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Beside The Points For Monday, March 26, 2018

Things That Caught My Eye

And then there were Four

The Final Four is finally set, and it should be a good one. Two of the teams have won the championship pretty recently — Villanova in 2016 and Kansas in 2008 — while it’s been a little bit of a wait for the others. Okay, fine: Michigan’s drought (since 1989) pales in comparison with Loyola-Chicago’s. The Ramblers last won the title in 1963, the same year Michael Jordan was born. [ESPN]

Ramblin’ on

There are a lot of incredible stats attached to Loyola’s Final Four run, from tying the lowest seed ever to make the national semifinal (11th) to the scant 1.9 percent Final Four probability Ken Pomeroy’s model gave them going into the tourney. (Which makes them the sixth-most unlikely Final Four entrant since 2006.) But the best might be just how emphatically they punched their ticket to San Antonio, beating Kansas State by 16 in the South regional final. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info, it was the second-best margin of victory for a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16 or later, trailing only Stephen Curry and Davidson’s 17-point win over Wisconsin in 2008. [ESPN]

Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?

They’ll make due with their many other All-Stars

Speaking of Curry, he suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee on Friday night — bad news for fans of the Warriors, or of revolutionary basketball in general. Originally slated to miss the rest of the regular season, Curry’s unavailability for at least some of the playoffs was confirmed by Golden State coach Steve Kerr on Sunday. “There’s no way he’s playing in the first round,” Kerr said. The Warriors’ injuries are really piling up, though they do have enough talent that they’ll probably weather Curry’s absence without an issue — provided it is just for one round. [ESPN]

Pacers are the anti-Rockets

By now, everyone knows the Houston Rockets’ formula for ruthlessly efficient basketball: Shoot a ton of 3-pointers, draw a ton of fouls and avoid mid-range jump shots at just about any cost. But with every NBA team rushing to copy the Rockets’ blueprint, the Indiana Pacers are thriving by basically doing the exact opposite of it. They’ve already clinched the playoffs, and have a 3 percent chance of winning the East according to our model. [FiveThirtyEight]

Did bad math cost Hamilton a race?

Reigning Formula 1 champ Lewis Hamilton was a pretty strong favorite to win the opening race of the 2018 season in Melbourne on Sunday, especially after he led the first 25 laps. But disaster struck for Hamilton and Team Mercedes when a caution forced Hamilton and the field to slow down while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was pitting. Mercedes’ software had previously calculated the interval necessary for Hamilton to maintain the lead in the event of a safety period, but it was wrong — Vettel emerged from the pits in first place, and never looked back. “Lewis did nothing wrong,” said Mercedes boss Toto Wolff. “It was down to a software bug or an algorithm that was simply wrong.” [ESPN]

Shohei it ain’t so

Freshly signed out of Japan, the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way phenom Shoehi Ohtani went into the spring as one of the most hyped prospects in recent memory. But his spring numbers have left a lot to be desired — in fact, they’ve been flat-out horrific. As a batter, he’s hitting .107; as a pitcher, he has an ERA of 27.00. A proper counterpoint would be that it’s a microscopic sample size, and that spring training stats don’t really matter anyway. Fair enough; still, Ohtani has been so unimpressive in the spring that he’s not a lock to make the Angels’ opening-day roster anymore. [ESPN]

Big Number(s)

0.5 and 58.4 percent

According to data from ESPN’s Tournament Challenge bracket-picking contest, only 83,292 of 17.3 million entries (0.5 percent) picked Loyola-Chicago to reach the Final Four. By contrast, 58.4 percent of entries had Villanova going to the Final Four, making them the most-picked team in the field. Two weeks later, both teams have managed to find their way to San Antonio. [ESPN Stats & Information]

Leaks from Slack

larue [7:17 PM, Thursday]

Was reminded of this today:

NFL players: height & weight over time
An animated look at just how much bigger NFL players have gotten over time.

Kinda love it

walt [7:37 PM, Thursday]
its like mitosis




Oh, and don’t forget
Neither opponents nor rule changes can stop James Harden’s foul-drawing antics.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.