F1 and FIA adjust grid box sizes ahead of Australian Grand Prix

F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia
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After grid box penalties in the first two races, F1 and FIA adjust the size of the boxes ahead of the Australian Grand Prix

Following grid box penalties in each of the first two races of the 2023 Formula 1 season, FIA adjusted the size of the grid boxes ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Starting with this weekend’s race, the grid boxes at the start will be wider by 20 cm.

FIA is also adding a new “guide line,” or center line, in the middle of the grid box to help drivers get aligned properly at the start.

In the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Esteban Ocon was given a five-second penalty for not being inside the grid box at the start of the race. This touched off a series of mistakes by the Alpine driver and his team, and Ocon ultimately retired from the season-opening race.

Then at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Fernando Alonso was given a five-second penalty of his own. Later in the race, questions arose whether Alonso served the penalty properly, or his team began working on his AMR23 before the full five seconds elapsed. Word came down following the race — and the podium celebration that acknowledged Alonso as the third-place finisher — that Alonso was being hit with an additional ten-second penalty, which dropped him into P4.

However, Alonso ultimately won his appeal, and was reinstated to his original third-place finish.

And eventually the third-place trophy.

Here is a look at the new grid boxes, along with the new center line, as provided by MotorSportWeek:

You can see the new, wider box, in contrast to the faded paint on the prior grid box.

Here is another look at the new grid boxes, from F1:

The wider boxes should make it easier for the drivers to align properly at the start, and this change will likely be welcomed by the drivers. Following his mishaps during the Bahrain Grand Prix, Ocon argued that with the new generation of F1 cars, visibility issues made it difficult to properly align at the start. “Unfortunately, you can’t see very well in these cars, especially not when you’re on the grid like that,” said Ocon after the race. “You can see the yellow line as a reference, but it is up to me to fix it.”

Following the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, a number of drivers addressed the difficulty of getting aligned properly in the grid box. Following the race, both George Russell, Sergio Pérez, and Max Verstappen spoke to this issue.

“It’s incredibly difficult [to see the grid box]. We’re sat so low and to put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre so you can’t actually see the ground itself,” said Russell in the post-race press conference. “We’ve got these big long yellow lines pointing out… I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position. It’s really, really tough so that’s why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense.”

“The visibility is just really poor in the car, that is I think, probably the main issue where you end up sometimes not fully, correctly in your box,” added Verstappen.

Pérez, the winner of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, echoed those thoughts. “Yeah, it’s really difficult just to see where you’ve stopped. I think, in my opinion I just overdid it and I stopped too early, but you have no idea when you are in the car. You don’t know if you went too far or from behind or too far forward,” said Pérez. “So I think it’s something… we need better visibility to be able to come up with a better idea than we currently have it. It’s good that there is a rule in place, but at the same time, sometimes it’s like luck, to be honest, where you position yourself.”

Alonso talked about the new grid boxes, as well as the central line, during press conferences ahead of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. While he believes the wider boxes should make a difference, he remains skeptical about the central line.

“It is difficult [to see the grid box]. And yeah, apparently this year, it seems even more, because in two races to have two penalties is a little bit strange. But yeah, I mean, in my case, it didn’t change much from last year,” said Alonso earlier this week. “It is difficult and we are very concentrated on the yellow line to not go too far forward. So, you approached the box, let’s say, not looking at the box, you are looking on one side of the cockpit. So maybe that’s a bit of a distraction. But yeah, I made a mistake there. So we will try to be more focused on the box this weekend and avoid any penalty.”

He continued:

“The central line? I don’t think so. Because as I said, you approach the box looking sideways, so you’re not looking forward, so that’s the biggest difficulty – but the 20 centimetres will help I guess. There’s going to be some circuits, maybe Monaco, or Imola that you start a little bit sideways anyway,” said Alonso. “Because if not you crash if you start there straight. So, we’ll have to see how we apply the penalties and things like that in those races. But yeah, no one wants to get a penalty for the start. Also, I think the FIA doesn’t want to have any problem with that, because there is no performance advantage, as long as you don’t go too forward. So yeah, hopefully we avoid anything from now on.”

Hopefully the changes make it easier for drivers to get aligned this weekend, and we can avoid related penalties starting with the Australian Grand Prix.

Embrace college basketball’s “bizarro” Final Four

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Forget the TV ratings or the lack of name brands and embrace the weirdness this weekend in Houston.

A men’s college basketball season where the unusual became the norm is approaching an appropriately bizarre ending.

How bizarre (shouts, OMC)?

-Saturday’s national semifinals featuring Connecticut, Miami, Florida Atlantic and San Diego State will mark the first Final Four in history that won’t feature a single No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed.

-The average seed of the four teams remaining (5.75) is worse than the average seed of teams in the history of the Second Round (5.71). If you add the total of the four seeds up — 4, 5, 5 and 9 — you get 23. That’s the second highest total in Final Four history, trailing only the 26 set in 2011 by 3-seed UConn, 4-seed Kentucky, 8-seed Butler and 11-seed VCU.

-Saturday’s first semifinal between San Diego State and Florida Atlantic will mark just the second time in the last 50 years that two teams making their Final Four debut will be playing on semifinal Saturday.

-Three of the four teams still standing are making their Final Four debut. That hasn’t happened since 1970.

-This is the first Final Four without a single former McDonald’s All-American since the tournament began seeding teams back in 1979. In fact, the Final Four doesn’t even feature a single former top 30 recruit.

-This is just the third time since 1961-62 that the Final Four will feature zero teams from the AP preseason top 10.

Most of these wild facts have been shared liberally over the last five days. The only thing more widespread have been the questions that this bizarro quartet have spawned.

Does anyone want to watch this?

Is this going to be a record low for Final Four ratings?

How bummed is Houston that this is their Final Four?

How bad are these games going to be?

