Donovan Mitchell

Why everyone is talking about Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell was truly torn between staying at the University of Louisville and declaring for the draft. It seems as if he’s made the right choice.

The rookie sensation is on his way to a special first season. He is a go-to scoring option, and he can hold his own on defense. There aren’t very many things he hasn’t shown the NBA he cannot do, and the season is not quite halfway over.

Here are some of the reasons why the NBA is officially on notice.

Rookie of the Year candidacy

Mitchell is tentatively in the top spot for Rookie of the Year. But why?

Ben Simmons collects more rebounds and dishes out more assists at a guard position. Jayson Tatum is shooting 45.3 percent from three and turns the ball over less in the exact same amount of time on the floor. In fact, the only category of note in which Mitchell safely leads his top two challengers is points per game at 18.2.

Defense

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell steals the ball from Nance Jr. (Photo by Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

Part of it might have to do with his commitment to improving his game on the defensive end of the court. He has commented on his own “perfectionist” nature when it comes to his defense and has said ex-Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s defensive expectations were one of the things that drove him to pick Louisville.

That commitment may not show up on the stat sheet, as his 1.5 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game are not gaudy numbers. But they are only going to get better if Mitchell’s is as dedicated to improving as he says he is.

Also, it’s hard to deny when watching him play that he isn’t exerting the effort it takes to be a great defensive guard. Coach Quin Snyder has even lauded Mitchell’s ability to deny an offensive player the ball when they are racing to their spot. Keep in mind that anyone’s first year playing against the best scorers in the world is going to be an adjustment, period.

Offense

What will probably impress ROY voters even more, however, is Mitchell’s electric offense.

Again, he has 18.2 points per game, which leads all rookies at the halfway point on the season. He already has 16 games with 20 or more points, which puts him within spitting distance of the Jazz rookie record, currently held by another former Louisville Cardinal, Darrel Griffith. He’s sinking 3-pointers at an almost 36 percent clip, which is decent enough. Plus, his 43.8 field goal percentage is impressive considering he takes more jump shots than either of his top competitors.

The real story here, though, is his athleticism around and above the rim. He can get up, catch the ball in traffic and most importantly, slam it home. This brings us to our next point.

Dunk Contest

Donovan Mitchell’s dunks are fantastic. If he isn’t in the dunk contest this year, then the NBA might as well cancel it.

There’s no real way to describe a dunk using only words, so suffice it to say, he is exhibiting in-game feats of athleticism that one must see to believe.

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell throws down a dunk. (Photo by Rick Bowmer/Associated Press)

Mitchell told Michael Rapaport on his podcast that he would “love” to participate in the dunk contest over the All-Star break, but would be prepared to lose to Derrick Jones Jr. of the Miami Heat, if Jones were to participate. He went on to say that he’s probably lost to Jones in 12 out of the 13 dunk contests he’s been a part of, as they have competed against one another since they were young.

At only 6-foot-3, Donovan has already thrown down some dunks that will undoubtedly be in consideration for Dunk of the Year honors. This is helped by his tremendous jumping ability and having one of the most seasoned passers in the league, Ricky Rubio, at the point guard position.

Earning respect

Along with earning his spot in ROY consideration, Mitchell is also earning high praise from some of the very best players in the NBA.

After a workout with Chris Paul and Paul George, Paul told David Gardner of Bleacher Report that Mitchell was “going to be good for a long time,” while also commenting on his obvious love of the game.

The biggest story here, however, comes from an Instagram comment of all things.

On Dec. 16, the Jazz visited Cleveland. Mitchell scored 26 points in Utah’s losing effort, while LeBron James notched his 60th career triple-double. After the game, Mitchell posted on Instagram about how excited he was to be able to play against the players he grew up watching. In a comment on the post, James called Mitchell “young king.”

Donovan Mitchell

Mitchell tries to score against Wade. (Photo by: Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune)

This is significant. James has respect for all rookies, but he appeared to name Mitchell as a potential successor to his throne. That doesn’t happen every day. Regardless of whether it was in a press conference or on Instagram, this is James telling the world to keep an eye on this one.

Also, after that same game, Dwyane Wade lined up after LeBron and patiently waited his turn to give Mitchell a word or two of encouragement. Wade, one of the best shooting guards of all time, and a dynamic finisher around the rim in his prime, wanted words with Mitchell. Neither Wade or James had to to do these things. They were paying their respects to a first-year player. Make no mistake, that’s a big deal.

