NBA All-Star Game format a hit

This year had to be different. With the recent All-Star games in the NBA, fans were getting disinterested, as it was just a prolonged dunk contest. It failed to truly showcase how great the players partaking in the game were. NBA Commisioner Adam Silver and team captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry all stepped up to make the new NBA All-Star Game format work.

The Draft

2018 NBA All-Star Draft

All-Star Draft (Photo by: express.co.uk)

One conference playing another in any All-Star game was a great idea, before interleague play started happening in every professional sport. It allowed room for debate of who had the better players and which conference was better overall. It solved the great unknown questions of the era.

Those questions are, for the most part now answered.  Now teams get to play each other multiple times a year in the NBA and the Western Conference is deeper than the Eastern Conference. Players no longer take pride in their conference, but rather in their specific teams and themselves. The change to a draft format was necessary.

James and Curry treated the draft the right way, with James selecting Kevin Durant to start off the selections. Both tried to field teams that could win rather than picking players they were close with. Curry was unable to get his teammate, Durant, and James didn’t pick his teammate, Kevin Love, early at all.

The draft itself helped create some interesting matchups and combinations that fans now wonder about. James and Durant, the two best players in the league, were on the same team. James was reunited with teammate Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook and Durant were on the same team for the second straight season after Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder.

As for matchups that were created, Dwayne Casey coached team LeBron and against his own players, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Westbrook and Irving got to match up with Curry and Harden in a battle of the best guards in the league. When Team LeBron went small late in the game James got the pleasure of guarding Joel Embiid that created some great sequences.

The Effort and motivation

2018 NBA All-Star Game

Photo by: fatmouthsports.net

All the players had a lot to play for, as the winning team would get $350,000 to charity, while the losing team gets $150,000. While these aren’t great personal stakes, it gives the players something to take pride in.

This also helped create a sense of competitiveness around the game. The minutes weren’t split evenly as in past years. James played 31 minutes (as opposed to just under 20 in 2017), while Curry accumulated 26 minutes. Al Horford logged only 12 minutes and Goran Dragic was in for 11 minutes. (LaMarcus Aldrige played four minutes due to injury and Jimmy Butler sat out with sickness). While the West gave a lot of playing time last year to it’s starters, the East did not give anyone more than 24 minutes.

Not only were there more minutes played for the stars (overall), than most years, but they were on the court when it mattered. Team LeBron had their starters (with a minor concession of subbing Anthony Davis out for Paul George) on the floor at the end. Team Stephen put in Kyle Lowry and Draymond Green in at the end of the game in an effort to get a stop. Both teams gave themselves a chance to win because they put their best players on the court (or tried to) for whatever situation came up.

Another surprise was, players actually fouled to prevent baskets rather than running out of the way. There were 16 personal fouls in 2017. This year there were 26. That’s a perfect mix of making sure no one gets hurt from crazy fouls and actually trying for an All-Star Game.

The main thing that made this work was the defensive intensity. Last year there were 374 total points scored. This year the teams’ defense stepped up and only 293 total points were scored. Curry was held to 27% shooting from deep, while Harden was even worse at 15%. Staples Center did have some pretty stiff rims, but the defense was also a cause of the low shooting percentages this year.

The Finish

When it came down to the last quarter, it was apparent that both teams were actively trying to win, which isn’t always the case in an All-Star game. Timeouts were called to set up plays and, as mentioned before, the best lineups were put in for the best results.

At the very end it was Team LeBron storming back to take the lead 148-145. They needed a defensive stop against a team that was loaded with some of the best three point shooters in history. To end the game, James and Durant were able to trap Curry in the corner and prevent him from getting off a great shot.

That play capped of the best NBA All-Star game in years. If that wasn’t enough for fans, Adam Silver announced that the same format will be used next year, but that the draft will be televised. This should just generate more interest and competitiveness between players.

For once fans can get excited about All-Star weekend again.

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology February 19

It’s under three weeks until Selection Sunday and college basketball continues to surprise. With teams having resumes that are almost complete, fans can start to get pumped for the madness in March. Here is the latest 2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology. Click to zoom.

First four out: USC, Washington, Louisville, Boise State

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Reignover joined CLG for 2018

Reignover’s journey from 2015 Worlds to the bottom of the NA LCS

When Fnatic announced Kim “Reignover” Yeu-jin as their starting jungler for the 2015 Spring Split, the LCS community aired its skepticism and criticism:

“Korean imports again. Can only end well. -_-”

“haha, reignover really?”

“This roster is pretty underwhelming, considering the talent that was available…FNC looking like a bottom-half team atm.”

Several online news outlets voiced similar sentiments:

“While that should have been significant incentive for Fnatic to pull together the best talent they can, the results are somewhat mystifying. To wit: While picking up premier new midlane talent in Febiven is an undeniably good choice, every other decision on the roster seems questionable.”

Reignover joined Fnatic in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

“Their Worlds placings; their endless top placings in LCS splits; the players who won those games and splits were no more. What was Fnatic’s response? They imported a Samsung Galaxy sub and his duo-que buddy, an ADC from the challenger scene, and the star mid-laner of H2K; Huni and Reignover, Steelback, and Febiven. A lot of people thought of these acquisitions as sub-optimal and disappointing.”

“It’d be a tough season, fans began to reason, but Fnatic had a tremendous eye for talent and would surely find the best possible players to replace their former stars. This general assumption resulted in a great and terrible gnashing of teeth when Fnatic’s signings to complete their new roster for Season 5 included two Korean players—Kim ‘ReignOver’ Yeu-jin, formerly of Incredible Miracle, and Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon, a complete newcomer to competitive League of Legends.”

At the time, importing players from other regions was still uncommon in Europe, and Huni and Reignover were relatively unknown quantities in Korea. It was understandable that audiences would question Fnatic’s pick-ups, following the departure of several star players. Little did they know, these two players would be pivotal to Fnatic’s deep run at the World Championship that year.

Reignover’s Beginning: Spring and Summer Titles

Reignover had a spectacular year with Fnatic in 2015. Huni and he had instant synergy as a top-jungle duo, which allowed them to finish the spring regular season in second place with a 13-5 record. Reignover even earned weekly MVP of the EU LCS in week two for his Rengar and Olaf play.

Reignover and Fnatic won Spring and Summer Split 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic went on to win a heated playoff bracket that spring. They beat H2K in the semifinals 3-2, despite losing two early games using a double-smite, Lee Sin top composition. With Unicorns of Love upsetting SK Gaming, Fnatic came into the finals as favorites. The series saw several different champions played, but Fnatic was able to pull out another 3-2 to take the Spring Split title. Reignover won MVP of the finals, Huni won the Outstanding Rookie award, and every Fnatic member represented the EU LCS first team All-Pro.

After bringing Europe home a fourth place finish at the 2015 Mid-Season Invitational (and taking SKT to fives games in the semifinals), Fnatic returned to the Summer Split with one new member–Rekkles. He turned out to be the key that unlocked Fnatic’s full potential. This roster finished the regular season undefeated, 18-0, solidifying Huni, Reignover, and the rest as some of the best Europe had ever seen. Reignover’s efficient jungle pathing with mostly Rek’Sai and Gragas provided Huni and Febiven with the upper hand in most match-ups.

