Monday and Tuesday mark the end of group play in the 2014 CONCACAF Women’s World Cup Qualifiers, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout rounds this weekend — all vying for three spots (possibly four) at next summer’s World Cup. After the first two games, we calculated the expected wins and advancement chances for each team in the tournament, but the standings have changed since last week’s opening matches.After a slow start against Trinidad and Tobago, a more organized U.S. team routed Guatemala 5-0 in its second game, with four of its five goals coming late in the second half. The addition of Tobin Heath up top in the 4-3-3 formation proved lucrative, with Heath tallying two goals — including this sweet little flick into the back of the net:Even though the U.S.’s chances of winning the tournament nominally decreased, from 95.5 percent to 95.1 percent, the No.1-ranked FIFA team in the world is still heavily, heavily favored to win. The U.S. is also a heavy favorite against Haiti on Monday night. Haiti, meanwhile, has only an 8 percent chance of making it to the knockout rounds after losing to a 10-player Trinidad team on Friday.The more interesting matchup on Monday night is Trinidad vs. Guatemala. Trinidad, the tournament’s underfunded Cinderella, currently has an 84 percent chance of advancing to the knockout rounds. If Trinidad wins or ties against Guatemala and Haiti loses to the U.S., the Trinidadians will likely face Costa Rica in the semifinals (where even a loss would leave fourth-place Trinidad with a shot at attending its first World Cup).Below are the updated expected group points and win probabilities for every CONCACAF tournament team:Costa Rica’s upset over Mexico last week moves it to the top of Group B, despite Mexico still having a greater chance of winning the tournament — 3.1 percent compared to Costa Rica’s 1.2 percent. This is a function of the FIFA ratings (which we’re using to calculate the expected wins and advancement probabilities, and which have not been updated to reflect Costa Rica’s recent performances). FIFA currently ranks Mexico at No. 25 and Costa Rica at No. 40. Both Costa Rica and Mexico are locks for the knockout round, but Mexico’s higher rating and record against the U.S. (they’ve beaten the U.S. once and tied them once, while Costa Rica has never won against the Americans) are part of why the Mexican team has a marginally better chance of upsetting the U.S. and winning the tournament.Costa Rica will face last-place Martinique and Mexico will play against Jamaica on Tuesday in the final Group B matches. As the tournament currently stands, the most likely knockout scenarios are the U.S. vs. Mexico in one semifinal and Costa Rica vs. Trinidad in the other. The semifinal matches will be played on Friday and the championship on Sunday, and we’ll update the advancement table again before those games.CORRECTION (Oct. 24, 4:37 p.m.): A previous version of this post included a table with an incorrect column header. The table lists the chances of placing third, not reaching the third-place game.
More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS Welcome to this week’s episode of Hot Takedown, our podcast where the hot sports takes of the week meet the numbers that prove them right or tear them down. On this week’s special show (July 14, 2015), we go to Stat School. With Kate on vacation, Chad out of the office and Neil stuck in New York, we pre-taped an episode that breaks down three ways to measure batting, in increasing complexity: batting average, OPS (on-base plus slugging) and wRC+ (weighted runs created plus). Neil schools Kate and Chad on the pros and cons of the stats, and what sabermetrics has taught us about players like the Colorado Rockies’ Nolan Arenado.Stream the episode by clicking the play button, or subscribe using one of the podcast clients we’ve linked to above.Below are some links to what we discuss on this week’s show:Nolan Arenado’s stat page.An in-depth explanation of batting average.An OPS breakdown.What is wRC+? If you’re a fan of our podcasts, be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave a rating/review. That helps spread the word to other listeners. And get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments. Tell us what you think, send us hot takes to discuss and tell us why we’re wrong. Hot Takedown