That is three potential Hall of Fame basketball players already touting Mitchell’s abilities and capacity to improve. And that’s without mentioning all the things that great players have said about him in press conferences after games against the Jazz.

All in all, Mitchell has the ability to be a true all-around player in the league. At the shooting guard position, that’s very impressive. He’s also managed to fill a Gordon Hayward-sized hole in the Jazz’s offense. It probably will not be enough to propel the Jazz to a playoff berth, or even a winning season, but he provides hope for a storied NBA franchise.

And no matter what team you may root for, the potential for another LeBron James should inspire that same hope.

 

Featured image by KELVIN KUO-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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College Football playoff Expansion

The College Football Playoff expansion: Money & transparency

A college football season filled with more questions than answers. A selection committee that makes decisions with less transparency than the Free Masons. A coast-to-coast chant to make like the Louisiana Purchase and double the size of the playoffs.

This four-year-old child has been immature in the sense that it has replaced some of the problems from the BCS computer system, but we cannot complain with the football that has been played over the past four seasons. The argument of the BCS system being better than the College Football Playoff is null and void. Especially, when the two teams who would have been selected in the old BCS system (No. 1 Clemson and No. 2 Oklahoma) lost in their first-round contests for the 2017 College Football Playoff.

In the old system, Alabama would have been hung out to dry instead of looking to crown themselves champions for the fifth time in the past nine years. Furthermore, Georgia’s fans would have been stuck with only watching the Atlanta Falcons try to avenge their Super Bowl loss.

The main argument stems from the ever-changing guidelines that constitute admittance to the four-team playoff bracket. The committee sits high atop their ivory tower looking as 130 teams battle week in and week out determining who is the best in all of the land. This committee consists of 13 members, three of which had to recuse themselves from final votes due to conflicts of interest. These conflicts of interest range from Frank Beamer’s son being the special teams coach for the Georgia Bulldogs to the Clemson and Ohio State athletic directors being on the committee itself.

In the past, the notion of winning a Power Five conference championship was the golden ticket to get the inside track to the playoff bracket. The Big 12 typically found themselves with the most difficult path in, but this year, we were faced with an even more difficult decision with the  Big 12 championship being installed for the 2017 season. Before this year, the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC had uncontested seats at the table because of the leverage they had over the Big 12 and its regular season champion. Even though we saw Oklahoma get in two years ago, they had the most difficult path out of the five major conferences.

This addition of a Big 12 champion muddied the waters for two conferences this season. With Clemson, Oklahoma and Georgia winning their conference championships in dominating fashion, there was no question as to who the top three teams would be.

However, issues arose at the No. 4 spot unlike any of the problems seen in the previous three seasons. We had a conference champion with two terrible losses in the Ohio State Buckeyes and a Nick Saban led Crimson Tide with one loss and an eye test that wasn’t 20/20.

At the end of the day, and to the dismay of Buckeye Nation, Alabama’s loss to Auburn reflected better than a championship in a conference of teams who beat each other up all year. As we saw in their game against Clemson, it seems to be that Alabama was the correct choice.

Now fast forward to 10 seconds after Alabama was named No. 4 and we see the Ohio State fans looking to burn the 13-person committee at the stake. The entire city of Columbus began to cry out for an eight-team playoff, an argument started prior the commencement of the College Football Playoff in 2013.

After a UCF win in the Peach Bowl over the Auburn Tigers, this pulse for an eight-team playoff reached both ends of I-75. UCF will be pushing a few extra chips to the middle of the table with the “National Championship” banner they will be raising in Spectrum Stadium.

College Football Playoff expansion

Photo by ALYSSA POINTER

The initial goal for the College Football Playoff was to put fate into the hands of the players, coaches and schools rather than in an algorithm. The College Football Playoff, for the most part, has relinquished some of the authority from the college football powers that be, but it has not been perfect.

An expansion of four teams will negate some of the issues that are seen in the covert decisions made with the four-team blue print now, but we still have the potential of the trials and tribulations surrounding the No. 4 spot translating to the No. 8 spot. Even with an eight-team playoff this year, the UCF Knights would have been on the outside looking in as the playoff committee listed them at No. 12 in the final poll.

Ohio State has been batted around like a tennis ball between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for each year of the College Football Playoff. Ohio State has been the perfect example of the lack of guidelines the playoff committee has with the pushing of each poll, and these guidelines have changed with each season.

