Coach Dana Altman Faces Big Changes to the Oregon Roster

Last year, the Oregon Ducks trounced the Utah Utes in the Pac 12 title game and achieved the first one seed in school history. This offseason, the Ducks are looking at the possibility of three of their key players forgoing their remaining eligibility for the NBA draft.

Dana Altman coached the Ducks to the highest seed in school history. (Photo courtesy of ESPN.com)

The team is losing forwards Dwayne Benjamin and Elgin Cook to graduation. Altman does have several recruits coming in, including junior college transfer Kavell Bigby-Williams to shore up the interior of his team. The recruiting class also includes an ESPN top-100 recruit, Payton Pritchard, who is a point guard. The rest of the class includes small forward Keith Smith and center Michael Cage Jr. Cage and Bigby-Williams are each listed at six foot ten and will provide considerable size for the Ducks.  However, it is important to take into consideration the possibility that Oregon may be facing the loss of three key players to early entry into the NBA Draft:

  1. Dillon Brooks

Brooks is a small forward from Canada who participated in competition with the Canadian national team.  Brooks has a smaller wingspan and is not overly athletic but is a more than capable shooter.  This year he averaged 16.7 pts on 47% shooting from the field.  He also provided a handful of assists (3.1) and rebounds (5.4) per game.  Brooks’ exchange with Coach Krzyzewski after the Sweet Sixteen game against Duke became a huge topic of discussion.  The sophomore showed that he can shoot from deep.  Brooks does not appear in the first round of most mock drafts and is looked at as a mid-second round selection at this point.

  1. Tyler Dorsey

Tyler Dorsey (left) and Dillon Brooks (right) would be a huge loss for the Ducks if they were to remain in the draft pool. (Photo Courtesy of CSNNW.com)

Tyler Dorsey came in as a 4 star recruit from Los Angeles with notable size and athleticism for his position.  In his freshman year, Dorsey averaged 13.4 points per contest and 4.3 rebounds as well.  Dorsey had a few notable games this year, including dropping 23 points with nine rebounds against the Utes in the Conference Tournament Championship.  He is seen as an early second round draft pick prior to the NBA Combine.

  1. Chris Boucher

Boucher was a transfer from Junior College and has not played organized basketball for long.  He is quite tall but does not have size to fill out an NBA body.  Regardless, he is being strongly considered as a prospect after 1 year in Eugene.  In his first run at division 1 basketball, the Forward averaged 12.1 points per game with 7.4 rebounds.  Boucher even showed the ability to shoot from deep range.  He also had nearly three blocks per game on the defensive end.  He had several double-doubles this year including a 26 point, ten rebound performance against Arizona State.  There are mixed feelings about him considering his small sample size at this point.

If Altman is able to retain all of these players, the Ducks should be in excellent shape to contend for another Pac 12 regular season or Tournament title.  The loss of more than one would cause a huge roster overhaul in terms of valuable playing experience.  These are players that achieved a one seed and were one step away from a Final Four, not to mention that they were responsible for more than 40 points combined per game last season.  It is yet to be seen what sort of team will take the floor next year in the Yellow and Green.

Second Round Predictions Part I

 

(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

(Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press)

The Second round of the playoffs starts today for the Western Conference. There will be two game 7’s in the east before I can predict them, so here are the Western Conference second round predictions.

Golden State Warrirors vs. Portland Trailblazers- The Trailblazers have a legitimate chance if Curry is unable to play in the series. The back court of the Blazers is their strong point but they get a lot of help from their supporting cast. Without Curry I see this series going six games, but I expect Curry to return at some point in this series. The Warriors can win this series without Curry and should rest him until an absolute emergency because they are going to really need him in the Western Conference Finals. I think Steve Kerr will sit Curry as long as possible and the Warriors win this series without him.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors in six

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. San Antonio Spurs- This is by far the most intriguing matchup of the second round. This could easily be a Western Conference Final because both of these teams are that good. Russell Westbrook is playing like the best player in the NBA and Kevin Durant is playing like MVP Durant. It is hard to beat a team with two players this great, but again this is the San Antonio Spurs. The same Spurs who won 67 games and went 40–1 at home and a team coached by one of the greatest coaches of all time. I really think the Thunder can win this series, but what stops me is their inability at times to play defense. They also struggle to close out games in the fourth quarter. For these reasons I will stick with Spurs but not confidently.

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Prediction: San Antonio in 7

2016 NFL Draft Grades: Round 1

  1. Los Angeles Rams- B

Jared Goff, QB, California

Goff is a great pick, but the Rams gave up a fortune to get the pick. The wide receivers he will have to throw to may not be great, but the offensive line is improving and he will have Todd Gurley, which should make him better. Quarterback has been a position that the Rams have needed to address for years and now get a guy with some real talent.

2. Philadelphia Eagles- C-

Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota1 State

The Eagles also gave up a lot of picks to get into the second spot. They plan to bench him for the first full year behind Sam Bradford, if Bradford decides to stay in Philiadelphia. Wentz is a risky pick at number two, but has some upside. Ultimately the Eagles have a lot of holes to fill, and picking a quarterback who may not start for  a whole year, could set the team back even further.

3. San Diego Chargers- B

Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Bosa is a great player and pass rusher, but doesn’t really fit the Chargers’ 3-4 defense. He is versatile enough to adapt to it, but it may take some time.

Ezekiel Elliot pulled off the crop top on draft night. Photo courtesy wfaa.com.

4. Dallas Cowboys- B-

Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

Darren McFadden rushed for over 1,000 yards last season behind Dallas’ offensive line. This pick didn’t fill a desperate need like Jalen Ramsey would have. Elliot has a chance to make the Cowboys an elite offense, but they will be in a lot of shootouts next year.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars- A

Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

Ramsey is the best secondary player in the class. He is a big, physical corner, just like Gus Bradley had when he was the Seattle defensive coordinator. The Jaguars’ offense is now clicking so they had to address their defense. With Dante Fowler Jr. coming off of injury and seeing his first action after being drafted last year, the defense will be a lot better for Jacksonville.