The entire Fnatic line-up won first-team All-Pro honors again, and the summer playoffs went mostly as expected. Fnatic took down Unicorns of Love 3-0 in the semifinals. They met a formidable Origen squad in the finals, which went to five games. This match-up represented the narrative culmination of “old Fnatic” versus “new Fnatic”, with xPeke and Soaz facing off against Rekkles and Yellowstar. Huni and Reignover played large parts in allowing Fnatic to win the series 3-2, reinforcing the organization’s off-season roster decisions, and sending them to Worlds as Europe’s top seed.

Reignover’s Peak: Top Four at Worlds

Heading into the 2015 World Championship, western media outlets put Fnatic and Reignover under the microscope with statements like “To make it through their Group and beyond, Reignover needs to be successful in his ganks, specifically top side, to put Huni ahead,” “Reignover relies on high gold values to be effective in team fights, as he likes to play high damage picks like Elise, but with other high gold jungle monsters in this group, that’s less of an easy advantage,” “It’s easy to tag ReignOver as the weakest player on Fnatic based on his performances during the latter stages of the EU LCS,” and “Many have looked at Reignover’s champion pool as a target for Fnatic.”

Reignover and Fnatic went to Worlds in 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Invictus Gaming, Cloud9 and AHQ Esports Club joined Fnatic in Group B, pitting Reignover against Mountain, Hai and KaKAO. In the round robin, Fnatic lost to AHQ and Cloud9 once each, then won their other four games. The 4-2 record put Fnatic at the top of their group, pushing them into the bracket stage.

For quarterfinals, Fnatic faced EDward Gaming. The Chinese organization finished first in the LPL regular season that summer, but flopped in the playoffs to finally place fourth. They won the Regional Qualifiers, which allowed EDG to qualify into Worlds. During the group stage, EDG lost both games to SKT, but went 2-0 against H2K and Bangkok Titans. Clearlove was a primary factor in EDG’s success, which meant all eyes would be on Reignover.

Clearlove and Reignover went back and forth with Rek’Sai and Gragas picks, but Reignover proved to be the better jungle on the day. He finished with more gold and assists in every game of Fnatic’s 3-0 victory. The series win qualified Fnatic for the World semifinals, an achievement no western team had reached since season three (which was also Fnatic).

Unfortunately, KOO Tigers, a top Korean team, crushed Fnatic 3-0. They joined their European rivals, Origen, finishing third-fourth in the tournament. These placements reinstated the EU LCS as a top region behind the LCK, and Fnatic as an international threat.

Reignover’s Move: Immortals’ Domestic Dominance

Reignover and Huni joined Immortals in 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover’s off-season, following such an impressive year with Fnatic, brought opportunities unlike any other. Eventually, Immortals announced their entrance into the NA LCS, and their successful signing of Fnatic’s top-jungle duo–Huni and Reignover. The two were such a hit together that they became a package deal.

Expectations for Immortals’ top-side was through the roof. “Immortals will be relying on the touted top-jungle synergy of former Fnatic duo of breakout rookie top laner Heo ‘Huni’ Seunghoon and junger Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeujin to take them to the top of the standings,” “[Immortals’] starting five is headlined by Fnatic’s South Korean duo from last year, the explosive Heo ‘Huni’ Seung-hoon in the top lane and his partner Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin at the jungler position,” and “Yes, it was a fantastic move, especially if the Koreans can bring along some of Fnatic’s winning culture and approach, but Immortals really scored points for how they built their team around Huni and Reignover,” were all remarks by the media. It was clear that Reignover and Huni had risen from Korean nobodies to titans in the span of a year.

Spring Split proved these presuppositions to be warranted. Immortals tore through North America’s teams to finish with a 17-1 record, only dropping one series to Counter Logic Gaming in week seven. CLG was the next closest contender, with a 13-5 record, four wins behind. Huni and Reignover won first team All-Pro honors for the third split in a row, and Reignover was deemed North America’s MVP.

However, TSM was able to find Immortals’ achilles heel and vanquish them in the playoffs. Some questionable top lane picks for Huni, and lackluster decision-making from Immortals, resulted in an 0-3 loss, which they took out on Team Liquid for third place. This moment marked the first major domestic shutdown of Reignover and Huni since their start as professional players. 

Reignover and Immortals barely missed playoffs in Spring and Summer Split 2016

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The Immortals roster stayed together for Summer Split, which left many wondering if they could repeat their dominating spring performance. TSM proved to be the only contender, finishing the split with a 4-1 game record against Immortals, and the only team above them in the standings. Immortals 16-2 regular season record was still impressive, but not nearly as dominant as their prior first place finish. Reignover was the only Immortals member to be first team All-Pro, with TSM taking the other spots.

Playoffs seemed all but certain to end with TSM facing Immortals in the finals, but history decided to repeat itself. Immortals faced Cloud9 in the semifinals, and fell 3-2. For the second time in two splits, Immortals missed the NA LCS finals, due to uncharacteristic play in the semifinals. And again, they won the third place match. They took down CLG 3-2, which provided enough championship points for Immortals to get a direct seed to the regional finals for a spot at Worlds. Everyone’s anxieties came true, as Cloud9 defeated Immortals again, this time 3-1. All three losses were fairly one-sided, with most of Immortals’ players suffering negative KDAs and significant gold deficits.

It is hard to believe how disappointed each of Immortals’ members were once they realized they would not make it to the 2016 World Championship. Huni, Reignover and Pobelter had all competed in 2015, and regular-season-Immortals felt like they were set to go. This probably felt like a low point for Reignover, coming off of two years of solid performance. Playing with Immortals in North America had to feel like playing with Fnatic in Europe, except Immortals fell just short of glory–no trophies, no MSI, no Worlds. Reignover could not know that the following year would only get worse.

Reignover’s Fall: Team Liquid’s Mismanagement

Reignover joined Team Liquid in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Immortals rebuilt their roster around Pobelter in the off-season leading into 2017. Reignover and Huni were given opportunities to weigh other offers, and they ended up splitting for the first time in two years. Huni made the move to Korean powerhouse SKT, while Reignover signed with Team Liquid in North America. He joined Lourlo, Goldenglue, Link, Piglet and Matt.

The media was even higher on Reignover in this move than they had ever been before. Esports news outlets touted “Reignover is a master of being in the right place at the right time,” “Reignover was the best jungler in NA last year, and he’s a welcome, experienced addition to this team,” “If Team Liquid does as well as I’m projecting, it will be mostly due to their superstars, Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin and Piglet, both of whom are arguably the strongest players at their positions in North America,” and “Stars like Chae ‘Piglet’ Gwang-jin and Kim ‘Reignover’ Yeu-jin can be terrifying.”

This roster turned out to be a mess. They finished the Spring Split in ninth place with a 5-13 series record and a 36 percent game win rate. After announcing changes in the middle of the split, Liquid decided to move Piglet to the mid lane and bring in Youngbin as AD carry. After a couple of weeks with no improvement, Doublelift joined the team as a temporary sub out of his break, and Adrian later joined and started a few games. All of this turmoil and chaos completely overshadowed any positive gameplay out of Reignover.

Luckily, Team Liquid avoided relegation. The Promotion tournament was an extreme low point for the organization, and Reignover himself. No one had questioned his talent and consistency in over two years. Going into Summer Split, everyone was wondering what Liquid would do to rectify the situation. It turns out, they did not change anything. They picked up Inori and Slooshi as substitutes, but kept Lourlo, Reignover, Goldenglue, Piglet and Matt as starters.

