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Last Tuesday, I crunched some numbers on which NCAA men’s tournament coaches exceeded expectations the most since the tourney expanded to 64 teams in 1985, based on their teams’ seeds at the start of the tournament. Perhaps not surprisingly, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo ruled all, with his Spartans winning 14.6 more games than would be expected based on the way they were seeded. And after Izzo won two more games over the weekend to secure the Spartans’ seventh Final Four bid under his watch, we thought we’d update the numbers1 to reflect the latest results.

paine-datalab-IZZO-redux.0330

Izzo is still No. 1 of course, with 16.2 wins above expectation now (after adding in his two wins over the weekend, plus Michigan State’s expected future wins according to the FiveThirtyEight tournament predictions), while the coach he beat in the East Regional final, Rick Pitino, ranks second since ’85.

Two of Izzo’s fellow Final Four coaches also rank among the top 10. John Calipari of Kentucky (whom the Spartans could face for the national championship in a week) places third. And Mike Krzyzewski, whose Duke Blue Devils will play Michigan State on Saturday, ranks 10th. Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan may seem like the odd man out, but Ryan’s teams have still exceeded expectations — though only by 2.7 wins over his career, which ranks 31st since 1985.

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$19.99

Jay-Z is launching Tidal on Monday, a music streaming service that claims higher resolution music in exchange for a higher-than-industry-standard cost. While competitor Spotify charges $9.99 per month, and future rival Apple was reportedly rebuffed in its attempt to charge an even lower monthly fee, Tidal will charge $19.99 per month. [USA Today]


34 percent

The percentage of Republicans who believe President Barack Obama is an imminent threat to America, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll. He’s more threatening to American life than Russian president Vladimir Putin — 25 percent of Republicans said Putin was an imminent threat. [Reuters]


53 percent

After a weekend of basketball, only four teams remain. The University of Kentucky is favored by the FiveThirtyEight model to win it all, with a 53 percent chance. On the women’s side, the University of Connecticut continues to be vastly favored, with an 80 percent chance of taking it home. [FiveThirtyEight]

59,000 ex-bankers

It’s not a great time to be a banker. (Well, relatively speaking.) A data analysis from Reuters found that U.S. and European banks cut 59,000 jobs last year. [Reuters]


$2 million

That’s the total amount of contributions from the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee to about 100 representatives and senators over the past decade. One reason it’s difficult for schools to oversee and rein in fraternities is that the groups are very entrenched in politics and existing power structures. [Chronicle of Higher Education]

2.8 million barrels

Daily oil output of Iran, down substantially from its peak production in 1974. As relations between the U.S. and Iran approach a thaw — or, I don’t know, a slight defrost, kind of hard to consider what’s going on a thaw — energy companies are salivating at the prospect of drilling there, despite the need for steep investments to get production where it could be. [Bloomberg Business]


$54 million

DreamWorks Animation finally got a win, as “Home” lead the box office this weekend with $54 million domestically. [Buzzfeed]


$350 million

One initial estimate of the total amount the Germanwings airline will have to pay out to families of those killed in last week’s crash. [New York Times]


$4.5 billion

New drugs to treat Hepatitis C are costing Medicare a fortune. The drugs can cost $1,000 per day, and last year Medicare spent $4.5 billion on the new drugs, up from $286 million the previous year on the existing drugs. [ProPublica]

$5.4 billion

Legislators and the Governor have reportedly figured out the New York State budget! There isn’t a final number yet, but a deal has reportedly been cut on how to divvy up the $5.4 billion in settlement money acquired from financial institutions involved in the 2008 financial crisis. [New York Times]


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After an exhilarating Saturday that saw Wisconsin beat Arizona yet again with a Final Four on the line, followed by undefeated Kentucky barely squeaking past a Notre Dame team that outplayed them for a significant portion of the night, what can Sunday’s Regional Final games do for an encore? For starters, there’s another terrific No. 1 vs. No.2 matchup in which the underdog could make school history. There’s also a fake underdog story that will decide the only wacky region of this year’s tournament.