6. Baltimore Ravens- B

Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

The Ravens could have gotten Stanley a couple of picks later or taken a similar tackle. He had a lot of penalties last year, but is really good otherwise. Baltimore could have picked Laremy Tunsil or a defensive back to fill a big need, but elected to go with Stanley, who should be a solid player for the Ravens next season.

7. San Francisco 49ers- B

Deforest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon

Buckner is a great talent, but didn’t produce much at Oregon. He has great potential, but likely won’t have a huge impact next season. The 49ers had a terrible offense last season, but chose not to address that with this pick.

8. Tennessee Titans- B+

Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State

Conklin is a little bit short for a tackle, but has a lot of talent and grit. Ultimately the Titans got a player that will help their future in Marcus Mariota. He will start from day one.

9. Chicago Bears- A-

Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia

Floyd is a great athlete who needs to work on his pass rushing. He is good in coverage, has great athleticism and good speed, which should help the Bears mold him into a good edge rusher.

10. New York Giants- B

Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Giants need help all over on defense so this pick makes sense. It may be a little high for Apple, but he shut down wide receivers in the Big Ten for two years.

Vernon Hargreaves is short, but a solid corner capable of shutting down receivers.

11. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- A

Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Hargreaves is arguably the best corner in the class and the Bucs are desperate for secondary help.

12. New Orleans Saints- C

Sheldon Rankins, DE/DT, Louisville

Rankins had a great Senior Bowl and should be able to play for three downs, but he didn’t do enough at Louisville to prove he is the twelfth best player in the class. The Saints need all the defensive help they can get as their defense gave up a lot of yards.

13, Miami Dolphins- A

Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The Dolphins haven’t had a great offensive line in a while and got Tunsil at a great value. There are some character concerns with Tunsil, especially after the video of him smoking marijuana that was posted on Twitter before the draft, but he is a very talented player nonetheless.

14. Oakland Raiders- C-

Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia

Joseph is a great safety, but the Raiders could’ve gotten him much later in this draft. If they didn’t think they could get him in the second round, they could’ve traded up to the end of the first to snag him there. He is also coming off of an injury, making this slightly risky. This does fill a need however, as Charles Woodson just retired and they need someone to start next to Reggie Nelson.

15. Cleveland Browns- F

Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor

Coleman is the fourth best wide receiver on my board. He isn’t big, which leaves the Browns without a good outside receiver on their team. Brian Hartline and Andrew Hawkins aren’t great on the outside either. Coleman is a versatile receiver with explosiveness, but he could’ve been taken later in the draft by the Browns.

16. Detroit Lions- A-

Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Detroit needs to protect Matt Stafford and get a running game going. They got Decker who is a great value at this point in the draft, but the Lions do have some defensive needs.

17. Atlanta Falcons- C-

Keanu Neal, S, Florida

Neal is a hard hitter and play-maker at safety, but there were still some great players on the board that could’ve helped the Falcons more.

Ryan Kelly will be tasked with protecting Andrew Luck and controlling the offensive line.

18. Indianapolis Colts- B-

Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama

Ryan  Kelly is the best center in the class, but centers don’t typically get drafted this high. The Colts need to protect Andrew Luck better, especially after his lacerated kidney last season. Kelly can be the center for the Colts for years, but it is a slight reach to take him here.

19. Buffalo Bills- A+

Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Lawson could have been taken in the top fifteen and been a good value. The Bills only had 21 sacks last season, and Rex Ryan will love to mold Lawson into a great NFL pass rusher.

20. New York Jets- A-

Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State

Lee is a fast linebacker, who can stop the run, but can’t rush the passer. The Jets needed linebackers, but also need a quarterback and offensive linemen.

21. Houston Texans- A

Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

Fuller is a great deep threat, who can high point the football. He is also very fast and can compliment DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans could’ve gotten Laquon Treadwell here, who is a more solid overall receiver, but elected to go with more of a big play guy in Fuller.

22. Washington Redskins- B

Josh Doctson. WR, TCU

The Redskins didn’t need a wide receiver. They got a solid receiver at a great value and moved down a pick to get him. He will be a good target for Kirk Cousins because he can high point the football and is a good redzone target.

Laquon Treadwell is the most complete receiver in the draft. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

23. Minnesota Vikings- A

Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

The Vikings need a target for Teddy Bridgewater across from Stefon Diggs. Bridgewater has a chance to have a great season with his young targets and good running game, in their new stadium.

24. Cincinnati Bengals- B-

William Jackson III, CB, Houston

Jackson is a great value here, but doesn’t fill a big need for the Bengals. He will provide good depth for now and grow into his NFL career.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers- B-

Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Pittsburgh is desperate for players in the secondary and filled a need, but reached for Burns here. They could’ve picked him later, but it seems like the Bengals may have taken their pick.

Paxton Lynch gets to play for the defending Super Bowl champions. Photo courtesy NFL.com.

26. Denver Broncos- B+

Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

The Broncos could not go into the season with Mark Sanchez at quarterback. They traded up and got a quarterback who is worth it at pick number 27. He has a great deep ball and is mobile enough to evade tacklers.

27. Green Bay Packers- B-

Kenny Calrk, DT, UCLA

Kenny Clark can fit into the Packers’ 3-4 defense well at nose tackle. B.J. Raji is taking a year off from football so Clark can provide some depth for the Packers at the very least.

28. San Francisco 49ers- F

Joshua Garnett, G, Stanford

Garnett isn’t the greatest guard in the class, but the 49ers decided to trade up and take him anyways. Chip Kelly’s love of Pac-12 players may be his downfall in San Francisco as well.

29. Arizona Cardinals- A-

Robert Nkemdiche, DT/DE, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche has some character issues, but is a good player and fills a huge need for the Cardinals. If Arizona can get better in the trenches defensively next year, they can win the Super Bowl.