Reignover and Team Liquid played both promotion tournaments in 2017

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Similar results ensued. TL finished Summer Split in ninth place again, with a 4-14 series record and a 30 percent game win rate. Just like spring, as the split went on, Liquid started Inori, Slooshi, and KonKwon. They brought back Dardoch, despite past troubles with the controversial jungler. They imported Mickey, a Korean mid laner from ROX Tigers. Liquid even swapped out David Lim for Cain as head coach. They went on to compete in the Promotion Tournament, and defended their spot, yet again.

This was truly the lowest point for Reignover. He was completely dropped from conversations of “the best jungler in the league,” in favor of LiRa, Xmithie and Contractz. Fnatic, Immortals, Huni, Rekkles and Pobelter had some of their best splits yet, and were heading to Worlds. Reignover was fighting in promotion tournaments, getting benched for Inori and Dardoch, and falling from grace.

Reignover’s Present: CLG’s Struggles

Enter CLG, an organization also in need of redemption. Darshan, Huhi and Stixxay carried over into 2018, while Reignover and Biofrost joined in the off-season. Although several sources predicted CLG to be a top three team in their preseason power rankings, few commented on Reignover in the same tone of awe as they had in the past.

Several weeks into the split, CLG sits tied for seventh with a 3-5 record. Many of their losses have chalked up to Stixxay’s shortcomings, but coordination and decisiveness in the late game are contributing, as well. Reignover needs this split to be a success. For his stock to rise, CLG needs to make playoffs and prove they can compete at the top level.

Huni and Reignover are playing in the NA LCS in 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Reignover was patient with Team Liquid last year, but now it’s time for dividends. Huni is even back in North America, playing for a different team, and solidifying himself at the top of the standings. A bottom-three finish would be detrimental to Reignover and CLG. In fact, CLG looked best in their 2016 Spring Split victory and MSI performance. They have fallen slightly out of favor since then, narrowly missing a chance at Worlds last year. This organization and this player need each other for success. A high finish this split, and this year, could be an ultimate catharsis for such decorated League of Legends entities. Reignover’s journey has been treacherous thus far, but it is not over yet. 

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Quotes: Reddit, Esports Heaven, Concussion Gaming, Thorin’s Thoughts, Dot Esports, EU LCS Broadcast, LoL Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports, Esports HeavenYahoo Esports, TheScore Esports, TheScore Esports

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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2018 NFL mock draft February 13

With the season being totally over, teams are looking forward to improving their teams. Free agency starts on March 14 with the 2018 NFL Draft coming a month and a half later on April 26. Here is the latest 2018 NFL mock draft.

1. Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

A running back number one? If Rosen doesn’t want to play for the Browns it might happen. Barkley is one of the most complete running backs to ever come out of college and might be the best player in the entire class. The Browns tried to improve the defense in last year’s class, but now need to focus on the offense. With a good offensive line and now Barkley, the offense should improve.

2. New York Giants- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Yes, Rosen has voiced his displeasure over playing for the Browns, so he may fall to pick number two. Rosen had to carry UCLA and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good year to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury he suffered during his sophomore season. The Giants may be without Eli Manning next year and even if he does stay, will need a quarterback of the future.

3. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

Josh McDaniels has decided to return to New England and the Colts countered with the hire of Eagles’ offensive coordinator Frank Reich. Reich will be looking forward to work with Andrew Luck. When he is back, the offense will figure itself out. They can improve the defense to make the team more complete when Luck comes back. Chubb is a great pass rusher who has 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons.

2018 NFL mock draft February 13

Sam Darnold (Photo by usatoday.com)

4. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

There are rumors surrounding the Browns and Baker Mayfield, but for now Darnold is the pick. Darnold struggled this season with his decision-making which led to a lot of turnovers. He also has a flawed throwing motion. Some have Darnold as their top quarterback, but his decision-making needs to improve. The Browns have a new GM, who has no allegiances to anyone on the roster, which means DeShone Kizer is likely done as quarterback.

5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

While Allen certainly has flaws in his decision-making and accuracy, he does have a strong arm and is athletic. John Elway went to Idaho to watch him in his bowl game personally. The Broncos have a solid roster, but just need a quarterback to lead the team.

6. New York Jets- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker has defied all the critics who have mentioned his size as a reason not to draft him. He can make all the throws and is athletic to avoid pass rushers. His main calling card is his accuracy, which is the best in this draft class. The Jets did well this season for the talent they had on the roster, but need a franchise quarterback.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Whichever he needs to play, he will excel at. Fitzpatrick will have to help improve a bad Bucs’ pass defense, which ranked last in the league in passing yards allowed.

8. Chicago Bears- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward is the best cover corner in the draft. He had to really make his way this season, as he had to sit and wait his turn to get playing time for the Buckeyes. The Bears could use some help in their secondary and taking a weapon for Mitchell Trubisky would be a reach here.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson turned into an All-American corner at Iowa this season and has shown the ability to make acrobatic interceptions. The 49ers got their defensive lineman and linebacker in the first round last year and can now get a good secondary player to go along with them. The arrests of linebacker Reuben Foster are concerning, so keep an eye on that going forward, as it could change what they do with this pick.

10. Oakland Raiders- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith is the best linebacker in college football and does a little bit of everything well. He is especially fast, which is crucial for his coverage and tracking down of ball carriers. With Jon Gruden taking over, he is going to need a Derrick Brooks-like linebacker.

2018 NFL mock draft February 12

Quenton Nelson (Photo by fansided.com)

11. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Adam Gase has said that Ryan Tannehill is the starting quarterback. There are other holes on the team, but they need to have better offensive line play if they are going to be successful. Nelson is one of the best players in the class and will be drafted early despite playing a position that doesn’t usually get talked about this soon.

12. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Bengals were able to go 7-9 with a terrible offensive line. They need help at just about every position and can start with tackles. They have taken tackles before in the first round, but they haven’t panned out. McGlinchey would’ve been a first round pick last year and the Bengals can get good value and fill a need with this pick. If he doesn’t work out at left tackle, he has experience playing right tackle at Notre Dame.

13. Washington Redskins- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed. Washington’s interior of the defensive line can be improved, as they allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.

14. Green Bay Packers- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

Edmunds does just about everything on the football field well, as a good cover linebacker, rusher and run stopper. The Packers need to make the defense better for when Aaron Rodgers gets the offense going again and he has alluded to it as much this offseason.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Cardinals have to find a new quarterback now that Carson Palmer is retired. Some people are questioning whether Jackson can play quarterback, but he showed improved accuracy this season and is a dynamic playmaker. He should be given a shot to play the position in the NFL.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

A player that went to Alabama that fills a need? Slot him to the Ravens. The Ravens won’t be getting rid of Joe Flacco, so they need to get him some better targets to throw to. Ridley is the best route-runner in the class and produced in college even without the best quarterback play.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, FSU

Derwin James has fallen down mocks after being thought of as a top ten prospect. He is athletic, but doesn’t necessarily have a set position. The Chargers can use the help at safety and James would be a great addition to help make a good defense better.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Reports have come out that it will be tough for Cliff Avril to play football again and Michael Bennett has said that he doesn’t think he’ll be back in Seattle. Key only played eight games this season and had four sacks, but has proven in the past to be a good speed rusher.