Read on for more of what to watch as the last two Final Four berths of 2015 are set:

No. 1 Duke (59 percent win probability) vs. No. 2 Gonzaga

Location: Houston

When to watch: At 5:05 p.m. EDT on CBS

Power ratings: Duke 93.0, Gonzaga 91.5

Upset probability: 41 percent

Player to watch: Jahlil Okafor, Duke

This is shaping up to be an intriguing matchup of near-doppelgangers, as Duke and Gonzaga are practically identical in terms of their offensive and defensive prowess. The Blue Devils’ offense ranks 3rd nationally per KenPom.com’s ratings, while the Zags rank 4th; meanwhile, Duke ranks 27th on defense and Gonzaga ranks 30th. So it’s more than a little fitting that this pair faces off for the South’s Final Four spot.

Despite their similarities, the differences in how the squads achieve their matching efficiencies might be instructive. On offense, Duke and Gonzaga shoot and draw fouls at very similar rates, but the Blue Devils are better on the glass and the Bulldogs protect the ball more effectively. Duke also has the better transition attack3 while Gonzaga owns an edge in low-post scoring. At the other end of the floor, Gonzaga’s advantages are in shot defense, rebounding and the transition game, while Duke is better at forcing turnovers and keeping opponents off the foul line.

Since the FiveThirtyEight model considers the Bulldogs a modest underdog, it’s worth asking whether they employ enough high-variance tactics to help them “make their own luck” in this matchup — and, unfortunately, Gonzaga doesn’t play a slow pace, nor is it especially reliant on shooting 3-pointers, forcing turnovers or crashing the offensive boards. (Duke also plays a relatively safe style for a favorite, with an above-average pace, good offensive rebounding and no overreliance on long-distance shooting or takeaways.)

Still, with their big, experienced roster, the Zags have a reasonably good chance of earning their first-ever Final Four bid. Somewhat surprisingly, they’ve only visited the Regional Final once before, and that was as a heavy underdog against UConn in 1999. This time, they’re one of college basketball’s upper-echelon programs — but will it be enough against Jahlil Okafor and the Blue Devils?


No. 4 Louisville (42 percent win probability) vs. No. 7 Michigan State

Location: Syracuse

When to watch: At 2:20 p.m. EDT on CBS

Power ratings: Michigan State 88.2, Louisville 86.3

Upset probability: 58 percent

Player to watch: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

As befits an East Regional that saw its top two seeds lose on the tournament’s first weekend, this is a strange matchup. Louisville is the better-seeded team, but as a No. 4 they’d easily be the black sheep of the Final Four if they prevail here (No. 1’s Kentucky and Wisconsin are already in, while the South winner will be no worse than a No. 2 seed). Plus, this game qualifies as a “fake upset” if inferior seed Michigan State wins, since both Las Vegas and the FiveThirtyEight model throw the seed numbers out the window and consider the Spartans a stronger team than the Cardinals.

So when deciding the most upset-heavy region in an otherwise chalky NCAA tournament, do you go for the (fake) upset or the (real) upset?

It could come down to which team’s forte wins the day — Michigan State’s offense, or Louisville’s defense. Both units rank among the nation’s best, and their respective strengths do a decent job or mirroring each other. The Spartans shoot well and avoid turnovers; the Cardinals are at their best when taking those attributes away. But it’s not a perfect match. Louisville likes to keep teams off the line, a fate Michigan State might prefer given their horrendous free throw percentage, and Michigan State’s offensive rebounding could exploit a Louisville frontcourt that’s nothing special on the defensive glass.

Either way, the less-exciting battle between the two teams’ weak points — Louisville’s offense versus Michigan State’s defense — is where the Spartans gain their predicted edge. While they won’t force many turnovers, Michigan State loves to limit opponent shooting percentages (particularly on 2-pointers, by far Louisville’s most efficient zone of the court) and the Spartans have the rebounding advantage over the Cardinals at that end of the floor as well.

Add in an uncharacteristically poor 3-point shooting Louisville team (by Rick Pitino standards), and this year’s “non-vintage” Spartans could win with the defense-and-rebounding formula of a typical overachieving Tom Izzo Final Four squad.

Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.

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This is the Week In Data, our data journalism roundup. Here you’ll find the most-read FiveThirtyEight articles of the past week, as well as gems we spotted elsewhere on the Internet.

MOST READ

  1. 2015 March Madness Predictions
  2. Tom Izzo Is The Best Coach In Modern NCAA Tournament History — By Far
  3. Let’s Be Serious About Ted Cruz From The Start: He’s Too Extreme And Too Disliked To Win
  4. Obama’s Plans For Pulling Out Of Afghanistan vs. What Really Happened
  5. NBA Power Ratings And Playoff Odds: Eight Teams, Three Playoff Spots
  6. The Four Types Of Will Ferrell Movies
  7. Kevin Love Is Only Following The Same Rubric As Six Decades Of MVP Voters
  8. Is Messi vs. Ronaldo Bigger Than The Super Bowl?
  9. Duke, Arizona And Michigan State Are Biggest Tourney Gainers
  10. Ted Cruz Is Just Like Reagan In 1980, Except People Actually Liked Reagan

ELSEWHERE ON THE INTERNET

Four years in the aisles: Matt Yancey recorded every single purchase he made over four years, noting the day, the store and the location. He found that moving from the suburbs to the city affected his shopping patterns, making him buy more online and from neighborhood stores. [Matt Yancey]

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1.7 men for every woman: Reddit user Thomaz Santana wanted to find the easiest and hardest places to find a date. He calculated the ratio of single men to single women in each U.S. county using census data and created a similar dating ratio with data from Plenty of Fish, an online dating site. Both sources are somewhat problematic: The resulting singles ratio is hard to interpret because it fails to take into account sexual orientation, while the dating ratio ignores the fact that men and women aren’t equally likely to create an account. Still, both ratios are interesting. According to Santana’s analysis, the place where it’s easiest for a woman to find a male date is the San Jose, California, metro area, where single men outnumber women 1.3 to 1 and where there are 2.6 male dating profiles for every female profile. The place where it’s hardest for a woman to find a date with a man is Atlanta. [Thomaz Lago Santana]

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Bloggers in basements: Some fun back-of-the-envelope calculations here. To identify the percentage of bloggers who might live in their parents’ basements you need to first figure out the number of basements, the number of bloggers and the number of people of bloggers’ age who live with their parents. Doing that gets you to just under 4 million bloggers who might be living in their parents’ basements. [The Washington Post]

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Debatable impact: Ahead of the British national election in May, the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties took part in a televised debate on Thursday. Although it wasn’t one of the two formal debates that will be shown in the run-up to the vote, speculation has abounded about how Thursday’s performance will affect the chances of the two would-be prime ministers. Using polling data, Alberto Nardelli took a statistical look and found that in 2010 the party leaders’ debates appeared to have a considerable impact on party popularity — but that the effect was far smaller come voting day. [The Guardian]

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Killed off: The American actor Mickey Rourke must feel particularly nervous when he gets a script through the mail — he has been killed off in 22 films, 30 percent of those in which he has appeared. Rourke’s share of vulnerable roles tops this list in percentage terms; on pure numbers, John Hurt wins, having been killed off in 45 films. [Vocativ]

Cool Whip vs. Miracle Whip: If the proposed merger between Kraft and Heinz goes ahead, there may be a series of strange duels between some of America’s most famous junk foods. Here, Quartz analyses how Crystal Light fares alongside Kool-Aid and how sales of packaged Jell-O compare to those of Jell-O pudding. [Quartz]

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Warmer climes: We know three big factors influence Americans’ migration decisions — weather, the availability of affordable housing and job opportunities. New data from the Census Bureau helps put a number on the first. In 2014, average population growth was 0.2 percent in metropolitan areas where the average high temperature in January was under 35 degrees compared to 1.3 percent growth in areas where the average January high was over 6o degrees. [The Upshot]

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.29.26 AM

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If you’re nostalgic for the days when Gonzaga was a reliable source of March Madness upsets, look to the women’s tournament.