30. Carolina Panthers- B

Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

Butler is a great value pick here, but the Panthers need a corner, especially with the departure of Josh Norman.

31. Seattle Seahawks- A-

Germain Ifedi, OG/OT, Texas A&M

The Seahawks need to protect Russell Wilson to make the offense dynamic without Marshawn Lynch. Ifedi is a decent value at this point in the draft.

Discussing the URF meta

Ultra Rapid Fire mode is up on the North American servers again (Finally!). To prevent some readers from making critical mistakes picking, banning, and building their champions this article will provide some very helpful tips.

If you’ve never seen URF mode before, watch this helpful video.

The distinct difference in the game mode URF is the “Awesome Buff of Awesomely Awesome Buffing” Practically speaking, the buff grants tenacity, free secondary bar, crazy attack speed, reduced healing, and 80% cooldown. With these buffs in mind you build one thing in URF: Damage. With no mana or cooldowns, things like Morellonomicon have way less practical usage than Rabadon’s or Liandry’s.

The ABoAAB in its entirety. Image courtesy of leagueoflegends.wikia.com

The ABoAAB in its entirety. Image courtesy of leagueoflegends.wikia.com

It’s also really easy to permanently lock a champion down. For example, Kennen is a very good URF champion. Kennen’s passive is that he puts marks on champions when he hits them with abilities. When a champion gets three marks they get stunned. With Kennen’s spells being on one or two second cooldowns it becomes very easy to just mark up an enemy champion enough to stun them three times right in a row. At this point, the champion either will be dead or right on death’s doorstep.

Items like Rylai’s Crystal Scepter make it really easy to shut champions down. This is specifically true on champions with AoE spells. Gragas, Sejuani, Zyra, Lux, Morgana, Kennen and even champions like Malphite or Zac can really lock a champion in one spot with Rylai’s.

Item activations also have 80% cooldown. Items like Randuin’s Omen, Righteous Glory and Lockett of the Iron Solari have much more usability in URF. Also, if it comes down to it, champions can grow to higher levels in URF, so more oppertunities to benefit from the Valor passive on Catalyst the Protector exist.

Some of the more unfair champions in URF that I would suggest banning if you aren’t specifically going to play:

  • Gragas
  • Sona
  • Lux
  • Shaco
  • Sejuani
  • Wukong
  • Malzahar
  • Warwick
  • Galio
  • Malphite
  • Xin Zhao
  • Morgana
  • Ziggs
  • Fizz

It’s easy to see why some of these champions are on this list. Warwick’s and Malphite’s ultimates are just unfair on those low cooldowns. Sona has unlimited healing for an ungodly amount of health. Lux, Morgana and Ziggs can zone way too much. It’s just impossible to kill Xin, Shaco, Wukong and Galio after ten minutes. Sejuani and Gragas just infinitely charge you and stun you until you die over and over.

Malzahar is a different case. While, with most mages you build raw AP and dominate fools, Malz has…well, he has a different strategy. Malzahar in URF doesn’t try to do any damage with his spells. You see, Malzahar spawns a Voidling after every fourth spell. This is good for URF since you can cast 75 spells every second. This influences the build because the Voidlings do AD. See, the plan with Malz is to cast a bunch of spells and let the Voildings destroy turrets and champions alike. When it comes to URF mode, the Voidlings are the true stars. If you happened to have watched that helpful video above, you can see the destructive power of AD Malzahar in URF.

Absolutely devastating. Image courtesy of https://www.etsy.com/listing/207498586/malzahar-voidling-plush

Absolutely devastating. Image courtesy of https://www.etsy.com/listing/207498586/malzahar-voidling-plush

Another true turret destroyer in URF mode is Fizz. The Tidal Trickster’s W benefit’s greatly from URF mode. When activated, his basic attacks do an increased amount of magic damage. The increased cooldowns mean that a diligent Fizz player can keep this on the whole game. This also works very will with Lich Bane. Lich Bane, which is built from Sheen, gives a huge boost of damage to the first basic attack after a spell was cast. With his ability to give a huge amount of damage to them, and negate a huge amount of damage from them, Fizz is one to pick or ban and not leave open for free.

Supports also run rampant in URF. AP Alistar is a nightmare to deal with. With his immense passive Trample damage, healing potential, and that ultimate, which negates almost all damage, being on such a low cooldown. Yikes. Blitzcrank’s grab, pop up, silence combo is off cooldown almost as soon as it ends, so try to avoid getting grabbed.

Some of the greatest champions in URF history. Image coutresy of http://orig15.deviantart.net/a4c7/f/2013/160/3/8/league_of_legends___support_wallpaper2__by_hit3n_by_xmarquinhos-d68dk55.png

Some of the greatest champions in URF history. Image coutresy of http://orig15.deviantart.net/a4c7/f/2013/160/3/8/league_of_legends___support_wallpaper2__by_hit3n_by_xmarquinhos-d68dk55.png

Hard engages are also extremely great in URF. Leona, Malphite, Zac, Gragas, Sejuani, Hecarim, Sion and Bard can destroy in URF. If you are even one step out of position you can get locked down by any of these champions. Even grouped up in a team fight atmosphere, these champions can isolate you and break you down.

I hope this guide helps you when playing the League Community’s favorite game mode. For more helpful videos on URF check out LoL Esports YouTube page and watch some games from URFs past. However, the best way to learn is to pick a champ you think will do well and hop onto the rift.

6.87: First impressions

(dota2.com)

There’s only a few days before the Manila Major Qualifiers kick off, and Valve catches everyone by surprise with the release of 6.87, full of remakes and new content.

As usual, the community’s reactions range from “Can’t wait” to

Personally, I’m feeling a little bit of both. I liked most of the Hero balance changes and some of the general gameplay ones, while others can be questionable, to say the least.

