Yes, we’ve figured this out.

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(A message to Bill Simmons.)

Bill, over your many podcast and television appearances you have shown a willingness to accurately pronounce the names of European NBA players. You don’t ignore entire syllables, you usually pronounce J’s as Y’s, and you usually get the emphasis right, even with such names as “Vitaly Potapenko”. But there’s one thing you do which is sometimes so irritating that it seems like you’re doing it on purpose. And that thing involves the letter C.

In Slavic languages, a C is not pronounced as a K. There’s no debate over this. It’s simple. If a C has a diacritical mark above it (Ć or Č), it sounds like “ch”. If it doesn’t, it sounds like “ts”. This is true in Czech, Slovak, all former Yugoslavian languages, and Polish. It’s also true in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, and Hungarian, which aren’t even Slavic. C sounds different in consonant clusters “cz”, “cs”, and “ch”, but that’s irrelevant right now.

No Eastern European athlete pronounces the C in his name like a K. Not Drazen Petrovic, not Stojko Vrankovic, not Toni Kukoc, not Vlade Divac, not Peja Stojakovic, not Nenad Krstic, not Nikola Pekovic, not Nikola Vucevic, not Darko Milicic, not Zarko Cabarkapa, not Zoran Planinic, not Zeljko Rebraca, not Mladen Sekularac, not Nedzad Sinanovic, not Dragan Tarlac, not Dalibor Bagaric, not Igor Rakocevic, not Gordan Giricek, not Goran Dragic, not Roko Ukic, not Mile Ilic, not Ante Tomic, not Marko Jaric, not Sasha Pavlovic, not Sasha Vujacic, not Aleksandar Radojevic, not Vladimir Radmanovic, not Radoslav Nesterovic, not Primoz Brezec, not Donatas Zavackas, not your soccer team’s stars Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka, and not Gregor Fucka.

Most of the C’s, in most of these names, are actually Ć or Č and therefore sound like a “ch”. Ć sounds slightly different from Č but they’re both basically “ch”. A couple of them are merely a C and therefore sound like a “ts”, as in Vlade Divac or Primoz Brezec. If you don’t know whether the C in somebody’s name has a mark above it, check his Wikipedia page.

But one thing you can be sure of is that it doesn’t sound like a K.

* * *

Also, when you’re expressing your uncertainty with how to pronounce something, don’t act like nobody else knows how to pronounce it either. You always say things like “Nikola Pekovich … Pekovik … have we figured this out yet? I’ll just call him Pek.” What this means is “Have we average Americans figured out the latest crazy pronunciation that the latest crazy European wants us to use?” Yes, we’ve figured it out. He uses the same pronunciation rules that the last 50 Serbian/Croatian/Montenegrin/Bosnian/Macedonian/Slovenian NBA players used.

And one more thing: in German, W sounds like V. Dirk Nowitzki has been in the NBA for 14 years, and everyone else realized it was pronounced “Novitzki” by the ’06 Finals at the very latest. You’re embarrassing yourself with this “Nawitsky” business.

Thank you for your time, and enjoy watching the performances of Pavlović, Vučević, Gadzuric [who DOES pronounce it as a K, because he’s from the Netherlands and went to high school in Massachusetts], and also all the various non-Slavic players in this year’s playoffs.

NCAA tournament picks from the National Institutes of Health, 2012

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Awaiting the grades on its renewal application, here’s the second annual prediction of how the NCAA men’s tournament promises to unfold, based on total NIH funding awarded to each college in 2011. Last year this prediction method got almost nothing right except that #11 Marquette would win two games, but second time’s the charm.

Excerpt displayed; click the image or click here for the full bracket.


  • Methodology is similar to that used last year. This year it was easier because the NIH now includes all awards for a given fiscal year in a sortable table embedded in its Awards by Location and Organization page. I sorted by “Summary by Organization” and used the value listed for each school [and its associated medical center / medical school, public health school, if those are located in the same city as the undergraduate institution]. Next to each team is the amount of NIH funding [in thousands].
  • As in 2011, the communistic organization of Texas’s research institutions hurts the standing of UT[-Austin], and hurts Baylor even more. Over $200 million to Baylor Medical School in Houston, and another $11M to Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, but the youngsters up in Waco end up going out in the first round to the Jackrabbits from Brookings.
  • The Final Four looks like it’ll be 75% different from last year’s. Two of 2011’s NIH semifinalists aren’t even in the tournament this year, and one [Vanderbilt] is going to lose in an epic 12-5 upset.
  • That 12 seed would win in my bracket easily if half of the funding attributed to Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were attibuted to the local university instead. But based strictly on the numbers next to “Harvard University”, “Harvard University Medical School”, and “Harvard University Sch of Public Hlth”, they have to sweat out wins against both the Commodores and the Badgers before breezing through the rest of the East regional.
  • In 2011 these figures predicted that VCU would lose the play-in game to USC despite having over $82 million of NIH funding. VCU ended up in the Final Four, so that bodes well for South Florida.
  • Last year there were a couple upstarts in the Sweet Sixteen, with Marquette and BYU making it despite less than $4 million. This year the organizers spaced out the talent better, and only Kansas State [$9.2 million] makes it that far with less than $30M.
  • Four of last year’s last-place finishers return to once again be humbled. UNC-Asheville, Belmont, and Xavier bring the same $0 they brought last year, but Gonzaga now has a nonzero tally thanks to Dr. Jennifer Shepherd‘s research on anaerobic energy metabolism in Rhodospirillum rubrum.