2018 NFL Mock draft february 12

Vita Vea (Photo by seattletimes.com)

19. Dallas Cowboys- Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Vea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds. The Cowboys are seemingly always weak up the middle of their defense. Shutting down their opponents’ running game would allow them to control the clock like they love to do.

20. Detroit Lions- Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State

Detroit hasn’t had a solid running game in Matthew Stafford’s tenure as quarterback. Some more balance on offense would make it even better. They may be able to achieve this if they improve the offensive line. Price has tons of experience at guard and center for Ohio State and will start right away.

21. Buffalo Bills- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

The Bills are thin at linebacker and this selection is an immediate upgrade. Evans is a quick, run stopping linebacker that can help out right away. While he went to the same college as other linebackers that haven’t worked out for the Bills, Reggie Ragland, Evans is a completely different player.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis is a lengthy corner for Auburn, who has withstood a lot of good SEC competition. The Bills took Tre’Davious White last year and will likely want to get another corner to pair with him.

23. Los Angeles Rams- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but need better outside pass rushers. Davenport has the build of a great pass rusher, but reports are the media like him more than NFL teams do.

24. Carolina Panthers- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

25. Tennessee Titans- Justin Reid, S, Stanford

Johnathan Cyprien has been bad for the Titans this year, in one of their lone weak spots on the roster. Reid took a huge leap this season in terms of production and has put himself on the map for a first round selection.

2018 NFL mock draft February 12

Donte Jackson (Photo by theadvocate.com)

26. Atlanta Falcons- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

Jackson has the potential to develop into a great cover corner. Atlanta needs another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant and should try to take one early.

27. New Orleans Saints- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Saints need to plan for the end of Drew Brees’ career sooner rather than later. Their defense was much improved so they can afford to look to the future. Not everyone likes Rudolph, but he has a lot of experience and quite possibly the best deep ball in the class. Sean Payton reportedly loves backup Taysom Hill, but he was more of a running quarterback in college than a thrower.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Harrison is a good strong safety prospect, who plays physically. Despite being known for all of their great safeties throughout their history, the Steelers are very bad at the position right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside. Jacksonville really doesn’t have too many needs and have said they are sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Jaguars have a decent crop of young receivers, but they rarely stay healthy.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Vikings’ offensive line is much better than last year, but can still be improved. With a good offense and defense, they can afford to make a good unit better. Brown has great size for an offensive tackle and his father played in the NFL.

31. New England Patriots- Taven Bryan, DT, Florida

Byan is a more agile and athletic defensive tackle than most and would help improve a below average defensive line. The Patriots need to improve their defense, as the offense wasn’t the reason they lost the Super Bowl.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- Connor Williams, OT, Texas

They just won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback and have a very solid roster. This pick could depend a lot on the health status of left tackle Jason Peters. If he isn’t healthy they’ll need a tackle. Williams’ draft stock has been all over the place, going from early first round to third round back into the first round.

 

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology February 12

The NCAA selection committee released their top 16 seeds this Saturday to give a look into how they would seed the teams right now. This can officially put everyone in the mindset for March Madness. Here is the latest NCAA Tournament bracketology. Click to zoom.

 

First four out: SMU, Nebraska, St. Bonaventure, Utah

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Giants are currently tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming: EU LCS contenders or pretenders?

Going into week five of the 2018 EU LCS Spring Split, Giants Gaming sits tied for second place. Their 5-3 record puts them level with G2 and Fnatic, and above other perennial favorites, such as Misfits and H2K. Fans of the Spanish esports organization may be getting their hopes up for finally having Giants towards the top, but this hope may be misguided.

Giants Gaming has rarely found itself in this position in the past. Despite originally qualifying for the EU LCS five years ago, Giants has only qualified for LCS playoffs twice. The organization has been sent to the Promotion Tournament five times, and relegated out of the LCS twice. Anyone who follows Giants most likely subconsciously considers them a bottom-tier team. An overview of organization’s LCS history easily contextualizes this view.

From Spain to the Main Stage

Giants Gaming entered the EU LCS in 2013

Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux and Motroco

In 2012, Giants Gaming created their first League of Legends team. The roster, consisting of Babeta, Exterminare, Morden, Samux, and Motroco, competed in Dreamhack Valencia and ESL’s Go4LoL. Motroco left in October, but was replaced by JimBownz, who competed with the team at The Siege. Giants finished top four at each event, and went on to Dreamhack Winter, but finished 0-3 in their group.

Due to their relative success, Riot Games invited Giants Gaming to compete for a slot in the premier season of EU LCS in 2013. Along with Fnatic, Copenhagen Wolves, Against All Authority, and Dragonborns, Giants finished in the top five. They instantly qualified for the LCS, making the organization one of the first teams to ever participate in the European league.

Once there, Giants’ momentum subsided. The Spaniards took their first week 1-1 to start in fourth place. They continued to have losing streaks over the 10-week split, finishing seventh place with eight wins and 20 losses. Giants was forced into the first ever Summer Promotion Tournament to defend its place in the league.

The First Worst Loss

Alternate Attax relegated Giants Gaming from the EU LCS in 2013

Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton and Jree

The format of the Promotion Tournament was different in 2013. Teams from three different qualifier tournaments faced off against the bottom four LCS teams in one best-of-five, with the winner earning the LCS slot. Giants Gaming was set to battle Alternate Attax, a German esports organization made up of Kerp, Araneae, ForellenLord, Creaton, and Jree. By winning 3-2, Attax relegated Giants from the EU LCS for the first time.

The Challenger Series had not been developed yet, which meant Giants Gaming was back in the amateur scene. They entered Gfinity London, finishing third-fourth behind Copenhagen Wolves and Eternity Gaming. Gfinity London was the only contest in which they competed for the rest of the year.

Getting Back on the Horse

Throughout 2014, Giants Gaming continued to prove that it was worthy of competition. By April the organization put together an all-new roster, consisting of Reven, Naruterador, Pepiinero, Zigurath and Dave. These five competed in Gamegune in Spain, taking home fourth place.

Giants must not have been happy with that performance, because three months later they brought on Werlyb, Fr3deric, Adryh and Rydle. This was Giants’ second roster overhaul of 2014. This definitely worked out, as they rounded out the

Giants Gaming played in the amateur scene during 2014

Paris Games Week 2014

amateur scene with two gold medals. At Paris Games Week, they took down seven teams including Gamers2, a team Giants lost to at Gamegune. They also won the Liga de Videojuegos Professional, the Spanish regional league.

By becoming so competitive, Giants Gaming was able to move up the European solo queue ranked ladder. And since they were in the top five at the end of 2014, Riot Games once more invited Giants to fight to earn their spot in the EU LCS. They introduced an expansion tournament, which included competitors from the Promotion Tournament, the Challenger Series, and the five-versus-five ranked ladder. Through two stages of gameplay, Giants Gaming took down Reason Gaming to qualify for the 2015 Spring Split with H2K.