It’s gonna take a lot of writing to go through all of them, so let’s start with the most eye-catching ones.

“Reworked Ranked All Pick. Before the picking phase begins, there is a 15 second voting phase to ban heroes. Each player votes for a different hero. Afterwards, half of the heroes that were voted on will be randomly selected and banned.”

Thumbs up on this, at least for the idea. Seeing the same picks over and over again in ranked -AP had become frustrating ages ago. Some Heroes will always be a bit (or a lot) stronger than others in each patch, so some bans in -AP are more than welcome.

“Each team now has a Scan ability, available on the minimap UI.

Details:

Scans a targeted 900 AoE for 8 seconds. Indicates whether there are enemy heroes in that area during the 8 seconds.

Starts on cooldown and has a global team-wide cooldown of 4.5 minutes

Note: Does not consider units inside the Roshan Pit, but does consider Smoked units. Does not show how many heroes there are, just if there are any enemies. Enemies do not know when your team casts it.”

Well, can’t say I have a solid opinion on this one. It’s. . . interesting.

Perhaps an attempt to indirectly reduce the value of map vision skills, or a way to get out of a situation where your team is losing the ward wars. I’m hesitant to accept it as a Dota thing, but I guess we’ll get used to it along with the other shenanigans eventually.

“Intelligence now increases your spell damage by 1% per 16 Intelligence points.”

Recent patches are all about keeping spell damage relevant till late game. This goes way out of the game’s basic mechanics, but on the other hand, it makes a bit of sense, since most INT Heroes aren’t much for right-click attacks, so they didn’t really benefit from their primary attribute boosting their attack. Boosting spell damage through INT is a more traditional RPG concept.

While in theory and by itself it may seem valid, Dota isn’t that simple. It can and will affect the game’s balance a lot. I hope you guys weren’t expecting a nerf on Zeus, eh?

On a side note, Aether Lens’ damage amplification was nerfed, so that’s a bit of a relief.

“Tier 2 towers damage now same as Tier 3.

Towers now grant an armor aura to allied heroes.

Pushing seems to be harder now, so people perhaps will focus on getting Hero pickoffs before trying to push. Which sounds as a measure for a bit more fun to watch and action packed games.

On the other hand, tower diving is also more dangerous, and just defending towers and avoiding fights is always an option, so way may see some more turtling going on. Kind of a double-edged sword.

“Initial Bounty Rune no longer gives experience.”

Not bad, since getting that first bounty rune could mean the world for the solo mid. Early levels are generally more important at that point. Now it’s still good but not as must-get.

“Melee creep experience reduced from 62 to 45.

Ranged creep experience increased from 41 to 90.”

Alright, this is tricky. I think it’s meant to encourage people to temporarily leave their lane (as in to get runes) without losing too much, since melee creeps usually die first.

Side note: Lich will be in a dilemma.

“Evasion now uses Pseudo-Random Distribution.”

. . . So that’s why I was never getting any procs.

“Illusions now benefit from Damage Block.”

The Vanguard Naga Siren is upon us. Alas.

 

To be continued. More than once.

What to Watch for in Round Two

With only one more series to wrap up the first round, the Anaheim Ducks will face off against the Nashville Predators in game seven. We will take a look at the round two match-ups.

Washington Capitals vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Alex Ovechkin takes on Sidney Crosby. Two of the greatest players in the NHL face off in this second round match-up. All hockey fans cannot wait to see these two go at it. Alexander Ovechkin, the hard hitting, hard shooting Russian, verses the quiet playmaker from Canada. Both captains of their respected teams are backed by hot goalies. Matthew Murray is normally the backup goalie to Marc-Andre Fleury for the Penguins, but Fleury is currently out with a concussion. Murray has not missed a beat only allowing two goals a game in the Rangers series. Braden Holtby, the goaltender for the Capitals, had two shutouts in the Flyers series and never gave up more than two goals in a game. Although these are two of the hottest goalies in the league, these are two high powered offenses that can score at any moment.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders

John Tavares (Extratime.uol.com)

Captain Clutch takes on the best playoff line in hockey. Are Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Alex Killorn for the Tampa Bay Lightning the best line in hockey right now? I think so. All three are +6 while on the ice, as they had three of the four game winning goals, and they are first, second, and third in points for their team. The Islanders upset the Florida Panthers in the first round on the back of John Tavares. In game six of the first round, JT scored a late goal to tie the game and then scored the game winning goal in OT. Anyone that follows the Islanders was not surprised by this, JT is as clutch as it comes.

Dallas Stars vs. St. Louis Blues

Brian Elliot (Bleedinblue.com)

The St. Louis Blues took care of the former Cup champions in the first round, and goaltender Brian Elliot can take some credit for this. Elliot posted a .929 save percentage, not letting the Blackhawks get into a rhythm. Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko had the most goals for the Blues in the first round with four, and he always does great against the Hawks. Let’s see if he can do the same against the Stars. With the loss of Tyler Seguin, the Stars needed other players to step up, step up they did. Left winger, Jaime Benn, has scored 10 points for the Stars which tops the NHL. The Stars used two goalies in the first round, Antti Niemi, and Kari Lehtonen. I hope they use Kari Lehtonen for the rest of the way, as I like the way he has looked.

San Jose Sharks vs. (Anaheim Ducks or Nashville Predators)

The Sharks played really well against the Kings in the first round. I was waiting for the Sharks to fall apart towards the end of the series but it never happened. Whoever wins between Anaheim and Nashville has a tough series to come. Joe Pavelski scored five goals in as many games while shooting an astounding 35.70%. In net Martin Jones out played his former teammate Johnathon Quick. Since Frederik Anderson has taking over in net for the ducks they are 3-1 with his .955%. This is something to watch for in tonight’s game.

4/27 Games

New York Islanders @ Tampa Bay Lightning 7:00 ET

Nashville Predators @ Anaheim Ducks 10:00 ET

Can the Golden State Warriors Win a Championship Without Curry?