1981Pittsburgh12 ILBJoshua Perry1025.1 1967Michigan State8113.7 1987Penn State13 POSITIONPLAYEROVERALL SELECTIONDRAFT VALUE 1944Notre Dame13 1975USC14 1981Pittsburgh12106.2 WRMichael Thomas4710.1 1946Notre Dame16170.4 1945Notre Dame15126.2 1988Oklahoma13 1993Notre Dame9114.0 1975Ohio State13 2015Florida State11101.7 1944USC12 1945Notre Dame15 FSVonn Bell618.4 1944Texas12 TENick Vannett945.7 2016Ohio State12 2004Ohio State14 Source: Pro-football-reference.com Coach Urban Meyer came to Columbus in 2012, and the Ohio State football team has been outstanding from the moment he arrived. In his first season, the Buckeyes went 12-0, although the team was ineligible for a bowl game or postseason play. In 2013, the team began 12-0 again before being upset by Michigan State in the Big 10 championship game. Two seasons ago, Ohio State won the national championship, going 12-1 in the regular season and defeating Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon in the postseason behind third-string quarterback Cardale Jones. And last season, Ohio State’s only loss came as time expired against Michigan State in late November. 2006USC11102.8 1952Maryland12 1976Colorado12 2000Tennessee9102.6 OLBDarron Lee2015.5 Given all that, it wasn’t a surprise that Ohio State produced a top-notch draft class in 2016. What is surprising is that it’s the most impressive draft class in modern history. At the most basic level, there were just a lot of Buckeyes taken in the draft. Twelve Ohio State players were selected during the 2016 NFL draft, the 25th time a school has had such a distinction. And, in fact, it’s the fourth time Ohio State has sent at least a dozen players to the pros via the NFL draft:But although Ohio State was not exactly hurting in the quantity department, the quality of those picks sets the team apart. Consider, for example, that although the Texas Longhorns had 17 players drafted in 1984, eight of those players were selected with the 180th pick or later; conversely, all 12 Ohio State players were selected in the first four rounds, with Jones being the last pick at number 139. Using the draft value chart, which assigns the average marginal approximate value produced by each draft pick, we can give more weight to the best picks to provide a more accurate measure of class strength. Here is how many points of draft value were used on each Ohio State player in the 2016 draft: CBEli Apple1019.9 1953USC15 Schools with more than a dozen players chosen in one year YEARTEAMNUMBER OF PICKSDRAFT VALUE 1940USC9100.3 1971Ohio State13 1982Texas12 1950Minnesota13 1988Miami (FL)12 DEJoey Bosa327.6 1987Miami (FL)7108.1 1968USC11122.2 Source: Pro-football-reference.com Total OTTaylor Decker1616.9 1947UCLA9103.1 1974UCLA12 Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 1946Notre Dame16 DTAdolphus Washington806.7 2002Miami (FL)11103.3 RBEzekiel Elliott425.8 2008USC10107.1 1977USC13 1954Notre Dame12 2004MiamI (FL)9114.8 1984Texas17 WRBraxton Miller856.3 2016Ohio State12151.2 1942Texas10100.6 1954Notre Dame12121.7 1939TCU6100.1 1977USC13113.9 2006Ohio State9111.5 1955Notre Dame9128.8 1975Nebraska12 The 2016 Ohio State draft class is amazing 151.2 Incredibly, Ohio State had five players drafted in the top 20 and another five in the top 100. As a result, a total of 151.2 points of draft value was used on Buckeyes players. That’s the most — by a very large margin — in 70 years. The table below shows the top 25 draft classes as measured by points of draft value used to select players: 1948Alabama6103.8 2010Oklahoma7112.9 YEARSCHOOLPICKS QBCardale Jones1393.2 2012Alabama898.7 1950Notre Dame12 Using this methodology, the best draft class between the 1970 merger and this year came out of Miami in 2004. And yet this class beat that mark by 31.7 percent! That Hurricanes draft was great, with Sean Taylor (fifth overall), Kellen Winslow Jr. (sixth), Jonathan Vilma (12th), D.J. Williams (17th), Vernon Carey (19th) and Vince Wilfork (21st) all selected in the first round. But after those six players, Miami didn’t have another player drafted until the seventh round. By contrast, the Buckeyes had five first-round picks, two more in the second round, three in the third and two more in the fourth. As a result, it stands out as the most impressive draft class in modern history.
