The Best Player in College Basketball: Josh Hart

Every year one player in college basketball sticks out above the rest. This doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best NBA draft prospect, but this player is dominating the college game. Last year it was Buddy Hield who stole the show. This season the best player in college basketball is Josh Hart, the guard from Villanova.

Hart was a very important component of the 2016 National Champion Villanova Wildcats, but has elevated his game this season. He has led Villanova to a 26-3 record and kept them in position to get a number one seed on Selection Sunday. If the Wildcats are able to go far in the NCAA Tournament again, it will be because of Hart’s play.

Offense

 

Josh Hart

Josh Hart (vuhoops.com)

Overall, Hart does a little bit of everything for the Wildcats. Offensively he is best known for his scoring. With an average of 18.7 points per game, Hart leads his team in scoring, but does so efficiently. He is shooting 50% from the floor including 40% from behind the arc. Because of his ability to be strong while driving to the basket, and his ability to shoot from the outside, Hart can’t be completely shut down, as he has yet to score under 10 points in any game this season.

Passing is an underrated aspect of Hart’s game. He doesn’t play point guard, but he does a great job of setting up teammates for open shots. His 3.2 assists per game are very impressive for an off-ball guard. He does however, have a tendency to handle the ball well and calm the team down. Hart only turns over the ball 1.9 times a game, which is minimal in comparison to how many plays he makes.

Defense

 

Josh Hart

Josh Hart and Jay Wright (cbssports.com)

Defensively, Hart doesn’t back down from anyone. His length helps him defend well against other guards. He averages 1.5 steals per game, which is just one facet of his good defense. The most telling sign of his good defense is his defensive rating (an estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions). His defensive rating ins 95.7. For a point of reference Kansas guard, Devonte’ Graham, who is known as a defensive stopper has a defensive rating of 103.5. Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox has been compared to a lot of great defensive guards, but his rating, 96, isn’t as good as Hart’s.

 

Clutch

So Hart’s all-around game makes him an elite player, but what makes him the best player in college basketball is his ability to step up in Villanova’s biggest games. Hart scored 24 at Purdue early in the season, 37 against Notre Dame and 30 against Wake Forest. With those type of games against good competition you can count on Hart to deliver when his team needs him the most.

Hart is the biggest reason as to why Villanova has already had a great season and will be the reason that the Wildcats will have another successful March.

 

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Cinderella Teams who can Win in the 2017 NCAA Tournament Part Two

As the college basketball season goes on, we are finding out more and more about teams that could end up being stories in the NCAA Tournament. Cinderella teams are teams that are commonly unexplored before March, but in order to be ahead of the curve, they most be studied now.

Cinderella Teams- Part One

Monmouth Hawks

A lot of people know about the Hawks from last year’s team. The bench had crazy celebrations and the team pulled off some good upsets. Unfortunately, they fell short of the NCAA Tournament and settled for the NIT. The Hawks are back this season and if they can make the tournament, can win.

They may not have the quality wins that they had last season, but the Hawks are 16-2 in conference and have a big win on the road against Memphis. The Tigers aren’t a great team, but it is a solid win for a MAAC team nonetheless. The Hawks are ranked 46 in RPI.

Monmouth is led by one of the best guards in the country Justin Robinson. Robinson averages 19.8 points and 4.8 assists per game. He is one of the most effective players in transition, which has fueled an offense that averages 81.1 points per game. With lanky guard Micah Seaborn and sharpshooter Je’lon Hornbeak, the Hawks have a lot of scoring punch from their guards.

Inside scoring is a bit of a problem for Monmouth, but with the guards firing on all cylinders, that isn’t too much to worry about. They are a great rebounding team, averaging 39.5 rebounds per game, which should help them do battle with good teams in the NCAA tournament.

Defense is the main issue with the Hawks, as they give up 73.5 points per game, meaning they will have to outscore their opponent(s) in March, rather than shut them down.

Illinois State Redbirds

Most of the time when people hear the conference Missouri Valley, they think of Wichita State, but Illinois State is having a great season.

Cinderella Teams

Deontae Hawkins (Photo courtesy: dudesonsports.com)

The Redbirds are 23-5 with an RPI of 33. At 15-1 in conference, they are on pace to share the MVC regular season title with the Shockers. Illinois State and Wichita State have split their two meetings, each winning at home. Right now the Redbirds are on the bubble, so they need to make the tournament first, but could be dangerous if they get in.

Illinois State has three players averaging over 10 points per game. Forwards Deontae Hawkins and MiKyle McIntosh both have inside-out games. Guard Paris Lee scores and sets up his teammates well with 5.2 assists per game. He also shoots well, hitting 42% of his three point field goals.

Those players will need to have big games in the NCAA Tournament scoring wise. If those players are able to score for the Redbirds, the defense will be able to hold up. Illinois State boasts the 10th best defense in terms of points allowed per game in the country at 61.9.

UT Arlington Mavericks

UT Arlington is a team that has already had an impressive season and looks to continue that into March.

Cinderella Teams

Kevin Hervey (Photo courtesy: NCAA.com)

The Mavericks have a great win over St. Mary’s, which improves their resume tremendously. The win was on the road, making it even more impressive. They have a record of 21-6 with an RPI of 34. Their conference record is 11-3 and they are in the driver’s seat to win the Sun Belt.

Kevin Hervey is the Maverick’s leading scorer and is a double-double threat every time he steps on the court. He is averaging 17.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Two guards, Jalen Jones and Erick Neal, also help provide a scoring punch.

While the Mavericks don’t have anything they do extremely well, they are pretty good at offense, defense and rebounding. Their biggest competitive advantage is Hervey and he is going to have to be a star in order for UT Arlington to advance in the NCAA Tournament.

 

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NBA Mid-Season Awards

NBA Mid-Season Awards ’17

All-Star Weekend has finished up and more than half the season is gone. Teams are either preparing for the draft or preparing to push towards the playoffs. There have been some amazing performances this season. All-Star break has always been looked at as the mid-season and for those teams who make deep postseason runs, it still is. So catch your breath and lace your sneakers for the second half of the season. Here are Hagan’s Haus NBA mid-season awards.

Coach of the Year: Mike D’antoni- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Rocky Widner Getty Images)

This is the hardest award to pick out of all. There were a couple of strong candidates for this award including Washington head coach Scott Brooks and Utah head coach Quin Snyder. Both of those coaches are having great seasons but this award must go to Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets.

Last season the Rockets were the eighth seed in the playoffs after making the conference finals the previous year. This season they hold the third seed in a strong Western Conference and already have 40 wins after only amassing 41 last season. That type of improvement in just one season is impressive. The Rockets may not win the NBA Title but they have become a dangerous team in the west under D’Antoni.

 

6th man of the year: Eric Gordon- Houston Rockets

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: LM Otero, Associated Press)

There is no question that Eric Gordon is the sixth man of the year. His career was in shambles until this season. Gordon could not stay healthy and could not live up to his potential in New Orleans. Now as a sixth man Gordon provides a spark off the Rockets bench. He is shooting 38.9 percent from behind the arc. Gordon also has the fourth most made three-pointers in league with 184. This is also Gordon’s third best year in scoring. If he continues this he will easily win the sixth man of the year.