At some point since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, we collectively decided that the formula for a perfect NCAA tournament was a solid amount of upsets on opening weekend, order being restored during Sweet 16/Elite 8 weekend, and then a star-studded Final Four loaded with blue-blood top seeds battling it out on the sport’s biggest stage.

It’s important to note that more times than not, this is pretty much what we get.

Since seeding the field began, No. 1 seeds have won more national titles (24) than all other seeds combined (17). And even with all the talk this week about parity and the transfer portal making the best teams in the sport “not as good as they used to be,” a No. 1 seed has won each of the last four national titles, five of the last six, and seven of the last nine.

This year, instead, we’re either going to see just our second 4-seed national champion, our first 5-seed national champion, or a new record for the worst-seeded national champion in No. 9 seed FAU.

The allure of watching Kansas, North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky and the like battling it out on the first weekend of April every year is understandable, but you’re going to get that in most seasons.

My advice to you as far as the weekend ahead is concerned is to embrace it for what it is. And what it is is a reminder of what separates this sport and this postseason from every other major American sport and postseason. It’s a reminder of what attracts you to March Madness in the first place.

In no other postseason in this country is there at least one team from every state but one (grow up, Alaska) represented. In no other postseason do all of those teams get the right to end their campaign by playing until they lose. In no other postseason is the sport’s top prize theoretically obtainable for every team involved.

Sure, the regular season is slightly less exciting than it would be if only four or eight teams made the tournament, and sure there are plenty of squads that probably haven’t earned the right to play for anything of any real consequence, but the good far outweighs the bad here. Making sure every team that deserves a chance to prove itself — even if that process results in some unworthy squads getting that same shot — receives that moment is so much better than any alternative that doesn’t allow for the same opportunity.

Obtaining the sport’s top prize is extremely unlikely for the vast majority of the 363 teams competing in Division I, but at least it’s not impossible. At least the bottom-tier NET school that won its conference tournament gets the chance to prove itself on the sport’s biggest stage, and not inside a quarter-full stadium against a team that doesn’t really want to be there, in a game that, for all intents and purposes, has absolutely zero significance.

At least when thrice-beaten Florida Atlantic pulled off a thrilling upset of Memphis in the first round of the tournament a couple of weeks ago, that wasn’t where the Owls’ story ended. At least the team with the best record in the sport (35-3) gets the opportunity to compete for the sport’s biggest prize.

Just picture of FAU cutting down the nets inside NRG Stadium in a few days. It feels strange, but it’s also one of those beautifully possible storylines that are only possible in this sport. “National Champion Florida Atlantic!”

Maybe the games this weekend won’t look as pristine as some years in the recent past. Maybe the television ratings will produce record lows.

Who cares?

Final Fours like this remind us that this is one of the very few major American sports where something like this can happen. Where almost anything really is possible. Final Fours like this keep us on our toes.

Embrace them when they happen.

Russell Westbrook went from ‘washed’ to possibly saving the Clippers season

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Russell Westbrook is the savior the Clippers need going into the playoffs

Let’s rewind to the beginning of the 2022-23 NBA season. The Los Angeles Lakers are off to a horrible start at 2-10. A team that has LeBron James and Anthony Davis, you would think they would get most of the blame. Well, that wasn’t the case. The responsibility, for the most part, went to their point guard at the time Russell Westbrook.

There were questions on whether Westbrook should go to the bench, play in crunch time, and some were advocating for him to be cut and for the Lakers to move on.

This was not an isolated opinion, as story after story was published about Westbrook being the most significant issue, and some even said this.

Don’t get me wrong, this version of Westbrook isn’t the OKC Westbrook or even the Washington Wizards version but the daily comments from the national media to fans about Westbrook being the main reason for the Lakers issue is and was an incorrect assumption as we have seen by the fact that the Lakers are still hovering around .500.

Since his peak MVP season in 2017 and his only season with the Wizards, Westbrook has been on the decline. In 2020-21 Westbrook averaged 22.2 and 11.7 assists and helped the Wizards make the playoffs. Westbrook would then take his talents to the Lakers, and in 2021-22 his points dropped to 18.5 per game which was expected since he was now playing on a team with LeBron and Davis.

The fit, however, never worked, as the Lakers and Westbrook never seem to be on the same page. His number dropped even further this season as he averaged only 15.9 points a game, the lowest he has since his rookie season. The Lakers would go on to trade Westbrook as part of a three-team and eight-player deal to the Utah Jazz, and of course, Westbrook never stepped onto the court for the Jazz.

Westbrook has been and always will be a player who thrives with the ball in his hand. Not as a catch-and-shoot role player who stands in the corner. That is why his eventual signing with the Los Angeles Clippers made so much sense. I wrote about how good of a fit Westbrook was with the Clippers, and it is coming to fruition with the injury to Paul George and the continued will he won’t he play status of Kawhi Leonard.

In last night’s win over the Grizzlies, we witnessed classic Westbrook leading the Clippers to the victory. Westbrook finished the game with a season-high 36 points, 10 assists, and 4 rebounds. Westbrook also set a record in the process.

This is perfect timing as the Clippers are dealing with another Paul George injury and Leonard sitting out games for various reasons. Last night Westbrook took over the game early as he had 22 points at the half and was the best player on the court throughout the night.

It is obvious his Clippers teammates love being on the court with him, as evident by this post-game celebration.

That doesn’t exactly look like a vampire sucking the life out of a locker room. On the contrary, that looks like a possible savior for a franchise that could use one right now.

Inside Miami’s incredible offense in Final Four, and how it matches up with UConn

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Miami overhauled its offense, and it put them in the men’s Final Four. Here’s why the Hurricanes are so hard to defend

After three years in the doldrums of the ACC, Miami revitalized its offense for the 2021-22 season. What had become a rote, high-volume pick-and-roll offense needed some added punch. With a versatile collection of on-ball creators, Miami shifted to more 5-out looks with veteran center Sam Waardenburg as the floor-spacing big man.