Credit: The Associated Press

Credit: The Associated Press

How far can the Warriors go without Curry? Can they beat Portland or Los Angeles? Can they win the Western Conference? Can they win a championship without Curry? There is a simple answer to that question that I will answer with another question. Could the Chicago Bulls win their six championships with Jordan being out or hurt? No. The question is able to be answered because Jordan retired and played baseball and the Bulls did not win a title until he came back.

The Warriors are a great team with or without Curry but great teams don’t always win a title. The Warriors did a great job finishing off the Houston Rockets but that was the worst team in the playoffs. They will get a few days of rest as the Trailblazers and Clippers have to finish their series.

Even though Curry got hurt, the Warriors caught a break when Chris Paul and Blake Griffin went down with injuries because this Warriors team would not beat a completely healthy Clippers team. They can however beat a full strength Trailblazers team. The Blazers are a good young team but they can not match the Warriors ball movement and depth in a seven game series even without Curry.

The Warriors will advance to the Western Conference Finals and meet either the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder. The least likely opponent would be the Thunder. If they were to play the Thunder they would struggle to match up against Westbrook. He would be able to dominate both sides of the ball. I don’t think the Warriors are good enough without Curry to advance past the Thunder.

The same goes for the possible matchup against the Spurs. The Warriors are good but not good enough. The Spurs are dominant on the defensive side and without Curry the Warriors would struggle to create open looks against the Spurs. The Spurs are just as good offensively as they are defensively. They won 67 games for a reason and the Warriors without Curry would be no match for the Spurs.

Without Curry the Warriors are still a competitive playoff team but not a title contender. He is going to win the MVP for the second straight year and was the scoring champion. He means so much to the Warriors and without him they cannot defend their title. If Curry is unable to return and fight with his team there will be a new NBA champion.

Miami Marlins: Don’t Quit on ’em Yet

I know it’s a little early to be quitting on anybody after just three weeks of baseball, but the Marlins haven’t looked so hot and I know that Miami fans have a lot to be stressed out about with the NBA playoffs right now (and Dolphins fans haven’t had much to go on in recent years). So fear not, I’m here to try to provide you guys with a light at the end of the tunnel and (hopefully) let you know that all is not lost.

The Marlins have a lot of potential on this offense, and I think that’s where a lot of their issues have come from thus far. Their acquisition of Barry Bonds in the offseason hasn’t bore fruit just yet, but give him some time to mesh with this team and he might be able to help a few more of these guys click.

This roster is already chock full of guys who have proven they can hit at the Major League level before. Giancarlo Stanton, who hasn’t gotten off to the powerful start everyone expected, hit a big three-run homer off of Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday, giving him six on the year, which still has him in the top 10 in the National League. That homer was his third in three days, over which his slugging % has shot up from .368 to .536. Let’s also not forget that Stanton may still be experiencing lingering effects from a broken hand he suffered last year (as you can probably guess, your hands are pretty important when it comes to hitting).

Dee Gordon has stolen 6 bases this year after swiping 58 in 2015. Photo courtesy of miamiherald.com

While Stanton is upping his power game, Christian Yelich is showing that he can hit for average with the best of them. Yelich is currently #2 in the MLB with a .388 batting average. He also leads the MLB with a .500 on-base percentage. Yes, as in, he’s reaching base every other at-bat (or plate appearance if you wanna get picky). He’s done a fantastic job setting the table for Stanton thus far, and is currently second on the team with eight RBI (along with Adeiny Hechavarria and Marcell Ozuna). Let’s also not forget that Yelich is in just his fourth Major League season, so his productivity will continue to go up over the course of this year and his career.

Plenty of other bats on this team have the potential to heat up. Dee Gordon is proving to be a great leadoff man again for the Marlins, currently hitting .271 and with six stolen bags in eight attempts. As for Scott Taylor’s opinions in regards to Dee Gordon vs. Billy Hamilton, I’ll leave that for you to decide. What I do know is Gordon’s been making headway over the past couple of weeks on the basepaths, and his career batting average sits around .291, so he’s still due to put plenty more hits up this year.

Also worth noting, Ichiro is hitting .400 off of the bench so far this year, and even though he’s getting on in years, he can still certainly cause some trouble at the plate.

Miami has a mediocre pitching staff, stats-wise, and that’s not terrible given what their offense can do on paper. They sit in the middle of the pack in the NL in ERA, and BAA, and rank 9th in walks. Jose Fernandez is in a bit of a slump to start the season, and that’s actually a pretty common trend looking around NL East aces. Max Scherzer is in a self-proclaimed “funk,” while Matt Harvey still sees himself as “a work in progress,” so Fernandez is by no means alone in pitchers off to slow starts. Fernandez has yet to pitch a season with an ERA over 3.00, (currently he’s at 4.37) and I think that will still be true by the end of the year.

The rest of this staff should come into its own too. Wei-Yin Chen provided his 3rd quality start in 4 appearances against the Dodgers on Monday. He got roughed up against the Mariners in his Marlins debut, but since then he’s calmed down wonderfully. If this offense is able to step up and give him to run support, Chen could be sitting pretty in the wins column by September.

The remaining three pitchers remain to be works in progress. They are all young guys who will probably never reach the #1 spot in a rotation, but they still have a lot of room to mature on the mound. Adam Conley has done the best job of the remaining three at limiting free passes. Tom Koehler and Jared Cosart both have K/BB ratios below two, while Conley (also the youngest of the three) is sitting at 21/8. Cosart especially needs to get his stuff under control. He’s currently at 8/15, but he’s shown in the past that he can succeed if he has control of his stuff.

Finally, the Marlins schedule is in a bit of a power trough for the next two weeks. They have 2 series against the Brewers (averaging just four runs a game, they could provide good confidence starts for Koehler, Conley, and Cosart), one against the inconsistent D-Backs, and another vs. the also offensively challenged Phillies. The Marlins have the potential to really gain some momentum heading into the heart of the MLB season before facing the Nationals again on May 13.