Comeback Player of the Year: Bradley Beal- Washington Wizards

This was a difficult award to assess but Bradley Beal is a good candidate for the award. Bradley Beal missed 27 games due to injury last season. He only started 35 of the 55 games he appeared in. This season, however, Beal has started all 51 games that he has played in.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://wizofawes.com)

Beal is a part of a surging Wizards team that has won nine out of their last 10 and have taken the third spot in the Eastern Conference. They are only two games back of the Celtics for the two seed. Part of that surge is because Beal is having a career year. Beal is averaging a career high in points per game (22.2), assists per game (3.7), free throw percentage (81%) and field goal percentage (47%). Beal has come back strong this season and the Wizards are a threat because of it.

Most Improved: Giannis Antekokounmpo- Milwaukee Bucks

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://hoopshabit.com/)

The Greek Freak just played in his first ever All-Star game at the age of 22. Giannis is also averaging a career high in points per game (23.4), blocks per game (2.0), steals per game (1.8), assists per game (5.4), rebounds per game (8.6), free throw percentage (79%) and field goal percentage (52.3%). Not only are those his career highs, he leads his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Giannis is clearly on his way to stardom and has improved vastly since last season. He has improved more than anybody else this season and one day may be an MVP.

 

Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid- Philadelphia 76ers

NBA Mid Season Awards

(Photo Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Trust the process. No really, trust the process because Joel Embiid has been fantastic in his first year on the court. It has been a long wait for 76er fans to see Embiid in action but it has been worth the wait. He has started 31 games and is averaging 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. His 78 percent free throw shooting is also impressive for a big man.

The 76ers have found a legitimate franchise piece to build around. Their only concern now is his history of injuries. If he can stay healthy the 76ers are in for some great years of basketball. Embiid is no question the rookie of the year and there is no competition. Trust the process.

 

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Draymond Green- Golden State Warriors

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://ballislife.com)

Defensive player of the year was tough to pick. There is no clear cut favoite that stands out above the rest. Permiter defenders don’t typically get this award. Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler are both great defenders but are unlikely to win the award.

Draymond Green is a player who is deserving of this award. Green can defend all five positions on the court. His versitility makes him valuable and one of the best defenders in the NBA. He also ranks 14th with 1.5 blocks per game, and first in steals in the NBA with 2.1 per game. He is the best defender on the league’s best team and that has to account for something. He also recorded the rarest triple double in NBA history. It was the first ever triple double without scoring more than 10 points. Green’s triple double came from 12 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals. In an era where scoring and offense are valued so highly, Green is one of the best defenders in the league.

Most Valuable Player: Russell Westbrook- Oklahoma City Thunder

How can you not love “Brodie”? He is every fan’s and team builder’s dream. He plays basketball harder than any athlete in the world plays their sport. Westbrook is an old-school competitor and all he really wants to do is win. Only one player in NBA history has averaged a triple-double. Westbrook is looking to become the second player ever to accomplish this in 70 seasons of the NBA.

NBA Mid-Season Awards

(Photo Credit: http://www.chatsports.com)

Many people argue that this era of the NBA is the most talented era of all-time. Players are more skilled than ever before which makes the nightly triple-double watch for Westrbook more spectacular.

Without Westbrook the Thunder would be one of the worst teams in the NBA. “Brodie” has a PER of 29.5 which is a career high and would be the 26th best PER in NBA history. Westbrook is averaging a career high in points per game (31.1), rebounds per game (10.5) and three-point percentage (33.8). He is also adding 10.1 assits per game to round out the triple-double. “Brodie” is carrying the franchise on his back to the playoffs.

Some may argue that James Harden should be the MVP and they wouldn’t be wrong. Harden is having an MVP caliber year but think about this. Westrbook is averaging a triple-double. That alone is absolutely amazing, but his team is also a playoff team. If averaging a triple-double over a season is not worth the MVP award then we need to take away the name “Most Valuable Player” and call it “Media’s Most Popular Player”. Russell Westbrook is the MVP.

 

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What Cousins Means For The Pelicans

Something was up with DeMarcus Cousins when he logged only two minutes in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night. He told the coaching staff he was dinged up and didn’t want to play much, but then it became apparent that the Sacramento Kings had decided to deal the big man and didn’t want to risk (further) injury. Now the Pelicans are putting their faith in Cousins to make the playoffs this season.

The Trade

While the Kings got an awful return for, who some consider, the best big man in the game, the Pelicans now have the best front-court in the NBA. New Orleans will send Tyreke Evans, Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, their 2017 first round pick and their 2017 second round pick to Sacramento for Cousins and Omri Casspi.

The Kings now have no elite players and will once again have to try and rebuild. The Pelicans, on the other hand, now will be looking to compete for a playoff spot in a very difficult Western Conference.

The Team Impact

Boogie

DeMarcus Cousins (Photo courtesy: thebiglead.com)

Like Chris Bosh in Toronto, Anthony Davis has admirably played the five position, even though he is more of a four. He has publicly stated that he feels like more of a four (He even lobbied to play shooting guard in college at Kentucky). The Pelicans have listened to their star player and acquired a center for Davis to play alongside.

While Cousins isn’t known as a great defensive stopper, he is right outside of the top 20 in defensive rating (how many points allowed per 100 possessions) and 15th in the NBA in defensive win shares (how many wins Cousins is responsible for defensively). With him and Davis roaming around the middle, it will be hard for a lot of teams to score in the paint.

Offensively, the Pelicans are going to have to work from the inside-out. They have Cousins and Davis who are both averaging roughly 28 points per game. Passing out of the post will be the key, as teams will likely pack it in on defense and try to stop these stars.

The Pelicans lost about 26 points per game from the back-court in this trade. In order to give some threat of scoring from the guard/wing position, Tim Frazier, Solomon Hill, E’Twaun Moore or Quincy Pondexter have to step up. E’Twaun Moore has led this group in scoring with 9.8 points per game.

The good news for the New Orleans is that they have Jrue Holiday. Holiday missed games early in the season to take care of his wife, but has come on strong. The point guard is almost playing as well as he did in 2012-2013, when he went to the All-Star Game as a representative of the Philadelphia 76ers. A lot of responsibility now falls on him to not only feed Davis and Cousins, but to also carry the scoring punch from the guard position.

The Playoff Push

Pelicans

DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (Photo courtesy: youtube.com)

The Western Conference is very tough, but the eighth seed is likely going to have a record that is below .500. New Orleans currently sits 2.5 games outside of the final playoff spot. With this trade, they should be the favorites to clinch the eighth seed in the West.

New Orleans has 25 games left this season, 15 of which are against teams with losing records. With two dominant players like Davis and Cousins, they should be able to win the majority of their games down the stretch.

Possible Playoff Match-up

With the eight seed seeming like the most likely scenario for the Pelicans, they could get a first round series with the Golden State Warriors. This would be the ultimate test of small-ball vs. dominant inside game. The story-lines from this series would be endless.