Waardenburg’s gravity as a pick-and-pop shooter (41.8 percent from three), combined with the scoring punch of guys like Isaiah Wong, Kam McGusty and Charlie Moore, formed the pressure point against opposing defenses. When the 6’10 Waardeburg engaged in handoff actions with one of the guards, defenses had to pick their poison. Put two on the ball and allow an open pop? Drop and allow the pop? Switch and let Wong cook 1-on-1? There weren’t a lot of good options. As a result, Miami’s top-20 offense ranked inside the top-40 nationally in effective shooting, 2-point percentage, and turnover percentage.

This season, Miami experienced a good bit of roster turnover, including the addition of center Norchad Omier, an undersized yet tenacious 5-man. Omier isn’t the same type of shooter as Waardenburg; however, what he lacks in stretch, Omier makes up for with dribble-handoff (DHO) playmaking and downhill drives. Those 5-out sets have continued to hum, especially with the arrival of Nijel Pack, one of the best shooters in the country, and the development of Wooga Poplar, who is emerging as a nasty catch-and-go athlete on the wing.

Striking the right balance

Miami’s offense features five players who average above four three-point attempts per 100 possessions and shot above 35 percent from deep. Pack, of course, leads the way: 11.3 3-point attempts per 100 possessions (54.7 percent of Pack’s total FGA) and 40.2 percent shooting from beyond the arc. After a slow-ish start to the season, Pack shot 44.1 percent on his 3-point attempts (6.4 3PA per game) over the last 20 games. During ACC play, Pack shot 43.3 percent from deep, which ranked second in the league — behind only Duke’s Dariq Whitehead.

The dude who ties all of this together, though, is one of the most versatile two-way forwards in the country: Jordan Miller, a crafty cutter, finisher, and passer. Miller’s connective passing and DHO creation efforts unlock an offense with a decentralized playmaking approach. All six guys in Miami’s top-six, including backup guard Bensley Joseph, can initiate offense, which frees Pack and Wong to do what they do best: get buckets. Two of those six, Miller and Omier, are 6’7 hybrid frontcourt players with a real knack for faking handoffs and getting downhill.

Add it up — the spacing, the 5-out sets, the multiple playmakers — and Miami’s offense starts to look pretty damn dangerous.

When Miami has the ball

Speaking of that lineup, the Hurricanes have an elite point differential with that group on the floor. According to CBB Analytics, the Canes are +208 in 458 minutes this season with Pack, Wong, Poplar, Miller and Omier on the floor together, outscoring opponents by 27.3 points per 100 possessions (offensive rating of 126.8 points per 100 possessions). In four NCAA Tournament games, Miami is +35 in 66 minutes with that crew on the floor, per Pivot Analysis.

Miami uses hyper-active pick-and-roll coverages on defense to unlock its transition offense, which is scoring 13.2 fast-break points per 40 minutes (96th percentile nationally), according to CBB Analytics.

During secondary situations, when Miami is able to push after a defensive rebound, the Hurricanes will look to Wong or Pack for early offense with drag ball screens from Omier. Nearly 40 percent of Pack’s 3-pointers this season have come unassisted.

Miller is also encouraged to push in transition.

However, this team is razor-sharp in terms of its half-court execution, too. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a couple of sets and actions that the Hurricanes like to flow into with their half-court offense.


Miami runs a lot of different things out of its 5-out alignment, but one of the primary reads starts with Wong spaced in the left corner. Once the ball is centered to Omier or Miller in the middle third of the floor, Wong will trigger “Zoom” or “Chicago” action — coming off of a pindown and into a DHO with the 4/5.

This action helps Wong turn the corner and try to get into the paint. If the initial action is covered, though, Miami can flow into its spread pick-and-roll offense.

When an opposing defense starts to lean on those handoffs — anticipating the exchange before it takes place — Omier and Miller will counter with fake DHO keeps. This helps those guys keep defenses off balance while working in the middle of the floor, often against slower defenders.

An after-timeout (ATO) counter to this 5-out keep maneuver is to have the off-ball player on the strong-side wing cut backdoor when Omier or Miller dribble in their direction. Here, Pack is covered on his back cut, but Miller sees the defense shifted and cuts right in front of Taylor Hendricks for a layup.


One of the other ways Miami likes to get Wong moving into a ball screen is with its “Chop” action. This is a set that UNC has run a lot under Hubert Davis — mostly for Caleb Love.

This starts with Wong on the left side of the floor, and the other off-ball guard/wing zippering up and receiving the initial pass. As that happens, Wong lifts up and off a pindown from the 4 to receive a DHO from the other guard in motion. Wong collects the DHO and immediately flows into a ball screen from the 5 — with the 1 (Joseph) leaking back up the middle of the floor.

It’s a lot of moving parts, with several guys touching the ball. That’s tough to deal with.

Here’s that same set with Virginia putting two on the ball and packing the paint, which opens up the skip pass for Wong.

If Miami sneaks Miller to the strong-side block (on the right side of the floor) — instead of having him at the left elbow to set the pindown for Wong, this is a tell: they want Miller to fake the DHO with Wong and look to attack. Here’s an ATO play vs. Wake Forest: Miller fakes and keeps the DHO with Wong, which allows him to turn the corner on Bobi Klintman and finish at the rim.

Scissor Cuts

Another way for Miami to initiate with Omier or Miller in the middle third comes from its scissor action. On these plays, which Miami runs frequently, the point guard starts the play by passing out to the wing and cutting diagonally down through the lane — off of a little brush screen from Omier. That’s immediately followed by a second cut from the off-ball cut, who cuts diagonally in the opposite direction, though once again using Omier as a screen. Once the ball is centered to Omier or Miller, the Hurricanes again flow into Zoom/Chicago action: pindown into a DHO.