Each season is unique, and no cookie cutter set of regulations will satisfy the problems we have had throughout the first four years of the playoffs. We are looking for transparency and consistency, and the narrative as to how the committee reached their four-team bracket has changed year in and year out.

Last year, Ohio State was not a conference champion, but they made it to the No. 3 seed over a two-loss, conference champion Penn State. This year, Alabama gained the No. 4 spot over Ohio State, who won their conference championship. Alabama was left out of the SEC championship after their loss to Auburn.

Alabama’s Nick Saban said that you should win your conference championship to be eligible for the College Football Playoff last year, and he had to put on a different hat as he campaigned for the Crimson Tide to be admitted over the Big Ten champions. If anything, the committee has been consistent in their search for the four best teams, but their basis for choosing the four best teams needs to be translated to fans.

Logistically, it would be very difficult for an eight-team expansion to occur. Exhibit A for almost every lawn chair Stan with an expansion plan is the idea of reducing the regular season to 11 games, so teams wouldn’t have to add another game to physically demanding schedule. Why play the Little Sisters of the Poor or Orphan Annie and the Misfits? Without the big dogs playing these teams, we will see better football, and no one wants to see Alabama beat up on Buddy the Baker’s Cupcakes, and we don’t want teams to risk injury against a school who would need more than divine intervention to beat them. These arguments hold water and represent legitimate gripes, but trimming the fat won’t make this playoff conundrum fit into a glass slipper.

College Football Playoff Expansion

Photo from SI.com

On the surface, this is the simple way of solving the main gripe fans have with the College Football Playoff. We get better football, and teams don’t have to risk injury and waste their time.

However, the regular season has too many hands dipping into the honey jar. Businesses, restaurants, fans and schools have too much invested into the college football regular season for it to shrink to anything less than 12 games. Each home game attributes to millions of dollars accrued in each school’s local economy during college football weekends. The local community loses profits in contingency with schools losing profit margins. This isn’t just a deterrent for the top tier teams, but it has consequences for the small programs, which round out the rest of the NCAA.

An eight-team playoff will result in monetary benefits for the eight teams making the playoffs, but the other 122 teams lose either a potential home game or a huge pay day from one of the larger teams. In the 2017 season, there were 26 games which had payouts of $1 million dollars or more just to show up and play. Over $150 million in guaranteed payouts circulated throughout college football this season. These payouts include big-time neutral site matchups, but the majority are accumulated in big schools paying smaller programs to play at their stadium. It’s the reason we see the games such as Kent State vs. Clemson or Appalachian State vs. Georgia.

The “show up” payouts allow for small programs to build facilities and stadium additions that allow smaller schools to remain competitive in a college football landscape that is top heavy. Many of these smaller programs depend on this money to stay afloat, and it also serves to finance other sports within a school. The largest payout for just showing up this season was the $1.65 million sent to Arkansas State for playing at Nebraska. There are other intangible benefits to getting the snot kicked out of you for these teams, but nothing speaks louder than money.

The path to an eight-team playoff won’t travel the way of a shortened regular season because people won’t lean where there ain’t green. The goal of the committee is to “increase revenue for all conferences and independent institutions,” but the expansion to eight teams will cause another hitch in the College Football Playoff that we live and die with each week.

We need to see transparency in the playoff committee if we want to see any productive changes in the near future. Eight-teams seems like a great idea until the economic logistics strike a nerve with each school in Division I football. Shortening the season will not benefit anyone, and the four-team, full regular season format we have now is the best we have.

Keeping the 12 game regular season and expanding to an eight-team playoff is a can of worms dealing with player safety that will be opened one day. But for now, transparency between schools, fans and the committee is the answer to the debacle we’ve seen in the four-team playoff.

 

Featured image from SI.com

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2k League Age Requirement

NBA 2k League Age Requirement Announced

This could be the most controversial announcement made so far by the NBA 2k League. We knew that all players must be 18 years old in order to be considered as a prospect. However, we now know the exact date by which a prospect needs to 18 years old to qualify. The NBA 2k League age requirement is official: January 31st, 2018.

The Decision Making Process

For players who didn’t make the cut, your frustration is understandable. Please know that this was not made without careful consideration. This decision was the result of thorough research. First, the league surveyed the player landscape and ensured that the absolute best players are not left out. Of course, there are so prospects who were unfortunately eliminated.

Second, you told them what the age requirement should be. Yes…you were the ones who gave them the data they needed to make this decision. Remember when you registered yourself as a player on nba2kleague.com? You had to give them your all of your relevant information including, your date of birth.