Where’d he get that J?

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Inspired by the Bulls-Pacers series that features A.J. Price, C.J. Watson, and T.J. Ford, I looked at the last 30 years of NBA players who use the ?.J. style of moniker. Is it more often an abbreviation of the first and middle names, or the first name followed by a “Junior”? Or just a nickname, like B.J. Upton?*

First name + Junior:

  • B.J. Armstrong [Benjamin Roy, Jr.]
  • C.J. Miles [Calvin Andre, Jr.]
  • C.J. Watson [Charles Akeem, Jr.]
  • D.J. Augustin [Darryl Gerard, Jr.]
  • D.J. Strawberry [Darryl Eugene, Jr.]
  • D.J. White [Dewayne, Jr.]
  • J.J. Hickson [James Edward, Jr.]


  • A.J. Bramlett [Aaron Jordan]
  • A.J. English [Albert Jay]
  • A.J. Guyton [Arthur James]
  • A.J. Price [Anthony Jordan]
  • B.J. Tyler [Brandon Joel]
  • O.J. Mayo [Ovinton J’Anthony]
  • T.J. Ford [Terrance Jerod]


  • J.J. Anderson [Mitchell Keith Anderson]
    [resemblance to Jimmy “J.J. Walker]
  • J.J. Redick [Jonathan Clay Redick]
    [reduplicative sibling mispronunciation]
  • P.J. Brown [Collier Brown, Jr.]
    [from “peanut butter and jelly”?]
  • P.J. Tucker [Anthony Leon Tucker, Jr.]
    [from “Pops junior”]

It’s a damn mystery:

* [stay tuned for corresponding results from the world of baseball]

NCAA tournament picks from the National Institutes of Heath

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Straight from the study section, inspired by Chad Orzel, here’s how the NCAA men’s tournament promises to unfold, based on total NIH funding awarded to each college in 2010. We can’t assume that the school with more governmentally supported biomedical research will always win, but that’s probably the best prediction method now available.

The NIH bracket picks seem more astute than the physics-rankings bracket. We could have a Princeton – Penn State – Illinois – UCSB Final Four, but I’m putting my money on Washington – Michigan – Pitt – Vanderbilt.

Excerpt displayed; click the image or click here for the full bracket. Click here for pdf.


  • This is entirely based on the 2010 “Domestic Higher Education” spreadsheet available from the NIH here [downloadable .xls file]. I sorted it by the name of the institution [column A], tried to find any instances of an institution being listed under multiple names, and for each institution, added up the total dollars awarded [column G]. Next to each team is the amount of NIH funding [in thousands].
  • For a school that is part of a large university system, I didn’t include all the funding for its other campuses, unless they’re in the same city as the school itself. This leads to UT-San Antonio getting credit for the UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and Arkansas-Little Rock getting credit for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
  • This rule hurt universities whose medical school or health science center is not in the same place as the main campus, particularly Tennessee, Texas [Austin], Kansas, Penn State and UConn. Although Kansas would still lose the 1-16 game if we include the Medical Center in Kansas City.


  • UNLV only got a million dollars from the NIH this year? Half as much as the Oakland Golden Grizzlies? UNLV is a huge research university. What are they doing over there?
  • Yes, Villanova were awarded no NIH funding last year. $0, less than Earlham College or Bloomsburg. They were on the 2009 spreadsheet, thanks to Dr. Jennifer Palenchar‘s work on trypanosome RNA synthesis.
  • Yes, that’s exactly $8,000 for Indiana State. And it’s not to set up a website or something, it’s to Dr. Allan Albig for “Mechanisms by which MAGP-2 promotes angiogenesis”. A small carryover from the $153,000 he got in 2009.
  • The least-funded school in the NIH Sweet Sixteen is Marquette, barely beating out BYU.
  • Tough result for the ACC, with Duke and UNC losing to juggernauts in the first weekend.
  • The overall champion’s performance is especially impressive since it doesn’t include the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.