With a spread floor and pindowns on both sides, there’s room for Miller or Omier to once again work in isolation and look to attack 1-on-1. Omier, with his strength and speed, is a tough cover in the middle third of the floor.

Miller has scored on this exact look multiple times in wins over Indiana and Texas. Upon his arrival in Coral Gables last season, Miller quickly established himself as a talented team and 1-on-1 defender, who could also help link actions together on offense. This postseason, though, has seen Miller’s profile grow.

Dating back to the ACC Tournament, Miller is averaging 16.8 points per game on 11.0 field goal attempts across six postseason contests, while shooting 63.6 percent on 2-points attempts. (During this six-game stretch, Miller also averaged 4.5 FTA, 2.8 assists and only 0.8 TOV per game.)

Chin – Floppy

Similar to that Scissor set, Miami will run single-double “Floppy” action out of its Chin series.

As Pack crosses half-court, notice how he signals with his left hand, pointing to his actual chin. Pack passes off to Omier and cuts down; so, too, does Wong, though neither player cuts across Omier in that scissor style. As Omier faces up, Pack switches sides of the floor and sprints off of two screens: Wong and Miller. Wong follows and cuts off a pindown from Harlond Beverly on the right side. That’s the single-double setup for Floppy.

Pack uses the staggered screens and flows into spread pick-and-roll with Omier. With Wake in drop coverage and Tyree Appley displaced by Omier’s screen, Pack has a runway to get to his floater.

Horns Twist: Old Trusty

When some of the 5-out/handoff looks aren’t hitting, Jim Larranaga will dial up his go-to pick-and-roll set for Wong. This is what Miami will go to when it’s determined to put the ball in Wong’s hands and let him create a shot: “Horns Twist.”

Twist is a simple pick-and-roll play out of a Horns set. It’s used by teams at all levels, including the NBA, when an offense wants to attack drop coverage or get a switch for its primary creator.

Wong will dribble up the floor and use the initial ball screen from the 4 (Miller) moving to his left. As soon as Wong hits the left slot, he turns back to his preferred right hand and uses a second ball screen from the 5 — in this case, Anthony Walker. And with Wake in deep drop coverage, Wong exits that Twist action with a good look at the rim.

If Wong is able to turn the corner, he can pressure the rim for a layup or collapse the defense and hit a teammate for a layup or a kick-out 3.

If the defense wants to hedge the second screen against Wong, he’s more than happy to outlet the ball to Miller or Omier on the short roll in space.

When things looked wobbly for Miami against Texas, with a ticket to the Final Four on the line, Larranaga called Horns Twist five times for his senior guard. Miami scored on three of those possessions and drew a foul on another.

Wong is a ridiculous midrange shot-maker. Over the last three seasons (100 games), Wong shot 50.3 percent on 2-point attempts: 393 total makes. According to Bart Torvik’s shot data, 314 of those 393 2-point field goals have come unassisted: 79.9 percent.

This isn’t the first time Wong and Miami have spanned Horns Twist. During a comeback win over NC State last season, Miami ran the same set on eight straight possessions, scoring seven times. It was huge for Miami during a February victory over Wake Forest.

Texas defended the action well, but with the screen defender closer to the level and Wong in his bang, Miami was able to unlock Omier for a lob finish at the rim, too.

BLOB: Open The Screen Doors

When Miami is set to take the ball out from under the opponent’s basket, Wong becomes a primary option in a couple of different screen-the-screener (STS) baseline out-of-bounds (BLOB) plays.

The Hurricanes will set up in a Box formation, with Wong at the block opposite of the player passing the ball in.

Wong will set a quick diagonal screen for Miller and then come off a pindown from Omier, looking to score — that’s the screen-the-screener action. It’s a good way to create a clean catch-and-shoot jumper for Wong.

The Hurricanes run another similar BLOB Box play for Wong — with a slight twist. Once again, Miami comes out in the Box, but instead of screening diagonally, Wong sets a back screen for Pack and then comes off staggered screens from the two bigs, Miller and Omier.

This, too, is screen-the-screener action for Wong; however, the Canes involve that second screener to provide Wong with a little extra room.

Hedge that bet?

In each of the last two seasons, the Hurricanes have gone to at least the Elite Eight while also having a defense outside the Top 100 in adjusted efficiency. Miami can be scored on; obviously, the defense has vulnerabilities.

Last year’s team was small but quick, so Miami leaned into being a hard hedge/trap defense in terms of its pick-and-roll coverages. They used that approach to force turnovers (No. 10 nationally with a steal rate of 13.0 percent) and kick-star their transition offense.

With Omier and Miller, Miami has two undersized, yet highly mobile, frontcourt players. As such, the Canes have continued to hard hedge and trap on ball screens, though Omier offers some scheme versatility. He can also play at the level or in drop, although that can get dicey at times given the lack of size. Miller and Omier can both switch out and move vs. smaller players, but that’s tough for UConn’s size and movement.

When the trap hits, that approach can trigger Miami’s electric transition offense.

However, it’s a risky path to walk. Poplar and Miller can cover a lot of ground on the back side, but if Omier is attacking ball handlers 25+ feet from the rim, it can put the defense in some dicey 3-on-4 scenarios.

Offenses can lift Miami’s defense and use screening actions to get players behind the coverages. UConn loves to open up hi-lo actions for Adama Sanogo. Those looks will be there.

Opponents have attempted 3s at a higher rate than Miami’s offense — 38.3 percent to 34.4 percent of field goal attempts. The recovering rotations must be tight against UConn’s army of 3-point bombers. Plus, it can leave the rim exposed. Over the last five games, only 26.6 percent of opponent field goal attempts have come at the rim, but they’ve connected on 64.1 percent of those looks.