Third and finally, making the cutoff date January 31st is the most logical choice. Why would they pick an arbitrary date in the middle of January, when they could easily use the closing date for the qualification process. It just makes sense.

We were fortunate enough to receive comment from the Grant Paranjape, Director of Esports for Monumental Sports Entertainment about the decision.

“The January 31st date for requiring players to be 18 is a smart decision. By requiring players to turn 18 before the second stage of the tryout, it allows teams the ability to scout knowing that any player in the combine will be eligible to be drafted, as well allowing players an opportunity to correctly plan for their futures. Inevitably the 18 year old cut off date would cause some players to miss out on the league, but this is the best outcome to a difficult requirement.”

– Grant Paranjape

The Ripple Effect

If you did not meet the cutoff date, I’m truly sorry. But, it’s not the end of the world. Of course, it’s hard to not be a part of the inaugural season of the NBA 2k League. Thankfully, it’s already been confirmed that more franchises will be joining the league next year. Meaning, you will still get a chance to compete in the league.

Also, these franchises have already started hiring for position in their organization. And trust me, they will announce more opportunities by January’s end. So, you can still be a part of the NBA 2k league this season, it just may not be as a player.

This doesn’t mean the journey is over. Think about it. They have just eliminated a segment of the players that they will be relying on to consume their content. Wouldn’t it make sense to eventually have a minor league system or development program, similar to League of Legends? They need you to still be interested in the league, and still feel like you have a legitimate chance of playing in it.

Moving Forward

While this isn’t the greatest of news, it should fill fans and eventual players of the league with hope. The NBA 2k League age requirement was chosen after doing dedicated research, and with the best interest of the league  and it’s players in mind. They could have easily raised the age requirement to 21.

Potential sponsors and partners of the league would feel more comfortable spending money on an older group of professional players. But, the league knew that would not lead to the best product and would not be in the best interest of you, the NBA 2k community.

 

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2018 NFL Mock Draft January 5

The teams that did not qualify for the playoffs now know where they are drafting. Teams are looking to rebuild and get to the playoffs for the seasons to come. Here is the latest 2018 NFL Mock Draft :

1. Cleveland Browns-Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

Rosen has had to carry UCLA this season and ended up having a successful season. He needed to have a good season to clear up any doubts about his shoulder injury his sophomore year. The Browns have a new GM, who has no allegiances to anyone on the roster, which means DeShone Kizer is likely done as quarterback.

2. New York Giants- Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville

The Giants still need a head coach, so it’s hard to figure out what they will do. Eli Manning is probably gone and they have somewhat of a talented roster, so taking a quarterback might be the call. Jackson is a great athlete that makes plays with his legs, but has to prove he can pass at an NFL level.

3. Indianapolis Colts- Bradley Chubb, DE, N.C. Stat

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Bradley Chubb (Photo by fanragsports.com)

Indianapolis also doesn’t have a coach yet, but most importantly don’t have Andrew Luck 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 (via Hou)- Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State

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 Rosen, a good offensive line and now Barkley, the offense should improve.

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. The Jets had a better season than anyone expected and now just need a quarterback to take them to the next level.

7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Arden Key, DE/OLB, LSU

Tampa Bay’s defensive line isn’t as good as it once was and they need some pass rushing help. Key only played eight games this season and had four sacks, but has proven in the past to be a good speed rusher.

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.

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. 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.

10. Oakland Raiders- Vita Vea, DT, Washington

Oakland really needs to improve the interior of their defensive line and their defense in general. Vea can play both defensive tackle and nose tackle, which is valuable. He has great size at 6’5″ and 340 pounds.

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

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Quenton Nelson (Photo by onefootdown.com)

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- Minkah Fitzpatrick, S/CB, Alabama

Last draft, the Redskins got good value in Jonathan Allen and can do so again with Fitzpatrick. He likely fits in best as a safety in the NFL, but can also play corner. Fitzpatrick can play next to D.J. Swearinger next season.

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.

15. Arizona Cardinals- Sam Darnold, QB, USC

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 much higher in mock drafts, but his decision-making won’t get too much better in the NFL. The Cardinals have to find a new quarterback now that Carson Palmer is retired.

16. Baltimore Ravens- Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

The Ravens’ defense is really good, but the offense needs some work. Mike Wallace, Breshard Perriman and Jeremy Maclin aren’t cutting it for the Ravens. Kirk is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands and can play in the slot or on the outside.