Plaxico Burress is not hearing good news from Carolina.Free agent receiver Plaxico Burress repeated today that he would like to sign with the Carolina Panthers and become a target of quarterback Cam Newton. But, according to a published report, the Panthers will not sign him.An unnamed team official told the Charlotte Observer that the Panthers aren’t interested in signing the former New York Jets, Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver.Burress said in a radio interview with WFNZ in Charlotte on Monday that, “no doubt about it,” he wants to play for the Panthers next season but acknowledged he hasn’t received a call from the team.Burress, in an on-set interview with “ESPN First Take” in Miami on Thursday, again said he hadn’t talked with the Panthers but added that he’s been in contact with Newton. He said Carolina is “just a great fit” for him.“I’ve talked to Cam Newton several times,” Burress said. “I really like him as a quarterback.”Burress, in his earlier interview with WFNZ, cited that his brother and cousin live in Charlotte and other family members live in Columbia, S.C., as some of the main reasons he’d like to play for the Panthers.Burress returned to the NFL last season after missing two seasons because of a prison sentence for accidentally shooting himself in the leg at a nightclub.He signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Jets. The New York Post, citing an unnamed league source, reported that some teams feel Burress was overpaid by the Jets and that he will have to agree to an incentive-laden contract to find a team to play for next season.
Tom Brady returned to practice after suffering a minor injury to his knee on Wednesday during a joint session with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.The New England Patriots quarterback showed no weaknesses as the team wore just shells and helmets for Thursday’s practice. For precaution, Brady wore a brace on his knee, but he was able to operate as normal without setbacks.“He felt great back there, making all the throws, not hobbling around,” offensive lineman Logan Mankins said after the practice. “That’s always a good sign.”The thud session had no intense hitting or full contact and proved to be less strenuous than Wednesday’s full-pads practice when Brady was hurt. During 11-on-11 drills, the quarterback fell to the ground clutching his knee when left tackle Nate Solder was pushed into him. Brady returned to finish the drill but was carted off subsequently for an evaluation.“I didn’t let it affect my sleep,” Solder said with a laugh. “No, it’s part of the game, part of the game.”Brady declined to speak to the media as he walked off the field after Thursday’s practice. Sources say Brady will play against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday night at Gillette Stadium in their second preseason game.
The St. Louis police department asked the NFL and the Rams for an apology for the St. Louis Rams players who showed that they care about the shooting of Michael Brown on the nearby streets of nearby Ferguson and the subsequent refusal by the grand jury to have Darren Wilson go on trial for killing the unarmed Black teenager on Aug. 9.An apology? How arrogant is that?Stedman Bailey, Chris Givens, Jared Cook, Tayon Austin and Kenny Britt had the right to enter the field Sunday with their hands raised while nodding, an expression of support for the protesters in Ferguson. Some witnesses said Brown had his hands up when Wilson shot him.Players are men, and these men apparently were moved enough to show their support for the Brown family and others who have lost loved ones at the hands of police.In response, Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s VP of communications, released a statement Monday: “We respect and understand the concerns of all individuals who have expressed views on this tragic situation.”So why would the St. Louis Police Officers Association ask for the Rams and the NFL to deliver a “very public apology.”Worse, here is part of the statement from the police union’s Jeff Roorda. Note the racist code word: “Cops have First Amendment rights too, and we plan to exercise ours. I’d remind the NFL and their players that it is not the violent thugs burning down buildings that buy their advertiser’s products. It’s cops and the good people of St. Louis and other NFL towns that do. Somebody needs to throw a flag on this play. If it’s not the NFL and the Rams, then it’ll be cops and their supporters.”Sounds like a threat of some sort. But guess what: Black people, including some of the Rams, are already scared a cop will shoot to kill in an instant. So Roorda did not even have to go there; the threat is ever-present.In other words, St. Louis police, get a life. . . and stop threatening lives. “We haven’t been able to go down to Ferguson to do anything because we have been busy,” Cook said. “Secondly, it’s kind of dangerous down there and none of us want to get caught up in anything.“So we wanted to come out and show our respect to the protests and the people who have been doing a heck of a job around the world.”“We wanted to show that we are organized for a great cause and something positive comes out of it,” Britt said. “That’s what we hope we can make happen. That’s our community. We wanted to let the community know that we support the community.”A commendable effort by the players. Too bad it was just a few and not the entire team. Too bad all NFL teams did not organize and coordinate a similar show of support. Too bad the St. Louis police was too sensitive missed the point that Black lives need to be valued and deadly force should not be the only recourse. Doubt the message got through, though.