While Miami still features a dangerous transition offense, the Hurricanes don’t force turnovers nearly as frequently this season (18.0% TOV rate). Miami’s defense has rebounded the ball better this season, too, thanks to Omier, who ranks Top 30 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebound rate (26.6 percent), and some of the more conventional coverages.

That said, UConn is a different monster when it comes to the offensive glass: No. 2 nationally in offensive rebound rate, gathering 38.5 percent of their misses. According to CBB Analytics, the Huskies average 4.7 put-back attempts per game (95th percentile), which translates to 7.9 percent of their total attempts (93rd percentile).

Sanogo, Donovan Clingan and Andre Jackson, who seems to always know where Jordan Hawkins is for a kick-out pass, are all terrors. If those put-back opportunities get Omier in foul trouble, Miami has a big problem on its hands.

Clingan averages less than 14 minutes per game, but the 7-foot-2 rookie’s advanced numbers are sick: 19.9 percent offensive rebound rate, 5.5 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, 72.3 FG% at the rim and 53 dunks (4.3 per 40 minutes).

Wooga World: Catch-and-go, potential matchup with Hawkins

Poplar has stepped up with a much larger role this season. His shooting line is pretty sick: 39 percent from three, 54.9 percent from two-point range, and 86.7 percent from the foul line. With his improved 3-point touch and willingness to let it fly, Poplar has turned into a perfect fit around ball-dominant guards Wong and Pack. When Poplar’s man shows help on Wong around the nail, Poplar can space for kick-out opportunities. Wong and Miller have each assisted Poplar 20 times this season, per CBB Analytics.

The increased shot volume has also opened up other fruitful avenues of Poplar’s game — namely his ability to catch-and-go, getting into gaps and attacking closeouts.

Poplar uses long strides when going to the rim, getting skinny when he needs to and slithering into tight windows. He also plays with his head up, which sets the stage for Poplar to grab the occasional second-side playmaking rep.

There’s a lot of room for growth for Poplar, but with this version of him fully operational: Miami has another pressure point on the rim and someone that can be efficient with a lower-usage role.

Defensively, the UConn matchup will serve as a big matchup for Poplar, too. It seems likely that Poplar will serve as the primary matchup on Jordan Hawkins, the best movement shooter prospect for the 2023 NBA Draft. Hawkins is the complete package as an off-ball mover — non-stop motor, efficient screen usage and an explosive leaper — and he plays in an offense that’s geared toward generating open looks with creative motion packages.

Crafted by head coach Mike Young, Virginia Tech is another motion-heavy offense that features plenty of dizzying off-ball sets. During the two matchups with VT this season, Poplar served as the primary chase defender on Hunter Cattoor, another elite movement shooter (career: 41.8 3P% on 600 3PA) and the closest facsimile of Hawkins in the ACC.

Cattoor shot the ball well vs. Miami in those two games — 35 points on 21 attempts (8-of-16 3PA) — some of which came against so-so chase defense from Poplar.

Here, VT comes out in a Horns set, enters the ball to Cattoor at the elbow and runs Chicago/Zoom action for Sean Pedulla coming out of the corner. After Cattoor pitches the ball to Pedulla, he fans out off of a flare screen from Justyn Mutts, which catches Poplar.

The sophomore from Philly has the length and athleticism to serve as the primary cover for Hawkins, if Larranaga opts for that coverage. However, he must do a better job staying attached, navigating screens and avoiding falling for UConn’s dummy action. That’s a lot to ask. It’d be a major assignment.

Poplar was able to use his tools to recover on some of his possessions against Cattoor and, in theory, put up a good contest. However, with shooters like Hawkins and Cattoor, defenders must stay attached and be in their airspace as soon as the catch the ball. If the defender is getting up to contest while the shooter is already in the air, it’s too late.

On this possession, the Hokies launch “Razor” action out of Horns: back screen from Cattoor into the elbow handoff.

There’s also the chance that Poplar gets matched with Andre Jackson, but then that leaves Wong or Pack tasked with chasing Hawkins. Miller could be an interesting variable. Perhaps Poplar gets Hawkins and Miller takes Jackson, though that’s probably untenable with Wong left to defend the 6’8 stretch-4 Alex Karaban.

Given Poplar’s lower-usage role on offense, though, Miami could give him this task — do his best vs. Hawkins, empty the bucket on defense — and then let the other four guys try to carry the offense.

The Huskies have a plethora of options and a blistering motion attack. They hurt you in a variety of ways, though if you can limit Hawkins it alters their half-court calculus.

F1 drivers and teams face a big time challenge with this week’s Australian Grand Prix

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Time might be the biggest factor at the Australian Grand Prix, but not like you think

Time is a present factor in Formula 1. Teams and drivers work around the clock to shave off every millisecond, efforts that could make the difference between a podium finish, and finishing outside the points.

But for this week’s Australian Grand Prix, there is another time-related challenge facing the teams and the drivers.

A Grand Prix on the other side of the world.

As the drivers take to the grid this weekend they, and all the team members in Melbourne, will need to adjust to the new time zone. This is a process that does take some time, and as George Russell discussed prior to last year’s Australian Grand Prix, it poses challenges.

“Having Melbourne in between races, especially as a standalone, is too tough for the teams and everybody,” Russell said last year. “People came out on Saturdays and Sundays to get [acclimated] to the conditions, to the time zone change, and it’s just too much. I think it needs to be thought about more.”

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. actually walked fans through the process of getting acclimated to the time change this week, as he traveled to Australia. On his Instagram page, Sainz talked at length about the trip to Australia, and the lengths he took to be ready to hit the ground running as quickly as possible once he reached Melbourne.

“I have to stay awake during this 1st flight so I’m going to explain how a good jet lag plan works when you travel to Australia,” Sainz wrote on his Instagram stories.