Deja Vu

In similar fashion to their first LCS split, Giants Gaming started 2015 with a bang. Pepii and crew had a 2-0 week one, placing them at the top of the standings. H2K and Unicorns of Love took Giants down a peg in week two, dropping the team to fourth. Another 0-2 in week three put Giants into a free fall, slipping down to seventh. Fast forward seven more weeks, and Giants Gaming finished the split with a 5-13 record, tying MeetYourMakers for last place. Luckily, Adryh’s late-game Sivir pick was able to come online and win Giants the game, saving them from auto-relegation.

Another Spring Split and Giants faced another Promotion Tournament. Coincidentally, they met Reason Gaming in a best-of-five to defend their slot. Just as they had in the expansion tournament, Giants took down Reason 3-1 and reclaimed their LCS spot. This qualification marked three times in three years.

A Glimmer of Hope

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

G0DFRED joined Giants Gaming in 2015

Leading into Summer Split marked the first off-season where Giants’ roster remained mostly intact. G0DFRED joined as a rookie support, but everyone else stayed. Together they were able to get through the regular season 8-10, tied for fifth. ROCCAT won the tie-breaker, but Giants still made it into playoffs for the first time since its inception.

H2K skunked Giants in the quarterfinals of the Summer Playoffs. They took the series 3-0, and the longest game was 30:19. Giants garnered enough Championship Points to qualify into the Regional World Qualifiers. ROCCAT shut them down 3-0 in the first round, as well. Nonetheless, Giants had a somewhat successful first split back. They avoided the Promotion Tournament and made it into their first playoffs ever. They even had a slim chance to go to Worlds. It seemed like a great place to start Giants’ new time in the LCS.

Another Spring, Another Let-down

Spring Split 2016 rolled around, and Giants Gaming looked a little bit different. Werlyb and Fr3deric changed teams, and Giants brought in Atom and K0u as replacements. After starting the season 0-4, K0u was benched in favor of BetongJocke, H2K’s substitute jungler. They followed up with another 0-4 streak for weeks three and four, before finally getting their first win in week five versus ROCCAT.

Giants floundered their way through the rest of the split. Smittyj, Wisdom and S0NSTAR moved onto the starting roster in week eight, and Hustlin came on in week nine. Despite all of these changes, Giants finished the 2016 Spring Split in dead last with a 3-15 record. They had to enter their third Promotion Tournament.

As fate would have it, Giants had to face two Challenger teams with former roster members: K0u on Copenhagen Wolves and Werlyb on Huma. After a 3-2 and a 3-1, Giants Gaming re-qualified for the EU LCS. This was their fourth time re-entering.

Giants’ Best Split to Date

Giants Gaming in the 2016 EU LCS

Before coming back into the LCS for Summer Split, Giants took a long look in the mirror. The final member of the original cast, Pepii, left, and NighT, a Korean player from Ever8 Winners, joined. They also brought on a rookie jungler, Maxlore, to replace Wisdom. Smittyj remained in the top lane, S0NSTAR and Hustlin composed the bottom lane.

Giants started the split 0-3, leading many to write them off yet again. But a couple of wins in weeks two and three kept them competitive. A 2-0 win over Fnatic in week five, and a 2-0 over H2K in week six elevated Giants to a new level. Through the 10 weeks, Giants compiled an 8-3-7 scoreline, placing them third overall.

For the first time in its history, Giants Gaming entered the Summer Playoffs quarterfinals as favorites. They also kept the same roster throughout the whole split, which was new for them. Unicorns of Love eliminated Giants from the playoffs by winning 3-1, putting Giants in a fifth-sixth finish for the season. Like the year before, they had enough Championship Points to try the Regional Qualifiers. However, they met Unicorns of Love, yet again, who took the 3-0 win to move on and knock Giants out.

Fool Me Twice, Fool Me Thrice, Fool Me Four Times

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Flaxxish and Memento played for Giants Gaming last year

Despite their Summer Split success, Giants entered the 2017 Spring Split with three more new players. HeaQ and Flaxxish were rookies, while Maxlore traded to ROCCAT with Memento to Giants. NighT and Hustlin stayed as starters, and S0NSTAR moved to a coaching role.

Riot introduced the group system to the EU LCS in 2017, which turned out to be a death knell for Giants. They found themselves in Group A with G2, Misfits, Fnatic, and ROCCAT. Giants began with a pair of 2-1 losses to G2 and Misfits, then followed with a 2-1 win over ROCCAT. They would not get another series win until week seven versus Origen, heading into week eight 2-7, and finishing the regular season 2-11.

For the fourth time in four spring seasons, Giants faced relegation in the Summer Promotion tournament. Origen was the only team that split with a lower win rate, so Giants easily took that match-up 3-0. However, a hungry Fnatic Academy swept them back with a 3-0 of their own. And for the second time in history, Giants Gaming was knocked out of the EU LCS.

The Recent Past

Giants spent the 2017 Summer Season in the EU Challenger Series, playing against Origen, Schalke 04, Paris Saint-Germain, Red Bulls, and Wind and Rain. In the mid-season they decided to scrap their entire roster and rebuild. Jiizuke, Gilius, Minitroupax, Jactroll and Ruin joined the team with LCS ambitions.

Over five weeks, Giants won four of five games and lost once to Schalke. Their 4-0-1 record placed them first in the standings–Giants’ first first place since 2014. This new line-up looked poised to go into promotions, and they did. Giants took down WAR 3-0, which entered them into the 2018 Spring Promotion tournament with Schalke, Ninjas in Pyjamas, and Mysterious Monkeys. By taking a 3-1 over NiP and a 3-2 over Schalke, Giants re-qualified into the LCS. The cycle of qualification-promotion-relegation came full circle for the second time.

In the Present

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

Giants Gaming is tied for second in the 2018 EU LCS

All of Giants’ members, except Ruin, moved to Team Vitality for the 2018 Spring Split. Giants brought on Djoko and Steeelback from Vitality, Betsy from ROCCAT, and Targamas, a rookie. Preseason predictions put Giants towards the bottom of the field, yet they currently find themselves tied for second. The first four weeks have been a success.

Right now there are analysts and audience members who may want to believe in Giants Gaming. They may think this is their year–that Giants can do better than ever before. But remember to keep this long history in mind. Giants have finished bottom seven every Spring Split in which they have ever competed. Two of those four splits resulted in relegation out of the LCS.

But twice they have come back and reclaimed their spot. Giants has successfully defended its spot two times, as well. This split could be the split to change minds. Giants will need to overcome its past shortcomings, and win the hearts of EU LCS fans by making it into playoffs and making a deep push in this split.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr, GosuGamers, Leaguepedia, Millenium.org, WindandRain.org

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

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2018 NFL mock draft February 7

The Philadelphia Eagles have won their first Super Bowl and now all teams are in the offseason. While free agency is a big part of the offseason, a lot of attention will be paid to the 2018 NFL Draft. Here is the 2018 NFL mock draft February 7:

1. Cleveland Browns- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

A running back number one? If Rosen doesn’t want to play for the Browns it might happen. Barkley is one of the most complete running backs to ever come out of college and might be the best player in the entire class. The Browns tried to improve the defense in last year’s class, but now need to focus on the offense. With a good offensive line and now Barkley, the offense should improve.

2. New York Giants- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Yes, Rosen has voiced his displeasure over playing for the Browns, so he may fall to pick number two. Rosen had to carry UCLA and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good year to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury he suffered during his sophomore season. The Giants may be without Eli Manning next year and even if he does stay, will need a quarterback of the future.