17. Los Angeles Chargers- Derwin James, S, Florida State

James’ stock is falling, but teams will fall back in love with him again throughout the next few months leading to the draft. 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.

18. Seattle Seahawks- Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

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. Ferrell is a good pass rusher who could help start the rebuilding process for the Seahawks.

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Da’Ron Payne (Photo by bleacherreport)

19. Dallas Cowboys- Da’Ron Payne, DT, Alabama

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. Payne’s stats aren’t eye-popping, but he often gets double teamed.

20. Detroit Lions- Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Wilkins is a good interior pass rusher, but isn’t as good of a run stopper as the other defensive tackles who were higher in this mock draft. Akeem Spence is having a decent year, but that likely won’t continue.

21. Buffalo Bills- Roquan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith is the best linebacker in college football and does a little bit of everything well. His game is fueled by his speed. The Bills are thin at linebacker and Smith is a day one starter.

22. Atlanta Falcons- Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn

Davis is a lengthy corner for Auburn, who has withstood a lot of good SEC competition. Atlanta needs a corner to pair with Desmond Trufant.

23. Tennessee Titans- Harold Landry, DE/OLB, Boston College

Tennessee could use some help at pass rusher now because they have focused so much on improving the offense over the last several years. Landry had a great 2016 season that put him on the map and followed it up with a solid season this year.

24. Carolina Panthers- Austin Bryant, DE/OLB, Clemson

Although he is inconsistent from game to game, Bryant is a good pass rusher that can heat up in a hurry. The Panthers signed Julius Peppers, but he won’t last much longer and they aren’t very deep at defensive end.

25. Buffalo Bills (Via KC)- Donte Jackson, CB, LSU

The Bills had luck taking an LSU corner last year in Tre’Davious White and may try to get another. Jackson has a lot of similar traits to White and can develop into a great cover corner.

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

The Saints need to plan for the end of Drew Brees’ career sooner rather than later. Not everyone likes Rudolph, but he has a lot of experience and quite possibly the best deep ball in the class.

27. Jacksonville Jaguars- Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU

Jacksonville has talented young receivers, but due to injury have been spread thin at the position. Sutton is a bigger receiver who has put up big numbers in the AAC. As a team with not too many needs, the Jaguars can afford to spend this pick on a receiver.

2018 NFL Mock Draft

Sam Hubbard (Photo by si.com)

28. Los Angeles Rams- Sam Hubbard, DE/OLB, Ohio State

Los Angeles has good inside pressure in Aaron Donald and Sam Hubbard, but need better outside pass rushers. Hubbard will not only provide that, but is also one of the best run-stopping defensive ends in the class.

29. 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.

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 don’t have too many needs. Brown has great size for an offensive tackle and his father played in the NFL.

31. Philadelphia Eagles- Malik Jefferson, LB, Texas

Another team that doesn’t have too many needs is the Eagles. They could use another linebacker for depth and a future starter. Jefferson was a highly-touted recruit that hasn’t reached his potential yet.

32. New England Patriots- Marcus Davenport, DE/OLB, UTSA

Davenport has been shooting up draft boards recently due to his crazy measurables and production. He may get selected higher than this, but the Patriots always find a way to get players at a good value.

 

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Baker Mayfield NFL Draft

Why teams should think twice about drafting Baker Mayfield

The NFL playoffs begin this weekend. However, the majority of NFL fans are now focused on the NFL draft.

This draft is loaded with quarterback prospects. Some of the top talent includes Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen.

There has also been a lot of NFL talk about Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. Some people think he can be successful in the NFL. Others see him as a bust.

There are plenty of reasons to avoid drafting Mayfield, at least early on. Here is a list reasons why NFL teams should think twice before taking a chance on the former Oklahoma Sooner quarterback.

The Big 12 Conference

NFL quarterbacks come from all over the country. Case Keenum went to Houston. Carson Wentz went to North Dakota State. Ben Roethlisberger went to Miami, OH.

Don’t forget about the big schools either. Tom Brady went to Michigan. Aaron Rodgers went to California. Matthew Stafford went to Georgia.

Mayfield joins a nice list of dominating Oklahoma quarterbacks. Jason White and Sam Bradford also won Heismans during their time with the Sooners. But there is something disturbing about the quarterbacks the Big 12 has been putting in the NFL.