If the Warriors go to the “death line-up”, Cousins and Davis (if on the court) would match-up with Draymond Green and Kevin Durant. Golden State would try to run and gun on the Pelicans, while New Orleans would try to bruise their way to the basket.

The Pelicans, with their new big man, will make the play-offs and create one of the most entertaining first round match-ups in the history of the NBA, regardless of who they play.

 

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StarLadder I-League StarSeries Season 3 LAN Finals Preview

As we move further into the year, the tournaments are coming thick and fast. Next up is the StarLadder season 3 LAN finals held in the Shanghai International Gymnastics Center. StarLadder will take place February 23rd – 26th and will showcase some of the best teams in the world.

StarLadder Prize Pool

The prize pool is $300,000 USD, split as follows:

Place $ USD Team
1st $135,000 TBD
2nd $60,000 TBD
3rd $37,500 TBD
4th $22,500 TBD
place 5 to 8
5th-6th $15,000 TBD
TBD
7th-8th $7,500 TBD
TBD

Courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2/StarLadder/i-League_StarSeries/Season_3

StarLadder Format

The teams will be split into two groups, each containing four teams. The group stage will contain a double-elimination bracket with the top two teams advancing to bracket play. Bracket play will be a four team single-elimination bracket, with the semifinals being best of threes, and the final a best of five.

The Teams

Wings Gaming – Direct Invite

Wings StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Shadow

Position 2 (Mid) – Blink

Position 3 (Offlane) – Faith_bian

Position 4 (Support) – y’

Position 5 (Support) – iceice

Wings have been missing from the competitive scene since ESL One Genting. After facing troubles with visas, they missed out on Dota Pit, meaning they have had very few games on the new patch. Since winning TI, Wings have not reached the heights that were expected by many fans.

Wings will be hoping to put in a good performance to try and secure an invite to Kiev. Considering the talent on show at StarLadder, Wings have a tough task ahead of them.

Prediction – 5th / 6th

Wings placement will rely heavily on the group that they are placed in. However, they have failed to impress since TI and will struggle to make it out of the group stages. They will be hoping to kick start their year with a decent performance to give them some momentum heading into the Kiev Major.

OG – Direct Invite

OG StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Notail

Position 2 (Mid) – Ana

Position 3 (Offlane) – s4

Position 4 (Support) – JerAx

Position 5 (Support) – Fly

For some reason there seems to always be questions surrounding the ability of this OG team. Having proved at both Boston and DotaPit that they are one of the best, if not the best, team in the world, they will be hoping to impress at StarLadder. As winners of the Boston Major, they are guaranteed an invite to Kiev, so they hope to silence the critics once again with an emphatic display.

Predictions – 1st Place

OG have the pedigree and ability to win this tournament. Coming off the back of a second place finish at DotaPit, OG will be looking to step it up a level and finish first. Also, as EG are missing from the event, OG will feel confident with their chances.

Team Liquid – European Qualifier #1

Team Liquid StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MATUMBAMAN

Position 2 (Mid) – Miracle-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MinD_ContRoL

Position 4 (Support) – GH

Position 5 (Support) – KuroKy

StarLadder will be the LAN debut for the new Team Liquid and they hope to start it off with a victory. Liquid will be coming into the tournament on the back of an impressive 12 game win streak. They hope that an impressive performance at StarLadder can secure them a direct invite to the upcoming Kiev Major.

Prediction – 2nd Place

Liquid are on an upward trend, however they will eventually cross paths with OG. Taking the W against Fly and the rest of OG may be a step too far for Liquid, but it will be good for the team to get some LAN experience together.

Team Secret – European Qualifier #2

Secret StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamsecret.gg

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – MP

Position 2 (Mid) – MidOne

Position 3 (Offlane) – Khezu

Position 4 (Support) – Puppey

Position 5 (Support) – pieliedie

This is the second major tournament that the new look Secret have competed in as a team. The first, DotaPit, did not go as planned. Secret ended up finishing in a disappointing 5th / 6th. Having displayed good promise early in the tournament by beating DC, they eventually fell in the losers bracket. Secret hope to prove that they can still be one of the best teams in the world. StarLadder provides them with teams they should beat 70% of the time.

Prediction – 4th Place

With Wings and DC both looking fragile, Secret have a real chance at finishing strong in this event. However, with the likes of Liquid and OG also competing, a top three finish may be just out of reach. This will be the chance for Secret to gain some momentum heading into the Kiev Major qualifiers.

Team VG.J – China Qualifier #1

VG.J StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Agressif

Position 2 (Mid) – Freeze

Position 3 (Offlane) – rOtk

Position 4 (Support) – fy

Position 5 (Support) – Fenrir

This will be VG.J’s first venture into international competition. The squad is stacked with some of the best players in China and will be expected to perform well on home soil. Mid player Liu “Freeze” Change is a relative unknown in the international scene and hopes to put his name on the map at StarLadder.

Prediction – 3rd

VG.J posses some of the best talent in Chinese Dota currently, and with Wings misfiring and Newbee not at the event, VG.J are China’s only hope. With four veterans of Dota, this team has the makings of a world beater. The only question is whether they can realize their potential or fall by the side.

iG Vitality – China Qualifier #2

iG.V StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Paparazi

Position 2 (Mid) – Sakata

Position 3 (Offlane) – InJuly

Position 4 (Support) – Super

Position 5 (Support) – dogf1ghts

iG.V are a small fish surrounded by blood thirsty sharks. Similar to Elements Pro Gaming at Dota Pit, they are slightly out of place. As they have been playing together for nearly a year, they hope to possess an advantage over some of the newly formed teams. Having failed at Boston, they have been relatively quiet. This is also their first appearance on the international scene.

Prediction – 7th / 8th

Dota games are not played on paper. This is the thing iG.V will be relying on heading in to the tournament. They are on home soil and will be hoping that the crowd can push them to victory. However, they are against several strong teams and will be hard pressed to mount any serious challenge.

Digital Chaos – America Qualifier

DC StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Resolution

Position 2 (Mid) – w33

Position 3 (Offlane) – MoonMeander

Position 4 (Support) – MiSeRy

Position 5 (Support) – Saksa

In the last six weeks we have seen the two sides of DC. To go from dominating the field at ESL One Genting to finishing last at DotaPit is not good enough. DC are coming into the event in a weird place. They managed to qualify for the event beating NP in a playoff. However, a few weeks later they failed to qualify for DAC, losing to NP in the finals. They hope to make a comeback and put in a solid performance at StarLadder to secure an invite to Kiev.

Prediction – 5th / 6th

DC look out of sorts since ESL One Genting. The nature of the victory may have lead them to slack a bit heading into DotaPit. However, it is nearly time for the direct invites to Kiev to be announced. DC hope that they can reignite the fire of ESL One and put in a solid performance for the tournament.