“1st flight 7 [hours] to Dubai: tough one, it’s 8am in Melbourne so it’s important NOT to sleep. Plenty of caffeine is allowed but most importantly, plenty of light exposure,” the Ferrari driver added. “Keep the reading lights on, watch a film and entertain yourself, quick visits to the bar to have a few conversations with your colleagues work also. It’s 22.30 in Europe so it will not be easy.”

Sainz added a later update during a stopover in Dubai.

“2h stopover in Dubai: probably in a zombie state after staying awake all night but it’s important to keep making an effort, never sleep and focus on staying in bright places with plenty of sun or artificial light. Have your last bit of caffeine if [it] helps. It will be 7am in Europe, afternoon in Melbourne.”

Of course, the challenging time change impacts not only the drivers, but the entire teams. And not just those making the trip. Even those team members who might stay back at the factory or at team headquarters, the time difference will pose some logistical challenges.

For example, the second practice session this week begins at 4:00 p.m. local time. That is 6:00 a.m. in Brackley, United Kingdom, where Mercedes’ factory and team headquarters is located. The same goes for qualifying, which begins at 4:00 p.m. local time on Saturday.

Tougher still might be the first practice session, which begins at 12:30 p.m. local time. That is 2:30 a.m. back in Brackley.

The time difference is something that Mercedes noted in their preview for the Australian Grand Prix. The team even shared a video featuring some of their key personnel highlighting how the drivers, and even the team members staying back in the United Kingdom, adjust to the time difference:

“We have very good guidance from a scientific point of view, especially on sleep, nutrition, on how to best adapt what to do, when to start eating, when to shift and by how much in order to get onto Australian time,” explained Dominique Riefstahl, who runs the team’s Race Support Operations at the factory.

And what about the drivers?

Aleix Casanovas, Performance Coach for Russell, added this insight: “Every race is different. We go to different continents and jet lag makes it complex… Australia is a big time zone shift for us. We start preparing beforehand, we change the body work a little bit and then use light and darkness a lot to adapt.”

And if that were not tough enough, Mercedes pointed out that the timing of this year’s Australian Grand Prix creates an additional wrinkle.

Australia turns their clocks back one hour this weekend.

“This is complicated even further with the clocks ‘going backwards’ in Australia on early Sunday morning of the Grand Prix weekend,” noted the team in their race preview. “The time difference at the start of the weekend is 10 hours and reduced to nine hours for race day once Daylight saving time ends.”

Time always matters in F1.

This week, however, it matters for a completely different reason.

Hendon Hooker isn’t going Top 10 in the NFL Draft… stop it

Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

This ‘Hendon Hooker in the Top 10’ talk is dumb.

Hendon Hooker was an incredible story during the 2022 NCAA season, but now this storyline has jumped the shark. Mike Tannenbaum of ESPN turned heads on Tuesday when he shattered every morsel of conventional wisdom when it comes to the 2023 NFL Draft, mocking Hooker to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 5.

A lot of things when it comes to the draft and prospect evaluation come down to personal opinion and gut feelings, but this is just dumb. We don’t need to humor this thinking, or pretend it’s somehow genius. Hooker in the Top 10 is stupid. It won’t happen, it will never happen, it was never going to happen.

Let’s discuss why.

Hendon Hooker is the anti Will Levis

Projecting NFL quarterbacks is extremely difficult, so teams look for predictors of success at the next level. The easiest way is to examine the offense they ran in college, and map that onto the way the sport is played in the NFL.

This is much, much more important than raw college stats. Obviously it’s nice to see someone win and put up big numbers, but we’ve seen mammoth college stats before, and if they’re in the wrong offense they will never, ever translate.

Do you remember Brandon Doughty? Probably not. In 2015 the Western Kentucky quarterback had one of the greatest passing seasons in the history of college football. Doughty threw for 5,055 yards, completed 71.9 percent of his passes, threw 48 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. He was drafted in the 7th round and was out of the NFL in two years.

There was nothing about the Western Kentucky offense that translated to the NFL. They ran a variation of the Air Raid, which is amazing at putting up huge numbers and making life miserable for college defenses, but very few of the traits needed to run an Air Raid work in the pros.

Similarly, Tennessee’s 2022 offense was fun as hell, and also a total gimmick. Head coach Josh Heupel ran his own variation of Art Briles’ system, that spreads receivers wide, and uses stack alignments to cause defensive confusion. The quarterback has one read, and the nature of receiver placement results in busted coverage on almost every passing down. So long as the quarterback can get the ball to that one guy quickly, it’s simple.

“So, when this concept is signaled from the sideline, there is one target and only one target. It’s not a full-field progression read from the quarterback that is common in most West Coast systems. This is why when you look to the opposite end of the field, receivers aren’t even getting off the ball. They are simply conserving their energy for when they get tagged.”

This results in mammoth yardage gains, low risk of interceptions, and a system designed to destroy teams who don’t have the time to do immense homework on offense.

None of this works in the NFL. Pass rushers are too good to allow for running five-wide on every passing down. Defensive coordinators might get fooled a few times by gimmicks, but given them some time and they’ll grind a gadget offense down — remember when the Dolphins went 11-5 because of the Wildcat in 2008 before it got figured out?

The inverse of this is Will Levis. There’s no doubt that drafting Levis takes a tremendous amount of faith because his numbers and college performance don’t pass the smell test. However, the offense he runs does. Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Liam Coen run a carbon copy of an NFL offense, with Coen coming directly from the Los Angeles Rams to Kentucky. There’s no guess work. Whatever positive traits Levis showed running Coen’s offense will translate to the NFL, so the work needs to happen in rounding out what he did poorly.

Levis had to work through a full read progression. He needed to throw into tighter windows. He had to have an understanding on NFL route trees and timing. Make no mistake: Levis didn’t do a lot of these things well, but at least you know what you’re getting. Hooker, on the other hand, is a wild mess of guess work that he can even adapt to the NFL from the system he’s been flourishing it.