As a No. 11 seed, the Bulldogs are making an unlikely run, having already knocked off No. 6 George Washington and No. 3 Oregon State last weekend in Corvallis, Oregon. That earned the Bulldogs a trip home this weekend: They get to play in their city of Spokane, Washington, on Saturday against eight-time national champ Tennessee. Our March Madness predictions give Gonzaga a 31 percent chance of pulling off the upset, thanks to home-city advantage, and projects this matchup to be the closest of any Sweet 16 game on Saturday.

Gonzaga’s women’s team has thrived in the NCAA tournament in recent years despite usually playing with a double-digit number next to its name. In 2009, Gonzaga won its opener as a No. 12 seed. That was the Bulldogs’ first tournament win ever. They lost narrowly in the next round, but the program was just getting started. Three times since then when seeded at No. 11, Gonzaga advanced to the Sweet 16. One of those times, in 2011, it went all the way to the Elite 8, the furthest any team seeded so low has ever advanced.

In just the last seven tournaments, Gonzaga has written a significant portion of the short history of upsets in the women’s tournament. In 1994, the event expanded to 64 teams. Since then, favorites have ruled. In the last 22 tournaments, teams seeded 10th or lower have won just 102 games, according to data provided by ESPN Stats and Information. That’s fewer than five wins per year, over all rounds, for 28 teams. Gonzaga has eight of those 102 wins, all since 2009. No other program has more than four.

Here are the teams with at least three wins as a No. 10 seed or worse since 1994:

  • Gonzaga, 8
  • BYU, 4
  • Florida State, 4
  • Kansas, 4
  • Marist, 4
  • UC Santa Barbara, 4
  • Notre Dame, 3
  • San Diego State, 3
  • SMU, 3
  • Stephen F. Austin, 3

Gonzaga’s return to the Sweet 16 this spring after a two-year absence is particularly impressive because the Bulldogs are playing for a first-year coach. Kelly Graves, who led Gonzaga to its first NCAA tournament win in 2009 and three straight Sweet 16 appearances in the next three years, left to coach Oregon last April. Lisa Fortier, his longtime assistant, replaced Graves. Fortier also had to contend with the graduation of her two starting guards. She helped fill one of the vacancies on the coaching staff with her husband, Craig, who left Eastern Washington’s men’s program to work as one of her assistants.

“Winning and losing, he’s fixed in,” the head coach told the Spokesman-Review of Spokane about her assistant and husband this week. “It’s been especially helpful in this first year.”

Part of Gonzaga’s success stems from its good fortune to play so many games in and near Spokane, turning the national tournament into what sometimes feels like the Spokane Invitational. In 2010, as a No. 7 seed, Gonzaga won its first two games in Seattle. In 2011, the scheduling worked even more in the Bulldogs’ favor: They played their first two rounds at their home arena, and their next two at another arena in Spokane.5 In 2012 and 2013 Gonzaga again got to open at home, which helped it to a Sweet 16 berth in 2012 but wasn’t enough to upset Iowa State the next year. And this weekend it gets to play at a Spokane arena about a mile from campus.

“It’s kind of like a home game for [Gonzaga] and so it’s going to be loud with a lot of people there, but we’re excited,” Tennessee guard Ariel Massengale told the AP.

Gonzaga’s men used to be the ones regularly upsetting higher ranked teams. In the three tournaments from 1999 to 2001, each time Gonzaga was seeded 10th or worse, and each time the Bulldogs reached at least the Sweet 16. They won seven games altogether, six of them against teams with better seeds. Now the Gonzaga men regularly get much better seeds, including a No. 2 seed this year on their way to the Elite 8.

“The men helped the Gonzaga name get out there,” Gonzaga women’s star Courtney Vandersloot said after leading the Bulldogs to the 2011 Elite 8, “and they showed that even though we don’t play in a big conference and we’re not really nationally known that we can go far in the tournament.”

Perhaps in the future the Gonzaga women’s team will have the advantage of a favorable draw to go along with the home-court advantage it has already enjoyed.

Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.

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Half the Final Four will be set by the end of day Saturday, and it’s a very good bet one of the schools left standing will be named “Kentucky.” As for the other, the battle between Wisconsin and Arizona for the right to emerge out of the West is probably the best matchup of the entire tournament thus far.

Here’s everything else to keep an eye on as the Elite Eight gets underway:

No. 1 Wisconsin (39 percent win probability) vs. No. 2 Arizona

Location: Los Angeles

When to watch: At 6:09 p.m. EDT on TBS

Power ratings: Arizona 94.5, Wisconsin 93.6

Upset probability: 61 percent

Player to watch: Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin

In a world where the FiveThirtyEight power ratings ruled all, this matchup would be happening in the Final Four, as Arizona and Wisconsin were Nos. 2 and 3 (respectively) in our pre-tournament team rankings. Instead, the selection committee placed the Wildcats sixth in its S-curve list, handing them the No. 2 seed out West and putting them on a collision course with the Badgers in the regional finals.

Don’t let the seedings fool you: Our model favors Arizona by about 2.2 points on the Staples Center’s neutral floor. (Which is, in actuality, slightly less than neutral for Wisconsin due to the effects of travel distance.) We’re not alone, either; of the five different computer ratings that go into the FiveThirtyEight model, only ESPN’s Basketball Power Index ranks Wisconsin higher than Arizona, while the consensus line in Vegas also gives the edge to the Wildcats. So, in an interesting twist, it would be a clear upset if the No. 1 seed advances to the Final Four.

And how does Wisconsin pull off said upset? It won’t be by creating havoc with takeaways on defense. Wisconsin ranked 327th out of 351 Division I schools in turnovers forced per possession, and 319th in steals per opponent possession. Nor will it necessarily be through a barrage of 3-point shooting — the Badgers are solid from long-distance, but it’s not the crux of their game plan. The Badgers play a great style for a favorite; they’re big, and they score well inside, hit the defensive glass hard and rarely commit fouls or turn the ball over. But what happens when they’re the underdog?

One of the only things about Wisconsin that profiles well for creating the kind of variance necessary to boost one’s upset probability is their trademark slow pace. The fewer the possessions in the game, the fewer chances for Arizona to exert its talent advantage. And it’s more than possible that the Badgers dictate the pace against the Wildcats and grind out the win. (They did force a UNC team that averages nearly 70 possessions per 40 minutes to play, and lose, a 60-possession game Thursday night.) Whatever they do, as underdogs — seedings be damned — they’ll have to shake things up somehow.


No. 1 Kentucky (87 percent win probability) vs. No. 3 Notre Dame

Location: Cleveland

When to watch: At 8:49 p.m. EDT on TBS

Power ratings: Kentucky 99.7, Notre Dame 87.9

Upset probability: 13 percent

Player to watch: Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

Can Kentucky be stopped en route to 40-0? That’s a question 29 teams have tried — and failed — to answer in the affirmative so far this season. Notre Dame will become challenger No. 30 on Saturday, and the FiveThirtyEight model isn’t very optimistic about its chances, either. Our latest calculations say the Wildcats have a whopping 87 percent probability of dispatching the Fighting Irish just like all the other pretenders to their presumptive crown.

For a little perspective on 87 percent probabilities, our model also gave Kentucky an 87 percent chance of beating West Virginia in the Sweet 16, and we know how that turned out. I even called the Mountaineers Kentucky’s “sternest test yet,” which, in a sense, was true — the Wildcats boasted rounded-off win probabilities of 100 percent and 94 percent in the tournament’s first two rounds — but just sounded silly after UK doubled up the score on WVU. Now both Las Vegas and our model have the Wildcats favored by about 11 points against Notre Dame, and somehow that feels too low.

What little hope the Irish have rests on their efficient offense, which actually ranked better nationally this season (according to KenPom.com) than Kentucky’s. The Irish are a great shooting team that can knock down spot-up jumpers all over the court, and they also excel in the transition game. Kentucky usually possesses an air of unbeatability, but even it could fall to a hot shooting night from downtown, like the one Ole Miss almost used to stop UK’s winning streak in January. More than perhaps any other trait, good 3-point shooting is a great way for underdogs to engineer upsets.