Tampa Bay 8-7<1 Oakland 12-316 Detroit 9-671% Green Bay 9-670 Technically four teams are alive in the NFC playoff hunt. But putting Tampa Bay aside for a moment — their path to the playoffs requires a tie and is thus hugely unlikely — the Week 17 picture is actually pretty simple. N.Y. Giants (41 percent to win) at Washington (59 percent) kicks off at 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. Washington is in with a win, as long as Green Bay (49 percent) at Detroit (51 percent) doesn’t end in a tie in the evening game. Both the Packers and Lions advance on a win, a tie or a Washington loss.So what’s Tampa Bay’s deal? The Buccaneers can make the playoffs in a tiebreaker against Washington and Green Bay, which means they need to beat Carolina, have Green Bay lose to Detroit, and have Washington tie the Giants. This isn’t quite enough, though; in order to actually win the tiebreaker they also need San Francisco to beat Seattle, Dallas to beat Philadelphia, Tennessee to beat Houston, and Indianapolis to beat Jacksonville to gain a narrow strength of victory edge over Green Bay.2Washington would get eliminated first from the tiebreak on conference record. So why, savvy fans might ask, is Tampa Bay eliminated with a Washington loss? It’s actually the Giants’ record that matters here: Green Bay beat the Giants earlier in the season, so if the Giants beat Washington instead of tying them then Green Bay’s strength of victory will be too high for Tampa Bay to catch. You can check out their path using the game selection feature in our NFL predictions. Good luck, Bucs fans!An NFC first-round bye Atlanta 10-578% Oakland is a game up here, but Kansas City has the tiebreak and the easier week 17 matchup. Relevant games are Oakland (47 percent) at Denver (53 percent) and Kansas City (75 percent) at San Diego (25 percent). The Raiders clinch with a win or a tie, Kansas City needs a win and an Oakland loss.We currently give Oakland a 60 percent chance of getting the bye, but there’s a twist. Raiders QB Derek Carr is now out for the season with a broken leg, a fact that our Elo ratings — which are based only on game results — doesn’t “know.” This may seem like a big blind spot, and in many ways it is, but it’s easy to overestimate the impact that even the top QBs can make on game probabilities.4Remember when we were wondering how the Patriots would survive their first-four Brady-less games? By Elo we have the Raiders as one-point underdogs in Denver, which is very close to the Vegas line.AFC home field advantage TEAMCHANCE Week 16 was a decisive one for the NFL, with six teams clinching playoff spots and eight getting eliminated. Many of the results that would have added chaos to the playoff race — Minnesota over Green Bay, Buffalo over Miami, Baltimore over Pittsburgh, Denver over Kansas City — fell through. This makes Week 17, unfortunately, a bit of a drag.For the last several weeks, we’ve used our NFL predictions model to generate a “playoff swing” for every game, based on how different outcomes would affect the playoff chances of every team in the league. These calculations are useful when the playoff scenarios are complicated, as they invariably are with several weeks to go in the season. But Week 17’s outcomes are a lot simpler; you don’t need to run 100,000 simulations to learn that Washington will get eliminated with a loss on Sunday.So for this final week we’ll abandon our usual format.1If you’re curious, N.Y. Giants-Washington is the biggest game of the week, with a playoff swing of 200 points spread between Washington, Detroit and Green Bay. It’s bigger than Packers-Lions because that game, unless it ends in a tie, does not affect Washington’s chances. Instead of measuring which games matter the most we’ll look which games matter at all, based on the major postseason outcomes that are still undecided.Two NFC playoff spots Dallas has already locked up a bye and home field advantage, leaving a three-team race for bye No. 2. New Orleans (24 percent) at Atlanta (76 percent), Seattle (82 percent) at San Francisco (18 percent) and the aforementioned Green Bay at Detroit are the games that matter here. Ignoring unlikely (and tedious) tie scenarios, Atlanta clinches a first-round bye if they win, or if both Seattle and Detroit lose. Seattle needs a win and an Atlanta loss, and Detroit needs a win and both of its rivals to lose.3Play around with some ties yourself on our NFL predictions page! Green Bay-Detroit is probably more likely to end in a tie than your typical game, because both teams are guaranteed to advance on a tie, which could hypothetically lead to some extremely silly and low-risk overtime strategy. TEAMCHANCE Detroit 9-62 An AFC first-round bye Washington 8-6-158 Oakland 12-360% New England 13-284% TEAMCHANCE Seattle 9-5-120 TEAMCHANCE Kansas City 11-440 AFC home field advantage is New England’s to lose. New England (65 percent) at Miami (35 percent) and Oakland at Denver are the games to watch; the Patriots clinch the top seed with a win or tie, or an Oakland loss or tie. If they lose and Oakland wins, the Raiders take the top spot on tiebreak with a 5-0 record against common opponents (Baltimore, Buffalo, Denver, Houston).Check out our latest NFL predictions.