Hooker is also 25 years old

There’s just a simple reality that teams want quarterbacks who can perform on their rookie deal, and if they succeed you want to lock them into two major contracts after that. Patrick Mahomes is only two years older than Hooker, and he’s already learned an NFL offense, become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and won two Super Bowl trophies.

Justin Herbert is entering his fourth NFL season and he’s the same age as Hooker.

If you think it will take 2-3 years (conservatively) to get Hooker up to speed, then he’s already approaching 30. When it’s time to sign the second contract you’re looking at the possibility of him being in his late 30s when the deal is complete. There just isn’t enough time to make it worth it.

Hooker is also coming off an ACL tear

Yeah, remember that his college season was shortened BECAUSE HE TORE HIS ACL! Yeah, there’s that too — and in justifying the pick Tannenbaum hilariously talked about the injury like it was a good thing, saying:

“The ACL, oddly to me, is a little bit of a positive from this standpoint. They just extended Geno Smith. Geno Smith will be their starter this year. Let the ACL come along.”

An ACL tear is never a positive from any standpoint. It means that Hooker will sit all of 2023 while he rehabs, taking his first NFL snaps (maybe) when he’s almost 27 years old.

The assertion for Hooker is “well, he looks so good it’s worth the wait.” The issue is that all the ways he looks good don’t translate. This isn’t some Tua Tagovailoa minor leap of faith, it’s a chasm — and even if Hooker was young and completely healthy he wouldn’t be taken in the Top 10 of the NFL Draft because of scheme translation alone.

Hooker could end up being a solid quarterback despite all this

For all the logic of projecting players into the NFL the league is littered with examples of the opposite. Nothing about Josh Allen made sense in the pre-draft process, and now he’s one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Meanwhile everything about Sam Bradford screamed that he was going to be elite, and he ended up being mediocre at best. The list goes on if we get into deeper rounds and find gems who fell too far.

The point is: When it comes to selecting NFL quarterbacks with high picks the game is all about projection and risk mitigation. Ceilings and floors. When it comes to Hendon Hooker there’s an average ceiling, and a tremendously low floor. Why any team would take that over someone like Anthony Richardson, who shares similar floor risks — but with legitimate “could take over the entire NFL” potential is beyond me.

Hooker will only go in the first round if a team is willing to overlook every bit of logic about how the draft works. That could absolutely happen and if he pans out they’re geniuses, but everything we know about draft logic tells us that Hooker will be a Day 2 pick at best, and most likely last into the mid rounds. He will not go in the Top 10.

Meet the 2023 boys McDonald’s All-Americans, starring Bronny James and wide open race for No. 1

Let’s meet this year’s boys McDonald’s All-Americans, where there’s a wide open race for the No. 1 player in the class.

The 2023 boys McDonald’s All-American Game has some obvious points of intrigue as the top high school basketball players in the country come to Houston for the annual All-Star showcase. This has long been considered a star-making event as the last chance for players to make impressions before the final recruiting rankings are locked in. Having NBA scouts in the gym only raises the stakes and the level of play during practice sessions, which can be more meaningful than the game itself.

The big question coming into this year’s McDonald’s All-American Game is the race for the No. 1 overall player. There is typically a consensus choice for the best player in the class by the time the All-Star circuit arrives, but that’s not the case this season. ESPN has Philadelphia-bred wing Justin Edwards at No. 1, 247 Sports has Atlanta-based point guard Isaiah Collier in the top spot, and On3 has Arizona native Cody Williams ranked first in the class. Will anyone stand out and solidify themselves as the No. 1 prospect during the week?

Beyond that, everyone else is wondering what’s next for Bronny James. James was selected for the McDonald’s Game and still hasn’t made his decision on where he’ll play next, though most expect he’ll go the college route.

Here’s an introduction to the 2023 boys McDonald’s All-Americans.

Who’s No. 1?

Here’s a look at five front-runners to be the No. 1 player in the class (and potentially the first pick in the 2024 NBA Draft). Each player has their college or pro commitment next to their name.

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Matas Buzelis, G/F, G League Ignite: At 6’9 or 6’10, Buzelis is a big forward who can handle the ball like a guard and make plays as both a scorer and passer. He has advanced ball handling ability for his size, and will earn the ‘point-forward’ label as he makes some flashy passes, especially in the open floor. Buzelis’s shooting is a question mark at this point: he has a long, slow release, and his high school percentages have been mediocre at times. Scouts will get a good look at if he can compete physically next season when he becomes the new star of the G League Ignite after bypassing offers from college basketball’s heavy hitters.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Holland, F, Texas: Holland has the positional size, athleticism, winning pedigree, and two-way proficiency to matchup with anyone in this class. A 6’8 wing, Holland has tremendous speed, quickness, and leaping ability that he leverages to score at the rim on offense and lock down a variety of assignments defensively. He’s had a winning impact at every stop, helping lead Duncanville High School in Texas to multiple state championships while also winning two gold medals with USA Basketball over the summers. Scouts will wonder if he has the takeover scoring ability typically associated with a No. 1 overall player, but Holland’s high-motor and well-rounded skill set at both ends of the floor makes him an intriguing bet at the top of the class.

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

D.J. Wagner, G, Kentucky: Wagner has long been considered at or near the top of this class for his scoring ability and famous bloodlines. A third-generation McDonald’s All-American as the son of Dajuan Wagner and grandson of Milt Wagner, D.J. is a 6’3 combo guard who has impressive burst as a driver and tough shot-making ability. The hope is that John Calipari will put the ball in his hands at Kentucky, and pro scouts will be able to see how he balances a high-usage blend of scoring and playmaking. Wagner needs to prove he has the decision-making skills to be a primary option. Where his jump shot is at — both off the dribble and on spot-ups — will also be fascinating to monitor. Wagner is probably the biggest name in this class and should have every opportunity to prove he’s still its best player.