2018 NFL mock draft february 7

Bradley Chubb (Photo by wncn.com)

3. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE/OLB, N.C. State

Josh McDaniels is the next coach of the Colts and will be hoping to get quarterback Andrew Luck back healthy. When he is back, the offense will figure itself out. They can improve the defense to make the team more complete when Luck comes back. Chubb is a great pass rusher who has 10 sacks in each of the past two seasons.

4. Cleveland Browns- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

There are rumors surrounding the Browns and Baker Mayfield, but for now Darnold is the pick. Darnold struggled this season with his decision-making which led to a lot of turnovers. He also has a flawed throwing motion. Some have Darnold as their top quarterback, but his decision-making needs to improve. The Browns have a new GM, who has no allegiances to anyone on the roster, which means DeShone Kizer is likely done as quarterback.

5. Denver Broncos- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming

While Allen certainly has flaws in his decision-making and accuracy, he does have a strong arm and is athletic. John Elway went to Idaho to watch him in his bowl game personally. The Broncos have a solid roster, but just need a quarterback to lead the team.

6. New York Jets- Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma

Baker has defied all the critics who have mentioned his size as a reason not to draft him. He can make all the throws and is athletic to avoid pass rushers. His main calling card is his accuracy, which is the best in this draft class. The Jets did well this season for the talent they had on the roster, but need a franchise quarterback.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Whichever he needs to play, he will excel at. Fitzpatrick will have to help improve a bad Bucs’ pass defense, which ranked last in the league in passing yards allowed.

8. Chicago Bears- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama

The Bears have some nice young pieces in Trubisky and Howard, but now need to get a weapon at wide receiver. Ridley is the best route-runner in the class and produces even without the best quarterback play. The wide receivers in this class aren’t very good, so the Bears may want to grab one early.

9. San Francisco 49ers- Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Ward is the best cover corner in the draft. He had to really make his way this season, as he had to sit and wait his turn to get playing time for the Buckeyes. The 49ers got their defensive lineman and linebacker in the first round last year and can now get a good secondary player to go along with them.

2018 NFL mock draft february 7

Roquan Smith (photo by gridironnow.com)

10. Oakland Raiders- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith is the best linebacker in college football and does a little bit of everything well. He is especially fast, which is crucial for his coverage and tracking down of ball carriers. With Jon Gruden taking over, he is going to need a Derrick Brooks-like linebacker.

11. Miami Dolphins- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

Adam Gase has said that Ryan Tannehill is the starting quarterback. There are other holes on the team, but they need to have better offensive line play if they are going to be successful. Nelson is one of the best players in the class and will be drafted early despite playing a position that doesn’t usually get talked about this soon.

12. Cincinnati Bengals- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

The Bengals were able to go 7-9 with a terrible offensive line. They need help at just about every position and can start with tackles. They have taken tackles before in the first round, but they haven’t panned out. McGlinchey would’ve been a first round pick last year and the Bengals can get good value and fill a need with this pick.

13. Washington Redskins- Da’Ron Payne, DL, Alabama

Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed. Washington’s interior of the defensive line can be improved, as they allowed the most rushing yards per game in the NFL.

14. Green Bay Packers- Joshua Jackson, CB, Iowa

Jackson turned into an All-American corner at Iowa this season and has shown the ability to make acrobatic interceptions. The Packers need to improve the secondary and make the defense better for when Aaron Rodgers gets the offense going again and he has alluded to it as much this offseason.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Cardinals have to find a new quarterback now that Carson Palmer is retired. Some people are questioning whether Jackson can play quarterback, but he showed improved accuracy this season and is a dynamic playmaker. He should be given a shot to play the position in the NFL.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Sutton is a bigger receiver who has put up big numbers in the AAC. The Ravens won’t be getting rid of Joe Flacco, so they need to get him some better targets to throw to.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, FSU

Derwin James has fallen down mocks after being thought of as a top ten prospect. He is athletic, but doesn’t necessarily have a set position. The Chargers can use the help at safety and James would be a great addition to help make a good defense better.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Reports have come out that it will be tough for Cliff Avril to play football again and Michael Bennett has said that he doesn’t think he’ll be back in Seattle. Key only played eight games this season and had four sacks, but has proven in the past to be a good speed rusher.

19. Dallas Cowboys- Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Vea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds. The Cowboys are seemingly always weak up the middle of their defense. Shutting down their opponents’ running game would allow them to control the clock like they love to do.

20. Detroit Lions- Billy Price, OG/C, Ohio State

Detroit hasn’t had a solid running game in Matthew Stafford’s tenure as quarterback. Some more balance on offense would make it even better. They may be able to achieve this if they improve the offensive line. Price has tons of experience at guard and center for Ohio State and will start right away.

2018 NFL mock draft february 7

Tremaine Edmunds (Photo by twitter.com)

21. Buffalo Bills- Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech

The Bills are thin at linebacker and Edmunds can help them do a lot of different things. He is big, covers, rushes the passer and stops the run.

22. Buffalo Bills (via KC)- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis is a lengthy corner for Auburn, who has withstood a lot of good SEC competition. The Bills took Tre’Davious White last year and will likely want to get another corner to pair with him.

23. Los Angeles Rams- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers, but need better outside pass rushers. Davenport has the build of a great pass rusher, but reports are the media like him more than NFL teams do.

24. Carolina Panthers- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

25. Tennessee Titans- Justin Reid, S, Stanford

Johnathan Cyprien has been bad for the Titans this year, in one of their lone weak spots on the roster. Reid took a huge leap this season in terms of production and has put himself on the map for a first round selection.

26. Atlanta Falcons- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

Jackson has the potential to develop into a great cover corner. Atlanta needs another corner to pair with Desmond Trufant and should try to take one early.

2018 NFL mock draft february 7

Mason Rudolph (Photo by sportingnews.com)

27. New Orleans Saints- Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State

The Saints need to plan for the end of Drew Brees’ career sooner rather than later. Their defense was much improved so they can afford to look to the future. Not everyone likes Rudolph, but he has a lot of experience and quite possibly the best deep ball in the class.

28. Pittsburgh Steelers- Ronnie Harrison, S, Alabama

Harrison is a good strong safety prospect, who plays physically. Despite being known for all of their great safeties throughout their history, the Steelers are very bad at the position right now.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside. Jacksonville really doesn’t have too many needs and have said they are sticking with Blake Bortles at quarterback. The Jaguars have a decent crop of young receivers, but they rarely stay healthy.

30. Minnesota Vikings- Orlando Brown, OT, Oklahoma

The Vikings’ offensive line is much better than last year, but can still be improved. With a good offense and defense, they can afford to make a good unit better. Brown has great size for an offensive tackle and his father played in the NFL.

31. New England Patriots- Taven Byan, DT, Florida

Byan is a more agile and athletic defensive tackle than most and would help improve a below average defensive line. The Patriots need to improve their defense, as the offense wasn’t the reason they lost the Super Bowl.

32. Philadelphia Eagles- Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama

They just won the Super Bowl with a backup quarterback and have a very solid roster. Philadelphia can afford to take the best player available and that could be Evans. He is a quick, run stopping linebacker that can help out right away if needed.