But before the Domers get too carried away, Kentucky’s defense boasts the best KenPom rating in the country, and the team is at its most effective when shutting down (you guessed it) spot-up jumpers and transition chances7, meaning Notre Dame’s best hope plays right into the hands of Kentucky’s dominant defense. And at the other end of the floor, the 100th-ranked Irish defense looks downright porous next to the Wildcats’ No. 6 ranked offense. Even more than the team’s ability to execute offensively, Notre Dame’s upset chances might depend on whether it can punch above its weight on defense and slow down the Kentucky attack.

Most likely, that won’t happen. Kentucky probably won’t win by 39 again — West Virginia’s risky playing style opened it up to a big blowout if things went sour — but it would be a tremendous shock if Kentucky isn’t penciled in as the Midwest’s Final Four representative by the end of the night.

Check out FiveThirtyEight’s March Madness predictions.

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Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana declared a public health emergency Thursday over an outbreak of H.I.V. in the southeastern part of the state. He also did something fairly surprising for a traditionally tough-on-drugs Republican, authorizing a 30-day program that allows drug users to trade in used needles for sterile ones.

All 79 cases of H.I.V. identified since December of 2014 in a rural area just north of Louisville, Kentucky, have been linked to intravenous drug use. Pence has long been a vocal opponent of needle exchanges, but said the temporary program was needed in the face of the current crisis.

The data on the effectiveness of needle exchanges, however, suggests the governor should not have waited until the last minute. The programs work.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the U.S. Surgeon General’s office and the World Health Organization all have published evidence showing needle exchanges help prevent the spread of H.I.V. The Surgeon General’s notice also points to evidence the programs can reduce drug abuse by promoting entry into treatment programs.

A review of existing research published in the journal “Addiction” in 2010 found “tentative” evidence that the programs reduce HIV transmission, but said there wasn’t enough evidence to say whether they could prevent the spread of Hepatitis C. They blamed the limitations on the study design, pointing out that most studies have been observational and based on existing programs, instead of controlled trials comparing selected communities with and without a program. But the authors also note that there is very strong evidence the programs prevent the sharing of dirty needles, and urge that the programs should continue. “The findings of this review should not be used as a justification to close NSPs (needle and syringe programs) or hinder their introduction,” they wrote.

As in so many issues regarding drugs, the reasons why needle programs are not more widespread involve politics.

No state has explicit laws banning needle exchanges, according to Scott Burris, a professor of law at Temple University who has studied the issue since 1996. But anti-drug policies in many states, often written before the identification of H.I.V., consider syringes to be drug paraphernalia or make it illegal to possess even trace amounts of controlled substances without a prescription. Carrying a needle used for illicit use of prescription pain medications, like the ones linked to many of Indiana’s recent H.I.V. cases, is often illegal.

A review of state laws curated by Burris for the Public Health Law Research program at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that, with the exception of a handful of states, the presence of these laws fall along party lines, with blue states significantly more likely to have decreased barriers to syringe distribution.

There were at least 194 needle exchange programs in 33 states in 2014, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), and almost all were in states that have explicitly lifted or modified their laws. All of those programs are paid for by states, local governments or other organizations, since federal funding for needle exchange programs has been banned since 1980 (the ban was briefly lifted in 2009 by President Obama, and reinstated by Congress in 2012).

Pence’s order allowing the exchange program lasts for only 30 days. But it’s a start.

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Diet sodas are going back out of style. After four years of outselling Pepsi, Diet Coke is back in the No. 3 slot for top sodas in the U.S., according to the latest industry data, and other sugar-free brands are also dropping quickly.