2016 NFL Mock Draft April 28

  1. Jared Goff will be the number one pick tonight. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com.

    Los Angeles Rams- Jared Goff, QB, Cal

The Rams have traded up for the number one pick to start the craziness of the draft. There is no reason to trade up this far if they don’t plan on selecting a quarterback. Early reports say they are leaning towards Goff, who is the best quarterback in this class. Goff is a natural, who has a lot of poise in the pocket. He has solid arm strength and good accuracy.

2. Philadelphia Eagles- Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State

Philadelphia has now traded up for the second pick. Teams do not trade up like this unless they want a quarterback. The Eagles prefer Wentz and want him to sit behind Sam Bradford for at least a year.  Wentz had a great pro day that cemented his good draft stock.

  1. San Diego Chargers- Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss

The Chargers can’t pass up getting more protection for Phillip Rivers. The offensive line has some holes that Tunsil would be able to help fill. Tunsil has the ability to play either tackle position and has the potential to be a good starter for years.

4. Dallas Cowboys- Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State

The Cowboys don’t have a great pass rush or secondary, and in this scenario they get the guy they want. Ramsey is versatile enough to help out the Cowboys in numerous ways and can make plays for a team that only had eight interceptions last season. With one of their needs filled here, Dallas will be dangerous next season.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars- Myles Jack, LB, UCLA

The Jaguars have to improve their defense this off-season. Jack can help fill the hole they have at linebacker, but is also a great value pick, as he is one of the best athletes in the class.

  1. Baltimore Ravens-Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida

Baltimore can either get an offensive lineman or secondary help here. Their secondary was terrible, so they will probably fill the bigger need. Hargreaves is a good shutdown corner, who would immediately improve the Ravens’ secondary.

  1. San Francisco 49ers- Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State

The 49ers had the fifth fewest sacks in the NFL last season and desperately need to improve their pass rush to be competitive again. Bosa would be a great pick here as many believe he is a top five prospect.om

Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com

  1. Cleveland Browns-Leonard Floyd, DE/OLB, Georgia

The Browns will probably try to trade down for a wide receiver or Ezekiel Elliot. Another big need is an outside linebacker who can get to the quarterback. Floyd is a very versatile player who can rush the passer, but still play good coverage when called upon.

9.Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Deforest Buckner, DE/DT, Oregon

Tampa Bay should probably trade down to get secondary hep at this pick, but with so many teams already trading they may be forced to take a player. The Buccaneers need help on the interior of the defensive line and Buckner could fit in their 4-3 defense at defensive tackle. He would be paired next to Gerald McCoy, which could be a dynamic duo for the future.

  1. New York Giants- Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame

It could be argued that Stanley is the best offensive lineman in this class. He is a great run blocker, who allowed C.J. Prosise to have a breakout year at running back for Notre Dame. He will be tasked with keeping Eli Manning off of the ground and providing holes for a weak running game.

  1. Chicago Bears- Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State

Elliot was asked which team liked him the best and his answer was: The Bears. Matt Forte is now a Jet and Jeremy Langford isn’t a sure thing for next season. If both offensive tackle options are off of the board at this point, Elliot would be a great pick to get the offense up and running.

  1. New Orleans Saints- Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Lawson had a fantastic final season at Clemson and can help the Saints, who had a terrible season defensively last year. He will be a star on the defense along with fellow Clemson Tiger Stephone Anthony, who was drafted by the Saints last season.

  1. Miami Dolphins- Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State

The Dolphins now have Byron Maxwell, but still need another corner if they plan on beating Brady and the Patriots. Apple has good size and speed and shut down Big Ten receivers for two years.

Photo courtesy youtube.com.

  1. Oakland Raiders- Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State

Oakland finally has their offense on the right track. Now they need some defensive players to put with with Khalil Mack. Lee is an athletic and fast linebacker who can cover and stop the run, but he can’t rush the passer very well. The Raiders can leave that to Mack.

  1. Tennessee Titans-Jack Conklin, OT, MSU

The Titans traded down and now have a chance to rebuild their roster around Marcus Mariota. Tennessee should improve their defense, but can get Mariota protection because he was sacked a lot last season.

  1. Detroit Lions- Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

The Lions used to have great interior defensive linemen, but that is no longer the case. Taking a defensive tackle would really help their run defense.

  1. Atlanta Falcons- Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State

Atlanta had a league low 19 sacks last season. They will be targeting pass rushers again this season. Ogbah is falling in a lot of mock drafts, but he is still a talented player. He had great production last year for Oklahoma State and had a solid combine. Ogbah may be a little inconsistent, but he still produces enough numbers that it shouldn’t matter.

  1. Indianapolis Colts- Reggie Ragland, ILB, Alabama

The Colts had a terrible defense last season and will want to get a play-maker on that side of the ball. Ragland can hold down the middle of the defense for the Colts for years. The Colts also need some interior offensive line players, but can get some later in the draft to protect Andrew Luck.

  1. Buffalo Bills- Robert Nkemdiche, DL, Ole Miss

Nkemdiche has a lot of concerns about his character after an incident involving marijuana before Ole Miss’ bowl game. He has a lot of potential and versatility, which makes him an intriguing prospect. Rex Ryan will overlook his character issues to get a player whose value is greater than his draft position.

  1. New York Jets- Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State

Decker is a great run blocker who helped Ezekiel Elliot blossom into a star. This pick makes even more sense now that D’Brickashaw Ferguson has chosen to retire. Decker would fill a huge need for the Jets without Ferguson.

  1. Washington Redskins- Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama

Terrance Knighton just signed with the New England Patriots so the Redskins need someone to fill in on the interior of the defensive line. Reed is a physical defensive tackle who speializes in stopping the run, but still needs some work on his pass rushing abilities.