6Levon Aronian2786 PLAYERELO RATING 1Magnus Carlsen2853 Source: 2700chess.com 3Vladimir Kramnik2811 7Viswanathan Anand2779 5Wesley So2794 10Pentala Harikrishna2770 4Maxime Vachier-Lagrave2807 One chess grandmaster represents the most democratic country in the world. The other supports, and is supported by, Vladimir Putin. Last night, inside the Plaza Hotel in midtown Manhattan — that urban palace and President-elect Donald Trump’s captured rook — the two prepared to do battle.The World Chess Championship has come to New York City. The tournament captured this city’s imagination once before, in 1972, when its favorite Brooklyn son, Bobby Fischer, clashed with the Soviets in Reykjavik. But this year New Yorkers can only watch, as the Norwegian defending champion Magnus Carlsen and his Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin vie for the game’s highest title. They’re both kids: Carlsen is 25 and Karjakin is 26, yet they’ve lived half their lives as grandmasters. The match is being billed as the youngest championship ever.Here in New York, the faces of chess are diverse, from the outdoor hustlers lining park tables in Washington Square or Union Square to the excellent middle school chess program of I.S. 318 in Brooklyn. But last night, at the pre-tournament Black & White Gala at The Plaza, the guests were nearly all white. Under potted palm trees and crystal chandeliers, the steak was carved and the champagne and martinis flowed, and the scene recalled a VIP cocktail hour in a Vegas penthouse suite before a heavyweight prizefight. (At least the ones I’ve seen in the movies.) 2Fabiano Caruana2823 9Sergey Karjakin2772 8Hikaru Nakamura2779 As both baby-faced competitors faced the camera flashes and microphones, Carlsen looked calm. He has reached the championship before, after all. Karjakin looked a bit lost — nervous, maybe — his voice barely audible above the reporters’ din. And indeed, despite Karjakin’s slightly earlier prodigious bloom, the consensus heavy favorite is Carlsen. He’s rated No. 1 in the world, while Karjakin is No. 9.The best-of-12 match could stretch past Thanksgiving. Game 1 begins Friday afternoon, in downtown Manhattan. My own Elo-based simulations1I simulated 10,000 matches using the players’ current Elo ratings, and assumed that they draw half of their games, which is historically what grandmasters tend to do. The methodology is similar to what I used to simulate the 2014 world chess championships. give Carlsen an 88 percent chance of defending his title. Bookmakers put his chances somewhere between 80 and 85 percent. I’ll be reporting from the match, here and on Twitter.
To someone who doesn’t follow men’s college hoops, a cursory glance at the location of the conference tournaments might suggest that New York City is the nexus of the basketball universe. Last week, Madison Square Garden played host to the Big Ten, a conference primarily made up of schools in the Midwest.1Aside from Rutgers, which the conference added almost solely to get a toehold vaguely near New York. The Big East is now playing its tournament on that same floor, as it always does. And across the river, the ACC is simultaneously playing its championship in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.But in reality, of course, NYC is a far cry from a college-basketball hub.2With all due respect to FiveThirtyEight favorite St. John’s. Rather, this is a symptom of conference tournament locations that increasingly range from the dubious to the downright illogical.To judge just how out-of-whack some of these tournament venues have gotten, we first computed the geographical center of each of the six major conferences,3By which we mean, the Power Five and the Big East. based on the locations of the member schools’ campuses. We then compared each conference’s geographical center4Technically speaking, we calculated the centroid of each conference by finding the shape that covered all of its schools, while keeping its area as small as possible, and then determining the center of that shape. with where its tournament is being played. The Big 12, for example, is playing its conference tournament in Kansas City, which is at least in the same state (Missouri) as its geographic center, near Gentryville, MO. The total distance between the two? Just under 200 miles as the crow flies. That’s the closest any of the six tournament sites is to its conference’s geographic center. And it’s a far cry from the nearly 700 miles that separated the tournament site of the Big Ten and the middle of where its teams, you know, actually are.Below are the tournament sites, ranked by the smallest distance between them and their conference’s geographic center. As a bonus, we also computed suggested tournament sites for each conference based on raw distance — essentially, the closest city to the conference’s geographic center that either contains an NBA arena or has a