TNC Pro Team

TNC StarLadder

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Raven

Position 2 (Mid) – Kuku

Position 3 (Offlane) – Sam_H

Position 4 (Support) – Tims

Position 5 (Support) – ryOyr

TNC are used to being the underdogs, so this time around will be no different. They are the second best team in SEA, after Faceless, so this will be a tough challenge for TNC. With Faceless likely to receive a direct invite to Kiev, TNC will be able to use the tournament as a warm-up for the Kiev Qualifiers. TNC hope to catch a few teams off-guard using their unpredictable play style.

Prediction – 7th / 8th

TNC are a difficult team to predict, considering the unpredictable nature of their play. They will be hoping to use this to their advantage and upset a few teams and achieve a decent finish.

StarLadder Final Thoughts

Team Liquid makes their return to international competition at StarLadder, and hope to return with a bang. Standing in their way is OG, the silent assassins that know how to win and win often. OG look to be the favorites for the event, but Liquid have the potential to win. Looking through the rest of the teams, VG.J and Secret have the potential to challenge in the later stages of the tournament. TNC and iG Vitality look to be the weakest of the teams, and will be hoping that they can cause a few upsets and end up with a decent position.

Overall Predictions:

1st Place – OG

2nd Place – Team Liquid

3rd Place – Team VG.J

4th Place – Team Secret

5th / 6th Place – Digital Chaos / Wings Gaming

7th / 8th Place – iG Vitality / TNC Pro Team

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Week 5 Preview: Fnatic mid lane, Caps

EU LCS Week 5: FNC v. SPY Preview

One of the key match-ups coming into Week five will be Fnatic versus Splyce. Both of these squads sit in the middle of their respective groups, third place. Fnatic are 3-2 and Splyce are 2-3. Fnatic has lost to G2. Splyce has lost to H2K and Unicorns of Love (UOL). Misfits have defeated both teams.

This Week five series will be an important one for gaging the strength difference between Group A and Group B of the EU LCS. We will also see G2 taking on UOL, which will further settle the score. But the match-up between FNC and SPY will be just as important for understanding the interplay of these teams. If FNC win in a dominant fashion, then we can conclude that Group A is stronger than Group B, and if SPY win convincingly, then Group B must be more substantial.

There are areas of game-play where these teams overlap, but there are also several where they diverge. Their overall win conditions leading into Thursday are fairly different. Here is an outline of a few factors to keep in mind.

First Blood

Fnatic have taken First Blood in 50% of their games. Oftentimes, it is a result of Rasmus “Caps” Winther roaming from mid lane to assist his jungler or diving a side lane. You can see some examples in the highlights below.

Splyce, on the other hand, have only secured First Blood in 18% of their games, the lowest in the league. Chres “Sencux” Laursen will need to clearly communicate anytime Caps leaves mid in the early game. Jonas “Trashy” Andersen and the rest of his team will need to ward and path to effectively track Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen throughout the map.

First 3 Turrets

Fnatic also consistently take the first three turrets in a game. Their movement across the map in the early game allows them to take advantageous teamfights and then effectively translate trades into towers. So far, they have succeeded in doing this in 79% of games, second highest in the league.

You can see in the highlights below, Fnatic cleanly win a teamfight against Vitality at 20 minutes. They rotate into the river and start Baron. When Vitality contest, Fnatic go aggressive, earning a few more kills and securing the Baron. Notice both teams have knocked down one turret each. After recalling, Fnatic take a turret in bot lane, a turret in mid lane, and a turret in top lane. They almost get a fourth turret top, but Vitality hold them back.

In their game against Giants, neither team had a turret taken in 12 minutes. Fast forward to 16 minutes, and you can see that Fnatic has taken three turrets with none traded to Giants.

Splyce have only accomplished this in 36% of their games. While they have similar first Dragon rates, first turret rates, and kill:death ratios, Splyce are less likely to push those advantages into multiple towers across the map. Their early-mid game rotations are a bit slower than Fnatic’s.

First Baron

The other area where Splyce struggle is in taking first Baron. They are last in the league here, as well, with only 18% of games. Their team has allowed several unfortunate Baron steals, and they usually are slow to check if Baron is being taken by the enemy.

While Fnatic are middle-of-the-pack taking first Baron, their 50% of games is vastly superior. Even in games where Splyce is ahead, or significantly better at teamfighting, opponents can sneak Barons. Fnatic should be sure to take advantage of this blind spot.

Elder Control

While they are unlikely to take first Baron, Splyce are highly likely to take an Elder Dragon. They have 100% Elder control rates thus far. As you can see in the highlights below, even when they get pushed off of a Baron play, Splyce are willing to take a fight in the bot river and secure Elder before moving to Baron. It is how they took a game off of Unicorns of Love It is a bit risky, though. Elder Dragon takes much longer to kill. However, once it is secured, it allows your team to do tremendous amounts of damage, especially if other Elemental Drakes have been secured. From here it is easy to rotate up to Baron, recall, and then push down the enemy’s base.

Fnatic only have 50% Elder Dragon control. Although it is half as high as Splyce, this is still a decent rate considering how few teams actually take Elder Dragon in a game. Nonetheless, Fnatic will need to be sure to ward top and bot rivers to ensure they can react to Splyce’s gameplay.

Overall, Fnatic have the advantage in this series. They will need to play around Caps in the early game, then roam and find skirmishes in the mid game. Once they win a big teamfight, they can take Drakes, or even Baron. Their primary focus should continue to be turrets, though. If they can open up the map quicker than Splyce, then it will make a win much easier.

Splyce will need to do their best to match Fnatic’s dynamic gameplay. They also need to remember that Fnatic are likely to overextend a push at times. If Splyce are unable to keep up in the early game, then they need to do their best to absorb the pressure until they can get openings to make calculated plays. Vision control will be extremely important in this Week five series.

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What We Learned From the DAC Regional Qualifiers

The Dota 2 Asia Champsionship (DAC) 2017 qualifiers are in the books. The qualifiers for SEA, Europe, CIS, and Americas took place February 3rd – 13th and saw some of the best teams fight it out for one qualification spot per region. The competition was fierce, the games were amazing, so lets take a look at what we learned from the DAC regional qualifiers.

DAC Regional Winners

South East Asia – Faceless rise to the top

DAC Faceless

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Team Faceless have managed to secure themselves a spot at DAC after conquering the SEA region. Having failed to qualify for StarLadder, the team will have been heavily focused on securing a spot at DAC. Finshing with a record of 5-1, Faceless only dropped two games throughout the qualifiers in a 2-1 loss to WarriorsGaming.Unity. The stats speak for themselves as Faceless finished 11-2 in terms of map count.

Faceless will be looking to build on both Dota Pit, where they finished third, and the DAC qualifiers. After losing to WG.Unity, Faceless are without a loss in their last six games, and with a month to DAC, they hope to continue their undefeated run.

Faceless may finally be reaching the potential that they showed when originally forming as a team. With Kiev on the horizon, Faceless hopes that their performances can secure them a direct invite to the next major.