Photo courtesy foxsports.com.

  1. Houston Texans- Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss

Treadwell is athletically gifted and has great hands. He has recently claimed that he played in the SEC on one leg. Because he was able to do that he will be a great NFL wide receiver when healthy. The Texans need a wide receiver to pair with Deandre Hopkins.

23.Minnesota Vikings- Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame

The Vikings just cut Mike Wallace and would like another receiver to pair with Stefon Diggs. Fuller is a great deep threat and had a great combine. Teddy Bridgewater could have a career year with an extra target and because he is now playing half of his games in a dome.

  1. Cincinnati Bengals- Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor

The Bengals need to find a replacement for Domata Peko. He continues to get worse every season and the Bengals do nothing about it. Billings will be the steal of this draft. He is very quick off of the ball and reminds me of Aaron Donald. The Bengals can pair him next to Geno Atkins and have the best defensive line in the NFL.

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers- William Jackson, CB, Houston

The Steelers desperately need secondary help and will probably pick a corner back if they decide they don’t want to stash another linebacker on their depth chart. Jackson had a great combine and season for Houston. The Steelers will need him from day one.

  1. Seattle Seahawks- Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech

The Seahawks don’t have too many needs. Butler is a great interior pass rusher, who could make Seattle’s defense even better.

  1. Green Bay Packers- Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA

Clark can play nose tackle in the Packers 3-4 defense, but may need to put on a few more pounds. The Packers need to improve their defense, as their offense continues to be great year in and year out.

  1. Kansas City Chiefs- Josh Doctson, WR, TCU

Kansas City have to continue to give Alex Smith weapons. Doctson is great at high-pointing the football and has great hands to haul in passes. He will be a good fit across from Jeremy Maclin.

29.Arizona Cardinals- Noah Spence, DE/OLB, EKU

The Cardinals need to improve their defense, as their offense was outstanding in 2015. Spence would provide a great pass rusher for Arizona’s scheme. He did have issues with failing drug tests, but seems to be past that now.

30.Carolina Panthers- Makensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

The Panthers have a great defense, but now are desperate for corners with Josh Norman leaving. Alexander is a great pick here, who could start for Carolina next season.

Photo courtesy Nfl.com.

  1. Denver Broncos- Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis

Denver lost two quarterbacks this off-season and replaced them with Mark Sanchez. They developed Brock Osweiler well, and Lynch fits the same mold. He differs from Osweiler in that he is more mobile, but has a weaker arm.

Round 2

  1. Cleveland Browns- Corey Coleman WR, Baylor- Andrew Hawkins and Brian Hartline are the best wide receivers for the Browns. This has potential to be the worst receiving corps in league. Coleman is a very versatile receiver and would help out RGIII a lot.
  2. Tennessee Titans- Xavien Howard, CB, Baylor- Titans need defensive help everywhere. Howard isn’t a great value pick, but fills a need.
  3. Dallas Cowboys- Jonathan Bullard DE/DT- Florida- The Cowboys needs some more defensive line depth and pass rushing.
  4. San Diego Chargers-Keanu Neal, S, Florida- Neal is a steal at this range and fills a need for the chargers.
  5. Baltimore Ravens- Cody Whitehair, G/OT, Kansas State- The Ravens need offensive line help everywhere and Whitehair is versatile.
  6. San Francisco 49ers- Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State- Thomas can be the redzone threat that Torrey Smith isn’t. The 49ers are going to need targets for whoever they put at quarterback next season.
  7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia- Joseph is a playmaking, hard hitting safety. He is the best safety in the class.
  8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Darrian Thompson, S, Boise State- The Bucs need any type of defensive back available.
  9. New York Giants- Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama- Henry provides a good value at this pick. He can be a big physical runner for the Giants, which should take pressure off of Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr.
  10. Chicago Bears- Germain Ifedi, OT/G, Texas A&M- The Bears can protect Jay Cutler so he can be productive by taking Ifedi here.
  11. Miami Dolphins- Chris Jones, DE/DT, Mississippi State- The Dolphins can use some depth on the defensive line, especially with Cameron Wake coming off of a torn achilles.
  12. Tennessee Titans- A’Shawn Robinson, DE/DT, Alabama- Tennessee needs a lot of defensive help and gets a player who is talented, especially for this range. Robinson stops the run well and can be a great player if he is focused.
  13. Oakland Raiders- Kevin Dodd, DE/OLB, Clemson- The Raiders can get a pass rusher here, who should pair nicely with Khalil Mack.
  14. Tennessee Titans- Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh- Boyd is a versatile play-maker who can bust one loose at any time. He does have a problem catching the football at times.
  15. Detroit Lions- Shilique Calhoun, DE/OLB, Michigan State- Calhoun dominated the past couple of seasons at MSU. Lions get some needed defensive line depth here.
  16. New Orleans Saints- Kamalei Correa, DE/OLB, Boise State- The saints need so much defensive help that they should take the best defensive player on their board.
  17. Indianapolis Colts- Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama- Kelly is the best center in the class and should be taken here to help protect Andrew Luck.
  18. Buffalo Bills- Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame- Smith could be the best player in the draft class had he not been injured in the Fiesta Bowl. Rex Ryan will love him, especially in the second round.
  19. Atlanta Falcons- Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas- Henry is the best tight end in the class and the Falcons haven’t gotten a lot out of the position since Tony Gonzalez
  20. New York Jets- Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State- Cook is a pro-style quarterback that can start, or back up Ryan Fitzpatrick pending a deal.
  21. Houston Texans- Yannick Ngakoue, DE/OLB, Maryland- Ngakoue is very athletic, but raw. They can develop him next to J.J. Watt.
  22. Washington Redskins- Kendall Fuller, CB, UCLA- The Redskins get another great pick here from UCLA. Fuller would be the top corner taken had he not had a knee injury last season.
  23. Minnesota Vikings- Su’a Cravens, S/OLB, USC- The Vikings need an OLB for when Chad Greenway retires, but also need another safety. Cravens will fit one of those needs based on what position he plays in the NFL.
  24. Cincinnati Bengals- Leontee Caroo, WR, Rutgers-  Caroo is a big wide receiver that can be paired next to A.J. Green. The Bengals capitalized on Mohammed Sanu from Rutgers as well.
  25. Seattle Seahawks- Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana- The Seahawks need a lot of offensive line help, especially with Thomas Rawls starting at running back next season and Russell Wilson running for his life last season.
  26. Green Bay Packers- Kyler Fackrell, OLB, Utah State- Green Bay has a huge need at linebacker and can get Fackrell to provide depth.
  27. Pittsburgh Steelers- Artie Burns, CB, Miami- Pittsburgh has a terrible secondary and should take two corners at least in this draft.
  28. Chiefs-Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech- The Chiefs need offensive linemen to protect Alex Smith, who might be the quarterback for a few more years with some help.
  29. New England Patriots -Devontae Booker, RB, Utah- Booker was the best running back in the Pac-12 and can give the Pats a feature back.
  30. New England Patroits- Adolphus Washington, DE/DT, Ohio State- Washington is a great player, but fell a little because of character issues. The Patriots will capitalize on his low draft stock.
  31. Carolina Panthers- Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn- Panthers need both tackle spots upgraded.
  32. Denver Broncos- Nick Martin, C, Notre Dame-  Martin is a great center, who is able to play guard as well. His brother Zack already plays guard for the Cowboys.