population of at least 300,000 people. *Suggested tournament location is the closest city to the conference’s geographic center that either hosts an NBA team or has a population of at least 300,000.Based on data from the NCAA and Simple Maps U.S. Cities database 4Pac-12WashingtonSeattle, WACherry Creek, NV648.6 ACCReidsville, NCRaleigh, NC73.2 Big EastMelmore, OHNew York, NY476.9 Big 12Gentryville, MOKansas City, MO196.1 mi 2Big 12West VirginiaMorgantown, WVGentryville, MO699.1 14SECTexas A&MCollege Station, TXHatley, MS516.7 Which schools warp their conference’s shape the most?Biggest distances between campus locations and geographic center of schools’ respective conferences for top six men’s college basketball conferences In fairness, the Big Ten’s tournament isn’t always in New York. From 1998 through 2016, it was played in either Chicago — which is actually our suggested site — or Indianapolis, which is a reasonable 108 miles away from the conference’s center. It was only last year, when the tournament was held in Washington, D.C. — a whopping 533 miles away — that the Big Ten began branching out into seriously unnatural locales. After this year’s dalliance with the Big Apple (which meant the tournament took place a week earlier than usual so that MSG could also accommodate the Big East tourney), the Big Ten will be returning to its more familiar digs of Chicago and Indianapolis for the next few years.Some of these aberrant tournament locations are also being driven by the changing shapes of the conferences themselves. Here are the schools in the conferences we’re looking at whose locations tug on the geographic centers the most: ACCReidsville, NCBrooklyn, NY428.3 Big EastMelmore, OHColumbus, OH73.7 SECHatley, MSMemphis, TN123.1 Conf.geo. Centersuggested tourney locationdistance from center 10Big 12TexasAustin, TXGentryville, MO550.9 Big TenKnox, INChicago, IL65.4 Conf.SchoolLocationGeo. CenterDistance Conf.geo. Centeractual tourney locationdistance from center Pac-12Cherry Creek, NVLas Vegas, NV257.8 3Big EastCreightonOmaha, NEMelmore, OH670.3 12Big TenMarylandCollege Park, MDKnox, IN535.6 5Big TenRutgersNew Brunswick, NJKnox, IN637.9 Remind me … where does our conference play again?Distance from the municipalities closest to the geographic centers of the top six men’s college basketball conferences to their 2018 conference tournament locations and to FiveThirtyEight’s suggested* locations Big TenKnox, INNew York, NY659.5 8Big 12Texas TechLubbock, TXGentryville, MO581.7 6ACCBoston CollegeChestnut Hill, MAReidsville, NC613.2 Big 12Gentryville, MOMemphis, TN175.3 mi 11Pac-12Oregon StateCorvallis, ORCherry Creek, NV535.7 9Pac-12ArizonaTucson, AZCherry Creek, NV574.7 SECHatley, MSSt. Louis, MO336.2 Pac-12Cherry Creek, NVSalt Lake City, UT168.6 Based on data from the NCAA and Simple Maps U.S. Cities database 13Big TenNebraskaLincoln, NEKnox, IN524.9 7Big EastProvidenceProvidence, RIMelmore, OH608.1 15ACCNotre DameSouth Bend, INReidsville, NC509.9 1ACCMiamiCoral Gables, FLReidsville, NC735.6 mi Surprisingly, the presence of a team from Nebraska (Creighton) in a conference whose name contains the word “East” is somehow not the strangest location for a school relative to its conference’s center. No, that honor belongs to the University of Miami, which is over 735 miles from the ACC’s geographic center in Reidsville, North Carolina. (Miami joined the ACC in 2004.) Almost as strange is West Virginia’s membership in the Big 12, which really stretches the conference’s eastern boundary — and of course, Creighton remains a downright odd choice for the Big East.Because of late-comers like the Bluejays, the current Big East’s geographic center sits almost 500 miles away from its longtime conference-tournament site of Madison Square Garden. But New York used to be a much better fit with the original Big East, whose geographic center lay in Pardeesville, Pennsylvania — about 85 miles northwest of Philadelphia and a mere 105 miles away from New York City. When its teams were compressed into a much smaller region in the Northeast, there was a reason the old Big East tourney was the stuff of legends and why it made sense for MSG to play host to the proceedings.These days, we’re treated instead to odd venues like the ACC tournament being held in Brooklyn (what?) instead of North Carolina and the SEC playing in St. Louis (where the only remotely close SEC team is Missouri). It’s just another reminder that in modern college sports’ conference roulette, money dominates any shreds of tradition, geography or common sense.CORRECTION (March 7, 2018, 5:50 p.m.): A previous version of this article used incorrect coordinates for the location of Boston College. The maps, tables and text have been updated. The corrected coordinates changed the geographic center of the ACC to Reidsville, North Carolina, and the suggested conference tournament location to Raleigh, North Carolina.