 

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EU LCS and NA LCS have slightly different champion prioritization in the 2018 Spring Split

A detailed look at EU and NA LCS champion preferences in 2018

While North America and Europe share a similar meta so far in 2018, the two regions do exhibit slightly different preferences in champion select. Differences in positional strengths and in-game strategies caused different champions to rise and fall in draft priority. These two regions mirror each other in certain shifts between patches 8.1 to 8.2, but they have diverged in certain respects, too.

By looking at the draft history of EU and NA, analysts can extrapolate information about these two regions. Does one region prioritize a certain position over the other? Are there any champions that appear frequently in one region, but not the other? Champion select can answer these questions, and more.

NA LCS from 8.1 to 8.2

North America prioritized Zoe, Ezreal, and Kalista on patch 8.1 in the 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

NA LCS prioritized Gangplank, Gnar, and Zoe on patch 8.2 in the 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

At the start of the 2018 Spring Split, NA LCS teams spent most of their bans on Zoe, Kalista, Ornn and Tahm Kench. Pick-wise, Ezreal and Gangplank sat at the top, due to their synergy with the new Kleptomancy rune. Tanky protector supports, Braum and Taric, had top-10 presence, as well as Gnar, a generalist top laner.

Once 8.2 hit professional play, Ezreal, Kalista, Ornn, Tahm Kench and Taric drop from the top 10. Sejuani, Azir, Galio, Ryze and Zac took their places. Two extra mid lane champions jumped into the top 10 with two extra junglers. Priority on AD carries and supports dropped, in response. Most of the champions that fell in priority was due to direct nerfs, changes to support itemization and nerfs to Kleptomancy. Zoe remains the most perceived overpowered champion, with high ban rates and a low average ban turn.

EU LCS from 8.1 to 8.2

EU LCS prioritize Kalista, Tahm Kench, and Azir on patch 8.1 in the 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS prioritized Sejuani, Kalista, and Zoe on patch 8.2 in the 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

Across the pond, EU LCS teams showed less priority on the Kleptomancy users (Ezreal and Gangplank) in patch 8.1. Instead, they banned Jarvan IV and Sejuani much more frequently, while leaving Tahm Kench, Ornn and Zoe available more often. EU teams drafted Ezreal, Tristana, Caitlyn and Varus with almost equal frequency to one another.

Transitioning into patch 8.2, Sejuani skyrocketed in priority, Jarvan IV dropped out of top-10 presence and Zac took his place. Azir and Gnar fall from grace, but Camille and Caitlyn jump to 90 percent presence. None of these champions had much changed on the patch update, so most of the prioritization changes are adaptations from the first two weeks of play. EU teams only had one top lane champion with top-10 presence in both patches, while the other roles had an even spread.

NA LCS and EU LCS top lane comparison

NA LCS teams prioritized Gangplank, Gnar, and Ornn in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Gnar, Ornn, and Camille in the top lane in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

Gnar and Ornn have been clear favorites over the first three weeks of gameplay between NA and EU LCS. North America is showing favoritism towards Gangplank and his interactions with Kleptomancy, while Europe has less than half as much priority. Instead, EU teams are happy to pick Camille as a counter to Gnar, and still draft Cho’Gath as a scaling AP tank.

Ban turn is another interesting regional difference. NA teams ban Gangplank and Ornn around turn four or five, while EU teams do not ban any top laners that early in the draft. The other prioritized top lane champions are banned around turns six and seven in NA. EU teams average one to two turns later to ban top laners. This could indicate that EU teams save counter picks for top lane more often than NA.

NA LCS AND EU LCS Jungle COMPARISON

NA LCS team prioritized Sejuani, Zac, and Jarvan IV in the jungle in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Sejuani, Jarvan IV, and Zac in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

It is obvious which champions have been dominating the jungle pool across both regions: Sejuani, Jarvan IV and Zac. These junglers provide early ganking, scaling tankiness and multiple forms of crowd control for teamfighting. Sejuani, Jarvan IV and Zac make up 60 to 90 percent of jungle picks in NA and EU.

Beyond those three, NA and EU show similar trends. Rengar, Kha’Zix and Evelynn represent the assassin class, which provides stealth, mobility and high early damage. NA junglers won three games of three games with Evelynn, while losing three of four with Kha’Zix. EU junglers have shown the reverse–winning four of seven with Kha’Zix and zero of two with Evelynn.

EU junglers have been experimenting with more jungler options than NA. Kold played Kayn, Xerxe played Ivern, Jankos played Skarner, Maxlore played Lee Sin and Memento even played Camille. Meanwhile, MikeYeung’s Shyvana has been NA’s only unique pick so far. Europe’s junglers may be willing to take more risks, but, unfortunately, only the Ivern pick resulted in a win.

NA LCS AND EU LCS mid COMPARISON

NA LCS teams prioritized Zoe, Ryze, and Azir in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Zoe, Ryze, and Azir in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Similar to the jungle pools, the mid lane pools for NA and EU have been very similar. Zoe, Ryze and Azir dominate the draft with the current scaling AP meta. Galio and Malzahar are high-engage options that follow the S-tier picks, but their presence really falls off.

As mentioned earlier, EU’s mid laners seem to prefer picking or banning Ryze over Azir or Zoe. NA teams ban Zoe earlier and more frequently, while EU teams ban Azir. Thirteen unique champions have been picked and banned in North America, while Europe only has seven. Huhi, PowerOfEvil and Jensen are well-known for having deep champion pools, which could explain the variance. Pocket pick fans will be happy to see Nisqy and Betsy win games with Veigar, who has not seen EU LCS play in over four years.

NA LCS AND EU LCS Bot lane COMPARISON

NA LCS teams prioritized Kalista, Kog'Maw, and Tristana in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Kalista, Kog'Maw, and Tristana in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

The AD Carry position has fewer options to begin with, so most regions will see play on the same champions. Kalista, Kog’Maw, and Tristana are currently the scaling options of choice, as they synergized with the Fleet Footwork-Relic Shield-Overheal meta. However, EU teams are much more likely to take Kalista off the table than NA.

Ezreal saw higher play rates before his nerfs in patch 8.2, with NA teams showing a higher preference than EU. NA also prioritized Varus just below the S-tier picks, while EU has gravitated towards Caitlyn. Xayah is really only picked when paired with Rakan, and Sivir is a last option for deep scaling compositions.

NA AD carries have been much more successful with Kalista than EU AD carries. She carries a 56 percent winrate, 4.8 KDA, and +12.7 CS difference at 15 minutes in the NA LCS. In the EU LCS, she is 0-4, carries a 0.7 KDA, and -10.8 CS difference. This could be reason for EU teams to lower their priority on her in the coming weeks.

NA LCS and EU LCS Support Comparison

Na LCS teams prioritized Braum, Tahm Kench, and Taric in the first three weeks 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Tahm Kench, Braum, and Alistar in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Bulky support champions with protective abilities and engage or disengage are the cream of the crop, currently. Tahm Kench reigns supreme in this “protect the AD carry” meta, and Braum is a close second. Both EU and NA prioritize these two champions far above any other supports. Alistar is the third option they share.

NA also has Taric just below the Kench-Braum tier, but he only has 17 percent presence in EU. Ornn support has also been played in NA, but not in EU, and all three games were wins. Thresh, Janna, and Shen have been pulled out a few times each, but the support pool has to be pinched first. Zilean is just under Rakan in EU’s prioritization, thanks to Kasing on Splyce. NA teams have played Zilean mid, instead.