Overall, the number of soda drinkers in the U.S. continues to shrink, as is clear by the steady decline in the volume of soda produced since 2000. According to Gallup, more Americans than ever (63 percent as of July) actively avoid drinking soda. But those who still want their drinks carbonated seem to prefer full-strength sugar and calories.

munguia-datalab--1[4]

So where are all these soda drinkers going? Data from Beverage-Digest, an industry publication, on “liquid refreshment beverages” (a group that includes carbonated soda drinks, energy drinks, bottled water, sports drinks, ready-to-drink teas, juice drinks and other categories) goes back only to 2011, but since then, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr Pepper, Sprite and Aquafina have all experienced decreases in their market shares. Gatorade, Nestlé Pure Life, Dasani and Poland Spring, on the other hand, have all increased their market shares. Arizona has remained stagnant.

It’s worth noting that since 2011, Coca-Cola’s and Pepsi’s production volumes have gone down only 1 percent and 9 percent, respectively, while Diet Coke’s and Diet Pepsi’s volumes have gone down 16 and 17 percent, respectively, suggesting that it’s the diet soda drinkers who are leaving the market for healthier options.

So while it may seem like a blow to public health that diet sodas are less popular than they used to be, it could be a positive sign if there are a few more water drinkers in the beverage market.

CORRECTION (March 28, 1:01 p.m.): A previous version of the chart in this article incorrectly gave the y-axis unit as trillions of 192-oz. cases. It is billions.

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Why did Harry Reid pick Chuck Schumer over Dick Durbin, another member of the Democratic leadership, to succeed him as the party’s leader in the Senate? From a statistical standpoint, three numbers jump out.

First, Schumer and Reid have very similar voting records. According to DW-Nominate scores9 taken since Reid first became Democratic leader in 2005, Schumer has voted more in sync with Reid than any other Democratic senator (not counting senators who have announced they will retire). Durbin, by contrast, was the 25th most like Reid.

Second, Schumer is a relentless fundraiser, which is one of the main responsibilities of a party’s leader. Previously, I looked at how much Democratic governors and senators exceeded fundraising expectations10 in their last reelection campaign. Even controlling for Schumer’s wealthy fundraising base in New York, he still ranked seventh in besting expectations. Durbin, on the other hand, was the 42nd best fundraiser out of the 67 Democrats I examined.

Third, Schumer has been a tireless advocate in the media, which makes him well-positioned to articulate Democrats’ position on various policy issues. Among Senate Democrats, Schumer has made the second most appearances on the Sunday political talk shows (although this is one metric where Durbin comes out on top; he’s No. 1). Schumer has double the number of Facebook and Twitter followers as Durbin. In fact, Schumer has more than double the Twitter followers of any other senator thought to be in serious contention to be Democratic leader.

Schumer is the one plausible candidate for Democratic leader who combines ideological closeness with Reid with fundraising and media prowess. And his path into the position seems almost assured; Durbin has already indicated he’ll back Schumer.


Related: Nate Silver wrote about how Reid’s retirement affects Democrats’ chances in Nevada.

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Usually the countries that dominate international sports competitions are the ones more populated than New Zealand, which has just 4.6 million people. Yet the island nation is competing, and winning, in a whole range of sports. Its next task: winning the Cricket World Cup.

On Tuesday, New Zealand’s men’s cricket team beat its counterpart from South Africa, a nation of more than 54 million, to advance to its first cricket World Cup final. (And they did it in a thrilling match.) New Zealand has won all eight of its games in this year’s competition, and is the country with the smallest population to ever reach the title match in the competition’s four-decade history. The last World Cup champion, India, had just a slightly larger population: 1.28 billion.

Winning any World Cup is a big deal for such a small country. After all, my friend Stephen Wells, a London-based photographer, told me, “Any international/global achievement no matter how trivial is a big deal in NZ.” He added, “Some of us have an inferiority complex that we’re an afterthought of a country, because sometimes we really are an afterthought of a country. But not now.”