Americas – Team NP advance with No Problems

DAC NP

Image courtesy of http://wiki.teamliquid.net/dota2

Similar to Faceless, NP had fallen just short in the recent StarLadder qualifiers. They have been keen on writing their wrongs, and progressing to DAC. NP will be able to look back at the DAC qualifiers and see that they managed to progress from one of the most difficult Americas qualifying stages in recent history. Team NP finished with a 5-1 record, losing only to DC in the semi-finals. However, they did not let this loss dissuade them, and would eventually sweep aside DC 2-0 in the finals.

NP seem to be a team that perfectly sums up “so close, but yet so far”. They are a team that is constantly fighting against the enigma that is Jacky “EternalEnvy” Mao. EE is probably the most exciting player to watch, simply because you never know if he will make an amazing play, or fail. Having the ability to wipe a team and also die solo to Roshan means that his teammates are sometimes fighting an uphill battle. But with all this in mind, NP are still among the best in the world and will hope to show that at DAC.

Whilst a direct invite looks difficult due to being in the same region as EG and DC, NP hope their recent strength will carry them to a decent placing at DAC, and eventually Kiev.

CIS – The start of a new Empire ?

DAC Empire

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

When the Dota Gods give you lemons, you need to make that sweet Dota lemonade. That is exactly what Empire have done in securing their place at DAC. With VP experiencing connection issues (we will come to this later), CIS was open for the taking. Cometh the hour, cometh the Empire. Rated by many as the second best team in CIS, Empire did not disappoint. Winning all of their games and finishing 10-4 in map count will give Empire confidence for the future. The squad benefits from possessing one of the best Meepo players in the world, meaning that a ban is almost a must. This was evident in the qualifiers, as Meepo was banned in 12 of the 14 games, and picked up by Empire in the other two.

Empire have also displayed strong mental toughness as they nearly fell at the last hurdle in a close final series against Effect. Being down one map and at a 6k networth disadvantage, things looked bleak. However, Empire was able to turn it up a gear and take control of game two to tie the series at 1-1. Game three was an easy enough game for Empire as they controlled from the early stages, and eventually closed the game out after 31 minutes.

Empire have been missing from the international scene and hope that DAC will provide the launchpad they need.

Europe – Are Liquid back ?

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Now here is a name fans haven’t heard in a while. Prior to the StarLadder qualifiers earlier in the month, Liquid had been missing from the pro scene for two months. Whatever they were up to in that break has obviously worked wonders for the team as a whole. Liquid have yet to lose a game since their return, that’s 12 games without a loss. Teams will have to start taking note as Liquid look to be in terrifying form. Adding Maroun “GH” Merhej seems to have tied the team together, and they are displaying impressive form heading into an important couple of months.

Liquid hope that with a few more impressive performances, they may be able to secure themselves a direct invite to the Kiev Major and avoid the difficult qualification process. Currently, Liquid are looking like one of the best teams in the world. They have several competitive games in the new patch under their belts, and look to translate that success to the major stage.

DAC a Perfect World ?

With the winners covered, let’s take a look at some of the other notable things that happened during the DAC Regional Qualifiers.

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

VP not connecting anymore

One of the most notable events of the qualifiers was that VP have not qualified for DAC. All bad puns aside, this was completely out of their control. The team suffered connection issues in both of their games, leading to them being disqualified after some long delays.

Another casualty of the DDosS attack was their Dota 2 Manager, Andrey Kvasnevsky, who took the blame for the bootcamp choices made for the tournament.

Having not competed in the StarLadder qualifiers and missing out on DAC, VP will likely have to qualify for the Kiev Major. Hopefully they can reconnect as a team and mount a series challenge for a spot at Kiev.

A worldwide crush

Slardar DAC

Image courtesy of dotawc3.com

Often is the case in Dota that different regions develop slight nuances in the meta. Currently, however, there is one mainstay in every region. Slardar was the most contested hero in the whole qualifiers, being picked or banned in 200 games. In comparison, the next highest is Ember with 150 picks or bans. Slardar also has a very strong 56% win-rate. Expect to see more and more Slardar in top level games.

 

 

B)ears DAC

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

B)ears start with a roar

DAC was the first showing for new team, B)ears. The qualifiers were a baptism of fire, and B)ears rose from the fires of war to finish in a respectable second place. Possessing some of the best talent in the world, including talented position four Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat, B)ears hope to build on DAC. Heading into Kiev, B)ears will likely be a favorite to qualify from what is expected to be a tough qualification region.

 

 

 

 

If you missed any of the qualifiers, check out some of the best plays from the qualifiers below.

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2017 NFL Mock Draft February 16

2017 NFL Mock Draft

1. Cleveland Browns- Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M

The Browns reportedly have a very high grade on Garrett and are not targeting a quarterback with their first pick. Garrett is the premier pass rusher in college football, but has also proven to be a good run defender as well. Cleveland has to acquire talent all over their roster, so they need to take the best player available, who is Garrett.

2. San Francisco 49ers- DeShone Kizer, QB, Notre Dame

San Francisco has a lot of needs, including a new coach. Kizer has the size and arm strength to be a franchise quarterback. He has some issues with being consistent with the accuracy of his passes, but for the most part is decent. If he wants to be successful he should work on putting passes in areas for wide receivers to run after the catch.

3. Chicago Bears- Mitch Trubisky, QB, North Carolina

Matt Barkley has played better than expected, but the Bears will still need a new quarterback. Trubisky has protected the football very well, with the exception of a couple of games. Issues that scouts will find with him are that he has only started one season of college football and a lot of his stats come from screen passes where receivers run after the catch.

4. Jacksonville Jaguars- Jonathan Allen, DL, Alabama

Allen is the best prospect available and fills a need. Malik Jackson was the only defensive lineman who played well for the Jaguars. At six feet three inches tall and 291 pounds, Allen can play any position on the defensive line and can fit into any system.

5. Tennessee Titans- Jamal Adams, S, LSU

Adams is the most complete safety in the class. He stops the run, covers well and even hits hard. Against Ole Miss he showed he can cover good tight ends when he was matched up against Evan Engram. The Titans need to improve the pass defense if they want to make the playoffs next season, making Adams the pick.

6. New York Jets- Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU

It is obvious that Matt Forte isn’t the same player that he once was. The Jets need to get a play-maker and although running back isn’t their biggest need, shouldn’t pass on Fournette. Fournette can do everything required as a running back and help take some carries away from Newton. Their offense can be dynamic with the combination of the two.

7. San Diego Chargers- Cam Robinson, OT, Alabama

Phillip Rivers deserves the most credit in the league for keeping his team competitive with all of his skill position players hurt and a bad offensive line. Robinson can slide right in and start protecting the aging Rivers and give him more time to make plays.

8. Carolina Panthers- Marshon Lattimore, CB, Ohio State

The Panthers may not have had the season they wanted, but they don’t have too many needs to fill. One position they do need to upgrade is corner after not fairing so well without Josh Norman. Lattimore is a shut-down corner, who has good ball skills.

9. Cincinnati Bengals- Solomon Thomas, DE/DT, Stanford

When Cincinnati was at their best, they rushed the passer well. Michael Johnson no longer does that well, so he needs to be upgraded. Thomas is a well rounded defensive end, who is as good at stopping the run as he is rushing the passer.