Mayfield joins the list of dominant Big 12 quarterbacks. (Photo by Associated Press)

Since 2000, 22 Big 12 quarterbacks have been drafted. None of them have panned out as dependable starting quarterbacks. The most notable names to come from the Big 12 include Chris Simms, Vince Young, Josh Freeman, Sam Bradord, Colt McCoy, Blaine Gabbert, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Geno Smith.

Some of these guys showed promise early on, but none of them panned out. Simms never started more than 10 games in a season and only played five seasons in the NFL. Young started off nice by bringing the Titans to the postseason a couple times, but ended up busting as well. The Dolphins have only finished over .500 once under Tannehill. Griffin’s knees didn’t survive. Bradford has also spent plenty of time on the sidelines due to injury. Yes, a few of these guys started off nice, but didn’t end well.

Some of these guys put up big numbers in college and even stayed healthy in the NFL. They just were ineffective in the pros. Smith, Weeden, Freeman, McCoy and Gabbert all failed to deliver.

There was no primary starting quarterback from the Big 12 this season. Why does the conference struggle to put out big-time NFL quarterbacks?

The Big 12 style of play is all run and gun. The Big 12 is known for their high scoring games with almost no defense. Oklahoma has had conference wins that ended with scores like 49-41 over Baylor, 42-35 over Kansas State, 62-52 over Oklahoma State and 59-31 over West Virginia.

Oklahoma State was the Big 12’s second best offense and put up scores like 41-34 over Texas Tech, 50-39 over West Virginia and 49-42 over Iowa State. They are scoring a lot of points, but they are also giving up a bunch.

The Big 12’s quarterbacks have inflated stats. You can’t take them seriously because they aren’t playing against any defenses. It may not be fair to say an NFL quarterback can never come from the Big 12, but it’s not that ridiculous of a statement. Times change and quarterbacks can come from even the smallest of conferences. With the Big 12’s current style of play, don’t expect any star quarterback coming from the conference anytime soon.

Size and attitude

One of the bigger knocks on Mayfield is his size. ESPN lists him at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. Scouts and fans always like a big quarterback.

Yes, there are smaller quarterbacks that start in the NFL. That list includes Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor. There have been smaller quarterbacks in the past that have also succeeded. Don’t rule out a guy just because of size.

Baker Mayfield NFL Draft

Mayfield has issued a few apologies this season after receiving criticism for his antics on the field. (Photo by Getty Images)

The thing about Mayfield is that he reminds people more of Johnny Manziel than Drew Brees. Both Manziel and Mayfield won Heisman Trophies, completed around 70 percent of their passes, were athletic and mobile and made fans hate them with their antics on the field.

Mayfield has already received criticism for talking trash with his opponents, grabbing his crotch and planting an Oklahoma flag on Ohio State’s logo. Manziel received criticism for things mostly off the field like partying, gambling and not working hard.

Do NFL teams want a quarterback that has been labeled as a punk by some? If you look at the NFL’s current starting quarterbacks, none of them have an attitude like Mayfield. The closest guys you could argue would be Cam Newton and Jay Cutler.

Newton has been criticized for a poor attitude before, but not many would call him a punk. The same goes for Cutler. He is known more for whining than anything else.

Mayfield’s personality does not fit the NFL quarterback mold. It is something teams should consider before drafting him.

Final verdict

Former Heisman Trophy winner and Oklahoma Sooner Jason White, along with Chase Daniel from Missouri and Graham Harrell from Texas Tech are notable Big 12 quarterbacks this century to go undrafted. Mayfield probably won’t go undrafted, but teams should proceed with caution.

Taking Mayfield in the first round is risky. Teams interested in Mayfield should wait until the middle rounds to take him. No team should sweat over another team taking Mayfield in the first round. Waiting gives teams more of a low risk high reward.

 

Featured image by Getty Images

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Atlanta Braves team profile

Atlanta Braves team profile

The Atlanta Braves finished third in the NL East with a record of 72-90. What makes things difficult for them is the current state of the division. The Miami Marlins have decided not to be a competitor anytime soon, so that has opened things up a bit. However, with the Phillies on the rise and nobody playing close to the same level as the Washington Nationals, the Braves don’t look close to competing for NL East supremacy.

Let’s not forget though, the Braves have some pretty solid talent coming up. They have had a pretty eventful offseason as well.