If the Kiwis beat their neighbors, Australia, on Sunday in Melbourne, New Zealand will become only the second country ever to hold the World Cup titles for both men’s rugby and men’s cricket at the same time.13

As good as New Zealand is in cricket, it’s better in rugby. The men’s team won the last World Cup, in 2011, its second. It has a winning record against every team it has ever played, has been ranked No. 1 for longer than all other teams combined and is the betting favorite to defend its title at this fall’s World Cup. New Zealand’s two rugby World Cup triumphs are the only wins in either World Cup in the last 35 years by a nation with fewer than 5 million people.14

YEAR SPORT WINNER POP. RUNNER-UP POP.
1975 Cricket West Indies 4.6m Australia 13.9m
1979 Cricket West Indies 4.8 England 46.7
1983 Cricket India 748.0 West Indies 5.0
1987 Rugby New Zealand 3.3 France 56.0
1987 Cricket Australia 16.3 England 47.3
1991 Rugby Australia 17.3 England 47.3
1992 Cricket Pakistan 117.3 England 48.0
1995 Rugby South Africa 41.4 New Zealand 3.7
1996 Cricket Sri Lanka 18.4 Australia 18.3
1999 Cricket Australia 19.0 Pakistan 140.6
1999 Rugby Australia 19.0 France 58.9
2003 Cricket Australia 20.0 India 1,093.8
2003 Rugby England 49.9 Australia 20.0
2007 Cricket Australia 21.2 Sri Lanka 20.3
2007 Rugby South Africa 49.6 England 51.4
2011 Cricket India 1,210.2 Sri Lanka 20.9
2011 Rugby New Zealand 4.4 France 63.1

New Zealand also has won one World Cup in women’s cricket and finished second at another. And it won four of seven World Cups that have been held in women’s rugby.

Again, all that with fewer than 5 million inhabitants.

These achievements might be easy to dismiss if you’re not into cricket or rugby. The sports have widespread but not worldwide appeal. Mostly they’re limited to former British territories and Commonwealth countries, and neither is yet an Olympic sport.15 But New Zealand has done well in the men’s soccer World Cup lately, too. It qualified in 2010 — as the third least populous country, bigger only than Slovenia and Uruguay — and was the only team not to lose a match. (It drew all three of its group-stage matches and was eliminated.) It fell one game short of qualifying for last summer’s World Cup. The women’s team qualified for the 2007 and 2011 women’s World Cups.

In the Summer Olympics, New Zealand has been gaining on its more populous rivals. It won 13 medals in London in 2012, the fourth straight Summer Games in which New Zealand increased its medal total. It ranked seventh in per-capita medals in 2008, and fourth in 2012, behind only nations that won all their medals in athletics. New Zealand athletes medaled in six different disciplines in London.

“That shows there’s a system in place, not just chance or concentration on one sport,” said Alex Baumann, chief executive of High Performance Sport New Zealand, the government body that sponsors recreation in the country, in a telephone interview earlier this month.

Baumann attributed the country’s sporting success to a number of factors. As with many things, it starts with money. Over the last five years, the government has increased its investment in his department by nearly 50 percent.16

“In the end, we don’t have all the resources like other countries do, like the U.K. or Australia or even Canada,” Baumann said. “You can’t spend the resources so thinly that you don’t make the difference.”

Prioritizing funding has spurred individual sports federations to excel, not just for glory but to keep getting money from the government. “There’s that kind of tension between sports to do well,” Baumann said.

That philosophy, and a deep emphasis on sports, is shared by Australia, New Zealand’s close neighbor and ally and sporting rival. While New Zealand lately has topped the standings for sporting performance by countries with fewer than 5 million people, Australia has been the dominant global sports force for countries with fewer than 20 million people. Baumann pointed out that each country’s prime minister attended the cricket teams’ World Cup match last month in Auckland, even though it was in the group stage and unlikely to eliminate either team. “It highlights the importance of sport,” Baumann said.

CORRECTION (March 27, 3:03 p.m.): An earlier version of this article said India won the cricket World Cup last year. It won the last cricket World Cup, in 2011.

CLARIFICATION (March 27, 3:32 p.m.): A previous version of this article said the cricket World Cup final will be played on Saturday. Its scheduled starting time is 2:30 p.m. on Sunday in Melbourne, which is 11:30 p.m. EDT Saturday.

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