Isaiah Collier, G, USC: Collier is a big guard with an advanced feel for the game who can make every pass in the book. At 6’3 with broad shoulders and a solid build, Collier uses his size and strength to run pick-and-roll, keep defenders “in jail,” and pressure the defense with his passing ability. While he lacks elite athleticism, he can often bully smaller guards to the basket and continues to refine his finishing craft. The big question is his jump shot: Collier seems solid on his mid-range pull-up, but he’ll have to prove he has range beyond the three-point line to be the first pick. For now, there’s no better facilitator in the class and that makes him easy to project at both the college and NBA levels.

Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Justin Edwards, F, Kentucky: A 6’7 wing out of Philly, Edwards feels like he should be an instant-impact producer at Kentucky, in part because he’s older than most of his peers (he’ll turn 20 in Dec. of his freshman year). The lefty has a smooth mid-range pull-up game that has won him plenty of fans, and he has the size and burst to get downhill, too. If he shoots a good ball from three, it’s easy to see him as a top-10 or even top-5 pick in 2024 despite his age a la Brandon Miller.

Where does Bronny James fall in?

Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

James finally stepped into a primary option role as a senior at Sierra Canyon this season, and minted himself as a worthy McDonald’s All-American and borderline five-star recruit. You would never know the 6’3 guard is the son of an all-time great from watching him play: James plays a truly egoless game where he’s happy to take on tough defensive assignments, fight for 50/50 balls, space the floor, and attack the hoop in transition. He’s rarely put up spectacular scoring numbers or operated at ultra-high usage during his high school career, but that’s okay: James profiles as the sort of winning role player any superstar would want to play with for his ability to do the dirty work out on the perimeter. Check out our deep dive into James’ game following his junior season.

No one is sure of what James will do after high school, but most indications are he wants to play college basketball rather than pursuing pro options. USC and UCLA have been mentioned as hometown schools, while Oregon makes sense for the Nike connections with his father. Wherever Bronny goes, he should make a winning impact as an athletic two-way guard even if he isn’t putting up big scoring nights every game.

Cody Williams is the fastest-riser because of his NBA brother

Patrick Breen/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Jalen Williams has been one of the best rookies in the NBA this season after the Oklahoma City Thunder selected him at No. 12 overall following a standout three-year college career at Santa Clara. College evaluators who let Williams slip to the mid-major level were determined not to do the same thing with his younger brother Cody Williams. Jalen’s rise into a lottery pick and stud rookie sure seems to have helped his brother, who is suddenly the fastest-rising prospect in his high school class.

Cody Williams was ranked around No. 80 in his class after his junior year at Perry High School in Arizona, according to Rivals. By the time he committed to Colorado, he was ranked No. 42 in his class. Now Williams is being projected as the No. 2 overall pick ESPN’s early 2024 NBA mock draft.

Williams has a great frame for a wing at 6’8 with long arms (his brother measured at 6’6 with a 7’2 wingspan). He’s comfortable handling and passing the ball on the perimeter, and has shown improved finishing craft near the basket. His three-point shot has been streaky to this point, and will certainly be a big factor in his long-term evaluation. It’s tough to know what to make of such a fast riser so late in the process, but Williams certainly won’t be flying under the radar like his big brother did.

Who else stands out in this class?

Jared McCain, G, Duke: After a standout high school career at Los Angeles’ Centennial High, McCain feels ready to be an instant-impact freshman at Duke. The 6’2 guard isn’t an elite athlete or the flashiest passer, but he’s a well-rounded guard who can take care of the ball while also flashing connective passing traits and knockdown shooting ability. McCain felt like the best three-point shooter in the class even before he won the McDonald’s three-point contest.

Omaha Biliew, F, Iowa State: The highest ranked recruit from the state of Iowa since Harrison Barnes, Biliew is a high-motor 6’8 wing who projects as one of the most versatile defenders in the class. He has a great frame to make a defensive impact with long arms, a strong base, and some perimeter quickness. SB Nation evaluated Biliew up close during a game at Waukee High School, and his three-point shot looked better than advertised. While he may not have a super deep scoring bag yet, Biliew fits into almost any lineup with his size, effort, and defensive ability as long as his spot-up jumpers are falling.

Aaron Bradshaw, C, Kentucky: Super tantalizing 7-footer with flashes of perimeter skill who needs to be more physically imposing on a consistent basis. Bradshaw looks the part defensively with good athletic fluidity on the perimeter while also showing rim protection skills. Offensively, he shoots a good ball with impressive range, but may settle for jumpers a little too much. This is a new-school big man who is just scratching the surface of his long-term potential.

Stephon Castle, G, UConn: Castle is huge for a guard at 6’6 and maybe even bigger. He’s more comfortable playing on the ball than off it at this point, both because he can overwhelm traditional point guards with his size and because he still struggles to shoot from the outside. He’s shown an impressive ability to score in the paint and set up teammates so far, and he should be a plus defender with his tools. UConn is adding another high impact piece to an already loaded team.

Mackenzie Mgbako, F, Duke: Mgbako is a 6’8 forward from New Jersey with tough shot-making ability and a solid if not elite blend of size and athleticism for combo forward. He has a soft jumper from mid-range and at times can get hot from three. While he’s not a quick-twitch athlete, he can take on a variety of matchups defensively and also contribute on the glass.

2023 boys McDonald’s All-American Game roster

How to watch the 2023 McDonald’s All-American Game

Date: Tuesday, March 28


Girls game start: 6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2

Boys game start: 9 p.m. ET on ESPN

Stream: Watch ESPN

Both games will be played at Toyota Center in Houston, and can be streamed on Watch ESPN.

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