10. Buffalo Bills- Malik Hooker, S, Ohio State

Malik Hooker

The Bills have a lot of uncertainty at safety with Aaron Williams, but Adams could be the pick anyways. Hooker is a ball-hawk who has great coverage skills, but needs to provide more run support.

11. New Orleans Saints- Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee

The Saints need defensive help wherever they can get it. Improving the pass rush will be an easy decision if they see Derek Barnett on the board. Barnett is one of the best pass rushers in the class and can also help stop the run at an average level.

12. Cleveland Browns- Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama

Foster was the best player for Alabama in the National Championship Game. He was all over the field and showed great closing speed on ball carriers. In addition to that, he was a very effective when blitzing, knocking down Deshaun Watson plenty of times. He is also good in coverage, which doesn’t leave many holes in his game.

13. Arizona Cardinals- Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama

This is a great value pick for the Cardinals, as Humphrey is a top ten talent. The pick also fills a need with Arizona’s secondary not playing as well as in previous seasons.

14. Indianapolis Colts- Adoree Jackson, CB, USC

Indianapolis needs to start playing better defense to give Andrew Luck a chance to win games. Jackson is one of the fastest players in the entire class and almost qualified for the track and field team in the Olympics this summer. He is a shut down corner, who plays like Deion Sanders. The most impressive thing he does is slow down to bait the quarterback into throwing a pass and then speed up to intercept it.

15. Philadelphia Eagles- Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

Cook and Fournette are really close in terms of who is the better running back. Cook is elusive and quick. He provides a real weapon out of the backfield as a receiver. The Eagles need a running back, and help elsewhere, in order to enhance Carson Wentz’s development.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Quincy Wilson, CB Florida

Quincy Wilson

The Ravens have a lot of options with this pick, but taking a corner will help shut down receivers in the AFC North like A.J. Green and Antonio Brown. Wilson is a tall corner, who has good speed. He isn’t the best in run support and is suseptible to pass interference calls.

17. Washington Redskins- Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State

Washington has other needs, but McDowell could really bolster their defensive line and be a great value pick. McDowell can rush the passer, but his main impact will be helping out a bad Washington run defense.

18. Tennessee Titans- Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

In the National Championship Game, Mike Williams was the difference maker for Clemson. Williams is the best red zone threat in college football from the wide receiver position. He is tall and lanky, but athletic enough to make great catches. Mariota needs a go to receiver to throw to and the Titans ma have to take one earlier than expected.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Jalen Tabor, CB, Florida

Secondary play is where the Bucs fall short. Fortunately for them this class has a lot of good secondary players. Tabor has fallen down draft boards, which may have come at the expense of teammate Quincy Wilson’s improved stock. Lock down coverage is Tabor’s best asset, but he also has good ball skills once passes come his way.

20. Denver Broncos- Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame

John Elway has to find a new right tackle as Donald Stephenson isn’t the answer. McGlinchey played left tackle this season, but was more successful as a right tackle during his college career.

21. Detroit Lions- Chris Wormley, DE/DT, Michigan

Chris Wormley

Detroit defied the odds to make the playoffs, but their defense needs a lot of work. Interior defensive line play was bad. Wormley can play defensive tackle in their scheme and be an absolute force in the middle of the defensive line.

22. Miami Dolphins- Sidney Jones, CB, Washington

The Dolphins need to spend some picks on their secondary and their defensive line this year and Jones can compete for a starting job. He is a great cover corner, who grew a lot his last year in college and has the potential to grow even more at the next level

23. New York Giants- Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt

It seems like every year the Giants need linebackers, but they hardly address those issues. Cunningham is tall and lanky, but makes plays. He is a tackle machine that can vastly improve the run defense.

24. Oakland Raiders- Jabrill Peppers, CB/LB/S, Michigan

The Raiders’ defense wasn’t good this season. They have to get better to help Derek Carr and the high-powered offense win games. Peppers can be successful at any position in the back seven of the defense and will give the Raiders a lot of flexibility and a good player behind Khalil Mack.

25. Houston Texans- Ryan Ramczyk, OT, Wisconsin

Quarterback play has been an issue, so they may go for one here, but the offensive line hasn’t performed either. If they want to build a good offense, it starts in the trenches. Ramczyk is a good run blocker, but needs to improve his pass blocking. He can fit in at right tackle for the Texans.

26. Seattle Seahawks- Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame

It is the same story, but a different day for Seattle. Their offensive line is atrocious. Quenton Nelson is a solid prospect who can help out on the interior of the offensive line. He will be the selection if there aren’t any tackles good enough to get drafted in this range.

27. Kansas City Chiefs- Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan

Davis is a premier talent at wide receiver. He is big, at 6 feet 3 inches, but his skills match that of a smaller receiver, making him a unique prospect. The Chiefs can draft the receivers, but ultimately Alex Smith has to throw it to them to make this pick worthwhile.

28. Dallas Cowboys- John Ross, WR, Washington

John Ross

The Cowboys’ defense needs to be addressed, but they could also find a good target to go on the opposite side of the field of Dez Bryant. Terrance Williams could be upgraded and has yet to sign a deal for next season. Ross is really fast and can stretch the field for the offense.

29. Green Bay Packers- Gareon Conley, CB, Ohio State

Aaron Rodgers will always have the offense rolling, so the defense needs to start getting more stops. The secondary was awful. Conley is one of many talented corners in this class that can have an immediate impact.

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- Charles Harris, DE/OLB, Missouri

The Steeler pass rush hasn’t been the same recently. Jarvis Jones is a bust and James Harrison can’t play forever. Harris is a good edge rusher that can, at the very least, push the veterans with some competition and provide depth.

31. Atlanta Falcons- O.J. Howard, TE, Alabama

Jacob Tamme is a decent tight end, but he isn’t great. Levine Toilolo hasn’t proven that he can be the starter. Matt Ryan would love the addition of Howard, who would just add to the number of targets he has. The Falcons could, and probably should go defense here, but Howard may be too good to pass up.

32. New England Patriots- Caleb Brantley, DE, Florida

New England’s front seven has been depleted the past couple of seasons. They will need to make up for players traded and ones that are still on the team, but aging. Brantley can help provide depth on the interior of the defensive line.

For more mock drafts: DC Pro Sports Report

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All Star Weekend 17

NBA All-Star Weekend 2017

NBA All-Star Weekend is finally upon us.  New Orleans will be hosting the annual event that captivates basketball fans all over the world. Friday’s events include the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game on ESPN at 7 p.m. EST and the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge at 9 p.m. EST.

Saturday is the best day of events beginning with the D-League All-Star Game at 2:30 p.m. EST on NBATV. Later that night at 8 p.m. EST starts the three main events of the day. First is the Taco Bells Skills Challenge, followed by the JBL 3-Point contest, and finishing up with the Verizon Slam Dunk Contest.

Sunday will of course feature the 66th NBA All-Star Game.

NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Pintrest)

This year the celebrity coaches will be ESPN’s Michael Smith and Jemele Hill. Smith’s team has the following celebrities: Miles Brown, Tom Cavanagh, Mark Cuban, Baron Davis, Andy Grammer, Jiang Jinfu, Anthony Mackie, Romeo Miller, Hasan Minhaj, Master P, Candace Parker and Aaron Sanchez.

Jemele Hill’s team includes the following celebrities: Brandon Armstrong, Win Butler, Nick Cannon, Rachel DeMita, Ansel Elgort, Marc Lasry, Caleb McLaughlin, Peter Rosenberg, Oscar Schmidt, Lindsay Whalen, Jason Williams and Kris Wu.

Both teams seem evenly matched and this year’s game doesn’t seem to have as big of names as past years. Rachel DeMita will surprise some people, but most people will be looking forward to seeing former NBA players Baron Davis and Jason Williams.

MVP Prediction: Jason Williams

Winning Team Prediction: Jemele Hill’s

 

Rising Stars Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

This annual Friday night game features first and second year NBA players and can be seen on TNT at 9 p.m. EST. It is a United States versus World format in which 10 players for each team were selected by NBA assistant coaches.

The U.S. team features Devin Booker (Suns), Malcolm Brogdon (Bucks), Marquese Chriss (Suns), Brandon Ingram (Lakers), Frank Kaminsky (Hornets), Jahlil Okafor (76ers), D’Angelo Russell (Lakers), Jonathon Simmons (Spurs), Karl Anthony-Towns (Timberwolves) and Myles Turner (Pacers)

The World team has Alex Abrines (Thunder), Dante Exum (Jazz), Buddy Hield (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Trey Lyles (Jazz), Jamal Murray (Nuggets), Emmanuel Mudiay (Nuggets), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Domantas Sabonis (Thunder) and Dario Saric (76ers).

Last year the U.S. won the game 157-154. The United States team is even more talented this year and will look to get another victory.

MVP Prediction: Devin Booker

Winning Team Prediction: United States

 

Skills Challenge

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The skills challenge is always an exciting event to get the fans ready for the 3-point competition. Last season a big man won: Karl Anthony-Towns. Unfortunately he won’t be defending his crown.

This year’s participants are Devin Booker (Suns), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Nikola Jokic (Nuggets), Gordon Hayward (Jazz), Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks), Isaiah Thomas (Celtics) and John Wall (Wizards).

These competitions are hard to predict, but what makes them fun is seeing lightning quick guards go up against some of the more skilled big men.

This event would have been more entertaining if Joel Embiid didn’t have to pull out, but the big men in this competition are still talented, just not talented enough to win it. This year will be the year of the guard.

Prediction Winner: Isaiah Thomas 

 

3-Point Contest

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit:Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports)

In this competition, last year’s winner will be defending his crown. Klay Thompson should be the favorite again this year, but is in for some tough competition. The 2013 champion Kyrie Irving will also be on the court. The remaining participants include Eric Gordon (Rockets), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Wes Matthews (Mavericks), C.J. McCollum (Blazers), Kemba Walker (Hornets) and Nick Young (Lakers).

The final three participants will most likely be Thompson, McCollum and Walker. Klay’s experience will really help him, but it won’t be enough to repeat.

Prediction Winner: C.J. McCollum

 

 

 

 

Slam Dunk Contest

The dunk contest is usually the most exciting and most popular event of the entire All-Star weekend. Nobody wants to be that one person who missed an epic dunk. There was a short period where fans and journalists believed the dunk contest was lacking in excitement. Thanks to Aaron Gordon and Zach Lavine’s showdown last year, the hype is real again.

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: www.draftexpress.com)

Lavine won’t be defending his crown, by runner-up Aaron Gordon is looking to capture the title against an interesting field of competitors. Also competing against Gordon are DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Glenn Robinson III (Pacers) and Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns).

Derrick Jones Jr. is the most controversial participant this year. Jones is a rookie out of UNLV, who has played in the D-League this season and has little experience in the NBA. Some people believe he shouldn’t be allowed to participate.

When they see the show he puts on during the competition, they will soon forget that. Jones can jump out of the gym and is a real threat to win this competition.

Prediction Winner: Derrick Jones Jr.

 

66th NBA All-Star Game

The main event of the weekend is the All-Star Game. The Eastern Conference starters are DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Jimmy Butler (Bulls), LeBron James (Cavaliers), and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks).

NBA All-Star Weekend

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

The Western Conference starters are Steph Curry (Warriors), James Harden (Rockets), Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Kevin Durant (Warriors), and Anthony Davis (Pelicans).

One of the biggest storylines of the game is that Russell Westbrook was not named a starter and how he will handle being on the same team as Durant and the rest of the Warriors after what transpired this summer. Their recent match-up was heated and lots of words were exchanged. It should make for an extremely intriguing and exciting contest.

The West has won the last two games and five of the last seven. The West is considered the tougher and deeper conference, which is why they are going to be the favorites in this game.

MVP Prediction: Russell Westbrook

Prediction Winner: West 176-170

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

Best in the West: NA vs. EU Power Rankings

Other than the few teams that compete at international events, audiences hardly get to see how North American and European LCS teams match up against one another. Nonetheless, it is a constant source of debate. Fans around the world tout their favorite teams as being “The Best in the West,” comparing the 20 teams from both leagues.

It can be difficult to compare teams from different leagues. Anyone who watches international competitions, such as Mid Season Invitational or the World Championships, knows this. With different playstyles and champion preferences, it is impossible to truly know how things would play out before teams actually compete. However, since it is a fun and controversial topic, here are current power rankings for the top 10 teams between the NA and EU LCS.

  1. FNC
Power Rankings: #10 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Fnatic are serving as a litmus test for the EU LCS. Their overall kill-death ratio is 1.08, meaning Fnatic barely gets more kills than deaths. They average only 429 gold ahead at 15 minutes. 50% of the time, Fnatic secures first blood or first Baron, and they only take first turret 43% of the time. The one metric where they skew towards the top of the league is first three turrets rate (79%).

The Fnatic-Splyce match-up this week will either prove or disprove this team’s placement. If Splyce win, then they deserve the tenth slot in these rankings. Fnatic have yet to win a series 2-0, but they also have not lost 2-0. Taking G2 to three games in Week 1 is the main criteria keeping Fnatic ahead at this point. Hopefully they will shore up weaknesses in the jungle with Mads “Broxah” Brock-Pedersen starting. If so, then Fnatic will solidify themselves as a playoff team.

  1. P1
Power Rankings: Phoenix1, #9 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Phoenix1 is tied for fourth place in the NA LCS with a record of 4-4. Prior to Week 4 they would be higher in the power rankings, but losing 0-2 to FlyQuest and 1-2 to CLG has many questioning their consistency. P1 averages 117 gold ahead at 15 minutes and have the highest first Dragon rate (84%). Paired with the second highest Baron control rate, 61%, they show strength playing around neutral objectives.

This squad has exhibited a high skill ceiling in almost every position, but last week showed their low floor. P1 is also the only team in the league who has not faced off against Cloud9. If they can take a game, or the series, then they will solidify themselves in the top of the standings. But, if they lose both games, then they may have a tougher time staying in contention for playoffs. Up to this point they only take first turret and the first three turrets 47% of games. Nonetheless, they seem stronger than any of the bottom six EU LCS teams.