Scandal in Atlanta

Atlanta Braves team profile

John Coppolella is banned from baseball for life (Photo from SI.com)

The sanctions against the Braves came down from the commissioner’s office this offseason. It had been revealed that the Braves had been dodging some international signing bonus rules over the past few years. The league did not take kindly to the Braves reporting less money than they really paid for some of their players. As a result, they punished the organization accordingly.

The Braves were stripped of 12 prospects, and their former general manager, John Coppolella, was banned from baseball. The ban adds Coppolella to a short list of people who have been banned from baseball for life. The 12 prospects that Atlanta was stripped of will be free to sign elsewhere.

Out of the prospects Atlanta lost, 17-year old Kevin Maitan is the most notable. Maitan signed a $4.25 million contract in 2016. He was considered to be one of the best international prospects at the time. Only time will tell how big of a blow the sanctions will be on Atlanta.

The prospects are here

Atlanta Braves team profile

Ronald Acuna is one of the bright stars of the future (Photo from Baseball Reference)

Atlanta has a ripe young crop of players that are about ready to make a major impact. 23-year-old shortstop, Dansby Swanson, has been considered one of the better prospects in all of baseball. That is why the Braves traded for him and sent away the disappointing Shelby Miller. Swanson has still yet to make a big impact at the major league level in his 182 games played, but he still has lots of time to develop.

Ozzie Albies, the 11th overall prospect according to MLB.com in 2017, did make a good impression in the last three months of the season. His slash line was a solid .286/.354/.456. He is proving to be more than a reliable option at second base for the Braves, especially considering he is only 20 years old.

The duo of Swanson and Albies may be a fixture it Atlanta for years to come. 2018 may be the first time that they both get good playing time in the infield, so it is a moment for them to prove that they are as good as everyone thinks they will be.

Swanson and Albies are not all the Braves’ farm system has to offer though. Ronald Acuna, the sixth best prospect, and Kolby Allard, the 22nd best prospect, are anticipated to make their debuts in 2018.

Acuna is only 20 years old and was named the Arizona Fall League MVP in 2017. There is a chance that he could be the next great five-tool player in the majors. He may not be able to reach a 20-20 mark as he does not possess great power, but he could hit over .300 along with 30 stolen bases. One thing he could work on is his strikeout to walk ratio. However, that comes with the territory with any young prospect. It will improve in time.

2018 Outlook

The NL East is still under the Nationals reign, especially with the demise of the Marlins. The Nationals still have the best chance of winning their division in all of Major League Baseball.

2018 is a key year for the Braves as it is a year for their young prospects to learn from the pros already on the team. Several of their best young players will be joining the club in a more permanent position, so guys like Freddie Freeman will play a key role in making these guys true ball players.

Don’t expect the Braves to be buying or selling at the trade deadline. If you are to follow the team, keep an eye on the young players mentioned earlier. Once they reach their potential, they could be a very solid team in the near future.

 

Featured image by Brett Davis-USA Today

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Marquette Golden Eagles backcourt

Marquette’s thriving backcourt

College basketball’s conference play is in full swing. The Big East is one of the most balanced conferences in the whole country.

The Marquette Golden Eagles picked up a road win in Providence Wednesday night. It proved to be a coming out party for their backcourt in a huge conference win in overtime.

The production

Here’s a backcourt that many people around college basketball aren’t talking about. The Golden Eagles are 11-4 this season and lost to all three of its ranked opponents.

Andrew Rowsey and Markus Howard are two guards you may never have heard of. They are the two starting guards for the Marquette Golden Eagles.

They are both shooting over 46 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. They are combining to score 44.6 points a game on a team that averages 83.5 points a game. In other words, the two combine for just over half the team’s points.

On Wednesday night, the two combined for 68 points of the team’s 95. Howard scored 52 by himself on 17-29 shooting. He shot 15-21 in the second half alone and carried the Golden Eagles to a win.

What Rowsey and Howard can both do is carry a team. By no means should the Golden Eagles have won Wednesday night. Howard and Rowsey made key plays to constantly keep their team afloat.

Andrew Rowsey

Rowsey has been Marquette’s most consistent player this season. He has constantly put on big performances in almost all games and has had his biggest performances in loses.

One of his best performances came in a loss against No. 6 Xavier where he had 31 points. He then followed that performance up by scoring 35 in a win against a young and talented Georgetown team.

He has scored under 20 just six times in 15 games this season. In those games, either Howard or Sam Hauser has scored over 25 points. Rowsey is the senior leader in the backcourt.

Markus Howard

Marquette Golden Eagles

Markus Howard, (WRN.com).