Putting it all Together

NA LCS teams prioritize Zoe, Gangplank, and Gnar in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring SplitImage from GamesofLegends.com

EU LCS teams prioritized Kalista, Tahm Kench, and Braum in the first three weeks of 2018 Spring Split

Image from GamesofLegends.com

Over the first three weeks of the NA and EU LCS, over both patches, most champions overlap. Kalista and Braum average the highest prioritization between the two regions. The other top 10, while the same champions, are in very different places relative to each region.

Zoe and Tahm Kench are the most obvious diverging champions. Zoe is NA’s highest-presence champion at 97 percent, banned 26 times, picked three times. In EU, Ryze, Azir and Zoe all sit around the same level in fourth through seventh. Tahm Kench, on the other hand, is at the bottom of NA’s top 10, while being 100 percent pick or ban in EU.

One defining difference between the regional priority lies with top lane. Gangplank and Gnar have been 90 to 93 percent present, while Gnar is all the way down at number 10 in EU and Gangplank is down around 43 percent presence. In EU, they have higher priority on the supports and jungle champions. Tahm and Braum are virtually pick or ban, while Sejuani and Jarvan IV sit 10 to 20 percent higher in EU than NA, and NA is prioritizing Zac over Jarvan IV altogether.

Finally, NA teams pick or ban Kog’Maw much more, relative to the rest of the top 10 in EU. Both regions show an 83 percent presence for the marksman, but he falls sixth highest presence for NA, while only ninth highest in EU. Overall, EU teams cycle through the same champions more frequently than NA, causing them to show six champions with 90 percent or more presence.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images and Statistics: Games of Legends

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2018 NCAA Tournament bracketology 2/5/18

Only a month and a half until March Madness begins. Teams are about half way through their conference schedules and are jockeying for position. Here is the latest NCAA Tournament bracketology. Click to zoom.

First four out: UCLA, SMU, Nebraska, Marquette

 

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Golden Guardians enter week three in last place in NA LCS Spring Split

According to history, LCS teams finishing 0-2 this week will miss Spring Split Playoffs

Following two weeks of European and North American LCS Spring Split, many fans and analysts will jump to conclusions. Some sites placed Echo Fox as a top 10 Worlds contender, G2 as the sixth best in Europe, or FlyQuest as ninth in NA. While anyone will say that the rest of the season will be unpredictable, LCS history can help temper expectations.

This split feels less predictable

Spring Split generally feels more chaotic at the start, because teams make more dramatic roster changes in the off-season after Worlds. This off-season, in particular, introduced several new organizations into the LCS and many keystone players changed rosters. With so many questions of synergy, cooperation and communication in the air, it is clear why analysts are left scratching their heads.

CLG enters week three tied for seventh in NA LCS Spring Split

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

The best-of-one, single group format of EU and NA LCS this year is a large contributing factor to everyone’s perceived unpredictability of results. Placements have felt more stagnant over the past few splits, thanks to best-of-threes, best-of-twos and Europe’s two-group format. However, these leagues have not always used those formats. In fact, EU and NA used their current format in the 2015 and 2016 Spring Splits: best-of-ones, a single group, ten teams.

Revisiting past splits

Spring Split standings seemed unpredictable in 2015 and 2016, too. In 2015, NA and EU expanded from eight teams to ten. Huni and Reignover just joined Fnatic. Elements, one of the first super teams, entered the EU LCS. In NA, four new organizations stepped onto the scene. Imaqtpie left Dignitas.

Elements entered the LCS Spring Split 2015

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Origen, G2 and Splyce played their first Spring Splits in 2016. H2K picked up Jankos and Forg1ven. In 2016, NRG, Echo Fox and Immortals had their inaugural Spring Splits. Cloud9 got Jensen, and ZionSpartan changed his moniker to Darshan. These were times of massive change and adjustment, which left analysts with the difficult task of predicting team strengths.

Maybe reviewing the results of these previous splits can help predict the results of the 2018 Spring Split. The trajectories of different teams from week one to week 10 in 2015 and 2016 could reproduce themselves this year. Starting the season at the top may not have a history of panning out to success by the end of the split.

Emerging patterns

Some teams that started in the top six EU LCS Spring Split 2015 did not make playoffs

1. Image from Leaguepedia

Some teams that started in the top six EU LCS Spring Split 2016 did not make playoffs

2. Image from Leaguepedia

Some teams that started in the top six NA LCS Spring Split 2015 did not make playoffs

3. Image from Leaguepedia

Some teams that started in the top six NA LCS Spring Split 2016 did not make playoffs4. Image from Leaguepedia

Some patterns emerge when looking at the standings over time. In 2015, two out of six EU teams, and two out of seven NA teams, finished the second week as a playoff team, but dropped out by week 10. In 2016, one of the six EU teams, and two of the seven NA teams, fell under the same circumstances. Seven out of 26 teams across these years and regions failed to qualify for playoffs, despite starting the split in the top six. That amounts to a 27 percent rate of failure.

2015 saw Elements and Giants fall from third and fourth to seventh and ninth. 2016 Elements finished their second week tied for first, but dropped to seventh again. In 2015, Team 8 and Winterfox finished seventh and eighth, despite being tied for fourth in week two. In 2016, Team Dignitas and Team Impulse ended at the bottom of the standings, falling from their third place tie in week two.

The 2018 week two results do not quite match up with those of the past. North America has a three-way tie for second and a tie for fifth. Europe has a four-way tie for first and a three-way tie for fifth. However, broad trends have happened in the past that could repeat themselves this year.

For example, other than Elements in 2016, every team that started first or second in week two qualified for playoffs. That statistic bodes well for the European teams currently tied for first, Echo Fox and the North American teams tied for second. More importantly, 10 out of 12 teams, regardless of rank, that had a 0-2 week three did not make playoffs at the end of Spring. If that trend continues, then organizations that finish this week 0-2 have an 83 percent chance of missing playoffs.

Looking to the rest of the Spring Split

While these reviews of the past can help contextualize the present, history does not always repeat itself. There are exceptions to every rule. Notice how nothing mentioned above came out to 100 percent. Picking up trends can help predict certain parts of the future, but it can also become unsettling.

Analysts are left to predict the rest of Spring Split 2018

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Will Huni help 2018 Echo Fox be 2016 Immortals reincarnated? Is TSM destined to replace Clutch Gaming or FlyQuest, like Cloud9 did Team 8 in 2015? If H2K goes 0-2 in week three, then are they blocked from playoffs? What are the odds that Team Vitality fall below sixth place?

These and many more questions remain unanswered by historical data alone. But it is interesting to watch each split unfold, while looking for the parallels. With the return of best-of-ones and single groups, the EU and NA LCS are returning to 2015 and 2016 form. The chaos of competition has most fans and analysts trying their best to make sense of everything. Looking to other Spring Splits, and studying the patterns, can help create expectations moving forward. The 2018 Spring Splits will either reinforce, or buck, the trend.

credits

Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports Flickr

Historical Data: Leaguepedia

Looking for a podcast covering EU and NA LCS? Check out LCS Weekly on SoundCloud. You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Thomas!

To continue enjoying great content from your favorite writers, please contribute to our Patreon account! Every little bit counts. We greatly appreciate all of your amazing support! #TGHPatreon