The rooks and kings traveled around for what seemed like an eternity. But the lava that had flowed over the game earlier in the day had finally cooled — and finally (finally!) hardened into a draw. Here’s the whole dang thing, compressed into less than a minute: It was 55 degrees and lightly raining in London, just as I imagine it always is, as the grandmasters Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Fabiano Caruana of the United States sat down to begin playing for the 2018 World Chess Championship. The gray meteorology belied the volcanic and lengthy chess on Day 1 of the World Chess Championship. Over seven hours and 115 moves, the players fought a fiery and oscillating battle to open the match, which will likely stretch to the end of the month. The American was lucky to emerge, largely unscathed, with a draw.The players’ venue is in central London, in a place called The College, about a 15-minute walk north of the Thames. Carlsen, 27, and Caruana, 26, are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, respectively. Carlsen is the three-time defending world champion. Caruana is vying for the first American title since Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky in 1972.Following a drawing of lots, Carlsen chose to begin the best-of-12-game match on defense with the black pieces. Wins here are worth 1 point, draws a half-point for each, and losses zero points. If the 12th game ends with each player having 6 points, a series of tiebreaker games will ensue. And that’s exactly what happened at the last world championship, in 2016, when Carlsen edged out Sergey Karjakin of Russia. There may still be a lot of chess left.But there was a lot of chess Friday, too. Carlsen began with the combative Sicilian Defence, and the two entered into something called its Rossolimo Variation. Carlsen was likely pleased — he had beaten Caruana in this very variation in an attacking game in 2015.After move 9, Caruana went into what the official match broadcast called the first “deep think” of the match, and the game ground to a near-halt as the position ventured into uncharted territory. By Caruana’s 11th move, a board like this had never been seen before at the game’s high levels, according to ChessBase’s database.Carlsen donned a puffy jacket. Caruana removed his blazer.Time soon became an issue. The players each get 100 minutes for their first 40 moves, with 30 bonus seconds after each move. After that, they get 50 minutes for the next 20 moves and 15 minutes for any moves after that. Nevertheless, while contemplating his 22nd move, Caruana’s clock ticked down to less than 10 minutes. Carlsen, across the board, moved quickly. With his 25th move, Caruana’s clock had dropped to six minutes. On his 32nd move, less than two minutes. On his 34th move, 6 seconds. If his clock had hit zero, he would have forfeited the game instantly.Forestalling the end, Caruana fought for his life in the lower right corner of the board. The time pressure — and the pressure from the powerful pieces controlled by the best player in the world — were obviously too much to handle. It was over, and the players would surely head to an early dinner. The computer engines and the chess cognoscenti assessed Carlsen’s position as “surely winning” and Caruana’s as “sad.”Carlsen’s troops were standing over Caruana’s king, ready to kill and take a devastating early lead in the championship.But black slipped. The Norwegian champ captured a juicy-looking pawn he oughtn’t have, giving the American a chance to scurry to safety with seconds to spare. You can see what happened below. Carlsen, playing black, captured the pawn on c3 with his bishop. The better move, according to a chess engine whirring on my laptop, would have been to venture deep into the American’s territory, moving the black queen to g1. Carlsen’s advantage, according to the computer, dropped from roughly three pawns to roughly nothing. Despite the draw, Robert Hess, an American grandmaster, called it a “dominant start for Magnus.”The championship is level at a half-point each in this race to 6.5. We’ll keep the chart below updated throughout the match.