Three Takeaways From the 2015-2016 College Basketball Season

This year’s college basketball season was one of the most interesting in recent memory.  Story lines poured out of the action on and off the court. Here’s what I consider the main themes of the 2015-2016 season:

  1. Senior Rebirth

Some of this year’s best teams featured multiple seniors. Many of the Naismith and Associated Press Player of the Year candidates were seniors, unlike in previous seasons. The star power was held by many players who have developed over their years at their respective schools. People still question why these players did not develop faster or declare for the draft earlier. Recent trends have shown, however, that perhaps it is better for players to delay the jump to the pros. No one would say that Buddy Hield is not a complete player at this point, yet many people can pick out the weaknesses in Ben Simmons’ game namely his inability to shoot the jumper.

Buddy Hield and Ryan Arcidiacono were two of this season’s most prolific seniors. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports)

This year, there was a plethora of entertaining seniors to watch. The more notable players included Denzel Valentine, Marcus Paige, and Jake Layman. The final four teams featured line-ups riddled with seniors. The Oklahoma Sooners had several seniors that saw the floor in addition to their Naismith Candidate in Ryan Spangler and Isaiah Cousins. National Champion Villanova had two prominent seniors in Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. Syracuse had an excellent example in player development with former Duke transfer Michael Gbinije. The Tar Heels had a number of seniors on the team in addition to Paige, the most entertaining being Brice Johnson.

The fact that these players stayed for their whole careers shows that the NBA is not completely killing the amateur game. While some players will still make the jump too early and many top recruits will make the obligated year long trip to play school before leaving to make their money, the landscape of college basketball still shows growth and life which is something we saw this year.

  1. Scandal

Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals missed the postseason due to scandal. (Photo courtesy of the LA Times)

Scandal is wreaking havoc on the game. Several schools were under the gloomy cloud of sanctions this year and some will carry this problem into the following season. An SMU team that started hot missed the tournament due to academic fraud. Likewise, two final four teams have dealt with their own problems. Jim Boeheim and Syracuse are still in muddy waters and North Carolina could be facing some loss of scholarships and postseason bans due to their school infractions.

The king of kings, however, is Louisville.  Rick Pitino’s future remains uncertain as does the team’s season to come. At this point it seems that academic progress failure and scandal are normal parts of NCAA culture. While the NCAA has gotten many things wrong in the past two decades, it does appear that these schools will face harsh discipline at the expense of the student-athletes.

  1. Parity

Many people indicated that this year’s domination of the final four, elite eight, and sweet sixteen by power conference teams was an indication of the lack of the so called “parity” in college basketball. Even ESPN’s Jay Bilas was in agreement with this train of thought. While I recognize the fact that the numbers show an inordinate amount of teams in the latter stages of the tournament, looking at the topic of parity from this one perspective oversimplifies the subject.

It is difficult to look at the season and tournament as a whole and not see the parity available in college basketball. In early season match-ups, Monmouth took down Notre Dame, an elite eight team, and Northern Iowa defeated North Carolina, the national runner-up. There was even a cry for Monmouth and St. Mary’s to make the tournament. Dick Vitale mentioned in his post season summary that there was no respect for the little guy.

Northern Iowa lost in a devastating manner when Texas A&M rallied from down double digits in the final minute of the second round (Photo courtesy of thegazette.com)

We saw, for the first time in history, a 12, 13, 14, and 15 seed win in the same weekend. Northern Iowa was 35 seconds from the sweet sixteen and Stephen F. Austin was a tip in away as well. We saw Middle Tennessee State take out a team that caused many brackets to be busted.  We saw Hawaii take down a very talented Cal team, Purdue get beat by Arkansas-Little Rock, and Yale take down Baylor. That being said, there was very little representation of the small conferences in the sweet sixteen. However, no one would say that just because Butler made the championship that this was an indication of parity. The opposite indication is represented here. The whole story is more complex and we were a few points away from having a year dominated by the little guy in the end chapters of March Madness, and the overall story includes this change in the winds of college basketball  that should continue to make the opening rounds of the tournament interesting for years to come.

Now as we put a wrap on 2015-2016 we look ahead. There are a few final commitments, a few loose ends to tie up and then it is on to the following season. Every indication is that it should be fantastic, with a host of powerful recruits coming in but some of the tale of this season could bleed into the next. At this point it is very difficult to see what is to come in the vastly changing arena of college basketball.

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