  1. FOX
Power Rankings: Echo Fox, #8 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Echo Fox’s early game is unmatched thus far in the NA LCS. They average 1,530 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Thanks to star rookie jungler, Matthew “Akaadian” Higginbotham, Echo Fox has secured first blood in 75% of games and first Baron in 68%. The third fastest average game time (just under 38 minutes) implies that they close games well. However, they only have an even 50% winrate over 20 games played, which means they lose just as quickly as they win.

The main issue holding FOX back from being A-tier is their overall Baron control rate, 49%. While they generally take the first Baron of the game, there are usually multiple per game and the enemy teams are getting any that spawn subsequently. Echo Fox also only secures Elder Dragon 25% of the time. While FOX has won series against TSM and FlyQuest, they have also lost series to Phoenix1, Team Liquid, and Immortals. Consistency will be the key moving forward.

  1. TSM
Power Rankings: TSM, #7 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Team Solo Mid sits tied for second place with FlyQuest. However, FLY is the only team they have not matched up against. TSM would be ranked higher were it not for the fact that they have played the most total games in the NA LCS. They have dropped a game to every team ranked beneath them except Envy, and Echo Fox beat them last week 2-0. TSM’s average game time (38:24), gold difference at 15 minutes (-5), and Dragon control rate (52%), are all middle-of-the-pack.

Where this team thrives is in taking turrets. TSM takes first turret in 62% of games (second in the league) and the first three turrets in 71% (first in the league). The primary difference between this squad and C9 and FLY is the K:D ratio. C9 and FLY average 1.45 and 1.49, respectively. TSM averages 1.09. Moving forward, they will need to trade fewer deaths and/or more kills while maintaining proper map pressure. This week’s series with FlyQuest will solidify second place.

  1. MSF
Power Rankings: Misfits, #6 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Misfits average the highest kill-death ratio in the EU LCS and the lowest combined kills per minute. They average 860 gold ahead at 15 minutes, secure the first dragon 67% of the time, and kill 70% of all dragons. This means Misfits plays a clean game, gaining early gold leads from creeps and neutral monsters. A major factor separating this squad from others ranked above them is their first turret rate (50%) and first Baron rate (58%).

If Misfits want to move up in these power rankings, they will need to translate their early game leads into taking down the first three turrets and securing Baron. They took G2 to three games and beat both Fnatic and Splyce 2-0, but the Week 6 match-up with Unicorns of Love will be key. If Misfits take the series, it will establish Group A, and Misfits as a team as much stronger than Group B.

  1. H2K
Power Rankings: H2K, #5 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Staying true to Marcin “Jankos” Jankowski’s moniker as “First Blood King,” H2K secure the first kill in 73% of their games. They also average the highest first turret, first three turrets, and first dragon rates. All of this combines for the highest 15-minute gold difference in the EU LCS (1,160). However, H2K’s average game time is middling (just over 37 minutes). Even though they match up well with Unicorns of Love’s early game statistics, H2K has a harder time actually closing games.

Taking G2 to three games in Week 4 is a good sign for this squad. H2K’s Korean bot lane has appeared more comfortable communicating with the rest of the team. The key for this team to climb to the top of the league is fewer deaths. H2K average 12.4 per game. Unicorns of Love, G2, and Misfits average 11.5, 8.8, and 8.1, respectively. Week 5 should provide an easy win, but H2K will need to secure convincing wins against Fnatic and Misfits before their Week 8 rematch against UOL.

  1. UOL
Power Rankings: UOL, #4 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Many spectators have been surprised by Unicorns’ dominance in the first four weeks. Sporting the highest combined kills per minute (team kills plus enemy team kills) and the shortest average game time, Unicorns of Love play bloody games. They average 1,072 gold ahead of their opponents after 15 minutes. This translates into the highest first Baron rate, 91%, and highest overall Baron control rate of 88%.

Kiss “Vizicsacsi” Tamás is among the most consistent top laners. Andrei “Xerxe” Dragomir and Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort have stepped into their roles cleanly as rookies. This team thrives on chaotic teamfights, often pursuing several skirmishes across the map at the same time. Teams ranked below Unicorns are unable to dissect this playstyle and effectively punish it. Teams ranked above them theoretically could. While they have not suffered a series loss up to this point, Unicorns of Love will face G2 in Week 5, their toughest test yet.

  1. FLY
Power Rankings: #3 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Week 4 saw FlyQuest put in their place just below Cloud9. Although it was a back-and-forth series, C9 came out on top. The only other team to beat FlyQuest so far is Echo Fox. Nonetheless, FLY have looked monstrous so far this split. They top the NA LCS in K:D ratio, first turret rate, Dragon control, Elder Dragon control, first Baron, and Baron control. They also hold second for gold difference at 15, first Dragon, first three turrets, and First Blood. There are very few weaknesses on this roster.

However, they have lost two series. Three of those losses had An “Balls” Le on Poppy. Maybe that is an uncomfortable champion for him? In Game 3 against Cloud9, Hai “Hai” Du Lam locked in a blind pick Zed. That may have been a bit arrogant. Nonetheless, FlyQuest should be able to match almost any team in the West, starting with TSM this week.

  1. C9
Power Rankings: C9, #2 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

The last undefeated team in North America is Cloud9. They have only dropped four out of 20 games so far, and two of those were lost while starting substitute top laner, Jeon “Ray” Ji-won. Other than their high K:D ratio and Elder Dragon control rates, C9 do not appear that impressive on paper. They have the lowest first turret rate in the league, average 7 gold behind their opponents at 15 minutes, and only take first Baron or Dragon in 47% of games.

Cloud9’s roster is strong in all positions. Whether it is Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen securing solo kills in the mid lane, or Juan “Contractz” Garcia sacrificing early farm to gank lanes, each player contributes in meaningful ways to the team’s overall goal: winning series. Coach Bok “Reapered” Han-gyu should be given credit for generally superior drafting, as well. There is no doubt this Cloud9 squad could go toe-to-toe with any team in NA or EU.

  1. G2
Power Rankings: G2, #1 western team

courtesy of Riot esports

Finishing four weeks 6-0, G2 have the best record in Europe. Even in a stronger group, G2 have appeared a tier above the rest. They have won 12 of 15 games played. Even though G2 have the longest average game time (just over 39 minutes), they secure first turret 67% of games and first Baron 79% of games. G2 is ranked first overall because they have demonstrated the early game proactivity of FlyQuest, Unicorns of Love, and H2K, as well as the mid/late game teamfighting of Cloud9 and Misfits.

All of G2’s individual players are a force to reckon with. Every single one has demonstrated a high ceiling. Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez has made a habit of over-extending recently, but the rest of the team makes up for it. G2 averages ahead 742 gold at 15 minutes, which sets them up to comfortably make plays across the map. A win in their series against Unicorns of Love this week will solidify their claim to the throne; a loss might reveal a chink in the armor.

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