby, said his daughter had brought “great joy” since her birth in July 2006.”I am haunted by recurring nightmares of the horror that they must have suffered,” Mr Dalby’s statement said.”Every morning is a battle to get out of bed. The unbearable pain is always there. I feel empty and my heart is broken.”Every day I feel the terror and pain Ella must have felt in the last moments of her life. I feel guilty I was unable to protect her.” The families of Ms Mortimer and Ella, who packed the public galleries of court room two, loudly applauded after the sentence was passed.Mr Smith said police officers attending the scene described it as “horrendous”.”It is clear that it was a sustained and brutal episode of violence in which Laura and Ella suffered multiple stab wounds about their faces and necks,” he told the court.Ms Mortimer suffered blunt force injuries to her head and arms, consistent with a struggle.”Laura had multiple defence injuries to both of her hands,” Mr Smith said. “She has clearly fought for her life, seeking to fend off and perhaps grasp back the knife that was being used to kill her.”Ms Mortimer had 18 separate stab wounds, while her daughter suffered 24. Both died “rapidly” from their injuries, the court heard.Mr Smith said it appeared Ella had gone to the aid of her mother after hearing her downstairs with Boon. An 11-year-old girl was murdered by her stepfather after she “bravely came to the help of her mother” who was being stabbed to death in “a sustained and brutal episode of violence” at their home, a court heard.Christopher Boon, 28, pleaded guilty at Bristol Crown Court to killing Laura Mortimer and Ella Dalby at a house in Dexter Way, Gloucester, on May 28.Richard Smith QC, prosecuting, told the court Ms Mortimer, 31, had “clearly fought for her life” and her daughter Ella witnessed at least part of the attack before being killed as she “bravely came to the help of her mother”.”Their bodies were subsequently found on the kitchen floor,” Mr Smith said. “Mother laying side by side with daughter in significant pools of blood.”Sentencing Boon to life in prison, Mrs Justice May described the murders as “unspeakable savagery” and paid tribute to “brave” Ella for going to her mother’s aid.”She would have witnessed some part of your murderous attack on her mother and tried to stop you before you turned on her,” she told Boon.”What a brave girl. She and her mother were found lying together, side by side.”The judge said there were a number of aggravating factors in the case, including the “ferocity” of the attacks and that both victims suffered “mental and physically” before their deaths. Boon during a police interview 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. Mrs Justice May told Boon: “On the evening of May 27 this year, you murdered your wife Laura Boon and your 11-year-old stepdaughter Ella Dalby in an act of selfish rage and cruelty. Your wanton savagery has blighted the lives of many forever.” Boon, of Dexter Way, Gloucester, was jailed for life and ordered to spend a minimum of 29 years in prison. Family tribute to ‘friendly and beautiful’ mother and daughter The families of Laura Mortimer and her 11-year-old daughter Ella Dalby paid tribute to them as friendly and beautiful.Richard Smith QC read extracts of victim personal statements as part of the sentencing of Christopher Boon by Mrs Justice May at Bristol Crown Court.Ms Mortimer’s mother, Hilary Bartholomew, said she “lived life to the full” and was “full of fun”.”Laura was friendly to everyone and a happy person who loved to make others happy,” her statement said.”She was adored by all of her family and by her many friends. Laura was talented and a really hard worker.”She had done brilliantly in setting up her own wedding planning business. Laura was a wonderful, devoted mother.”Mrs Bartholomew described how Ms Mortimer would “shower” Ella with affection.”Ella was my adored first grandchild and we were extremely close,” her statement said.”She was such a beautiful, loving, happy little girl. She was also very talented at dancing. Ella adored her mother.”My husband and I had to identify Laura and Ella, and seeing them will stay in my head for the rest of my life.” read more