Haanif Cheatham has left the team, and Markus Howard is receiving some of those minutes. Since Cheatham has left the team, Howard has three games with over 30 points. He has nine games with 22 or more points this season and is shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He is a guy teams can’t lose in transition and someone who can both catch and shoot as well as bring the ball up and drive to the basket.

He is 45 for 45 from the free throw line this season and is proving that in clutch time, he is the go to guy for the Golden Eagles.

In an age where backcourts dictate success, the two stars for the Marquette backcourt can take the Golden Eagles as far as they want to.

Marquette’s Big East rank

Marquette is in the top tier of the Big East. Do they have enough fire power to compete with Xavier, Villanova or Seton Hall? Probably not. They very easily could finish as high as fourth in the Big East and could possibly fall as low as seventh.

They are an extremely talented team, but if one of their talented backcourt members doesn’t show up to play, they will struggle against good teams. The Golden Eagles will make the NCAA tournament and be a tough out come March.

 

Featured image from anonymouseagles.com.

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Isaiah Thomas return

Should the Cavs have waited to bring back Isaiah Thomas?

Isaiah Thomas said he had “no feel for the game right now,” per Dave McMenamin of ESPN after the Cavaliers’ 17-point win over Portland.

That’s interesting considering his 17 points were scored on 6-for-12 shooting in just 19 minutes. Not to mention those 17 points he scored was the exact margin of victory for the Cavs. Suffice it to say, if he doesn’t have a feel for the game now, may God help the Eastern Conference when he gets it back.

The problem here wasn’t with Thomas’ performance, it was with the team on the receiving end of said performance. Specifically, the fact that they weren’t wearing green and represented by a leprechaun.

The Cavaliers chose to make Thomas available for the game against Portland on Tuesday, eschewing the primetime matchup against his former team in Boston on Wednesday. The team did not want Thomas to play back-to-back games after his long awaited return from a torn labrum, lest they risk an injury to one of the big pieces of their playoff hopes.

So, why not just wait one more day and give the NBA the marquee, probable Eastern Conference finals matchup it has been waiting for? With both teams at nearly full strength, this would be a perfect opportunity for both squads to get a feel for what the other team’s game plan might be in the spring.

First, let’s argue for why he should sit.

Sit him

Very simply, the Cavs and Tyronn Lue may just not have a plan they are ready to execute for Thomas against Kyrie Irving and the Celtics.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas warms up for his Cavs debut. (Photo by Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

Irving has the best handles in the league, and it won’t inspire confidence in fans, players or the media if Thomas keeps getting cooked by Irving every time down the floor. Not to mention hip injuries limit mobility, so if Lue does have a plan, who’s to say Thomas could even execute it well enough to justify the minutes?

Apropos to that last point, Lue may be playing some mind games with Celtics coach Brad Stevens. Perhaps purposefully not showing Boston what they can do against Irving in an effort to force them to change their defensive set pieces later on in the season.

Another obvious reason for him to sit would be concern over the physicality of a rivalry game. Considering these two teams will almost certainly meet at some point during the playoffs, this will be a chance for both teams to rough each other up to show them what they’ve got. What Boston might have for a 5-foot-9 point guard is a hard screen or a shoulder to the chest that sends him to the floor with a re-aggravated hip.

Finally, the Cavs don’t want to look like they were just sitting on their hands regarding Thomas’ return until he could come back and burn his old team. That is a bad look for an organization that has pretty much dominated the Eastern Conference for three straight years.

Now, why should he start in a potentially dangerous back-to-back?

Start him

The first and most glaring reason for starting Thomas is for the fans. If it’s a forgone conclusion that these teams will be meeting in the playoffs, (which it is, barring some sort of major collapse), then the fans deserve the full playoff atmosphere. With every player that can suiting up and showing us what we’ll get in May.

Isaiah Thomas return

Isaiah Thomas makes his season debut against the Trail Blazers on Jan. 2. (Photo by Ken Blaze/USA Today Sports)

That’s without even mentioning the great storyline that could have been if Thomas suited up for his first game against his former team that he believes heavily devalued him. But, since he played against Portland, that storyline is less sexy than it had the potential to be.

Regarding playoff atmosphere, why wouldn’t Lue want his best players and best scorers in the game as much as possible? The Celtics are a top-tier team. They can score and suffocate teams defensively. A guy who scored almost 29 points per game last year would be a logical play if points will be at a premium.

Lastly, it makes sense to test Thomas’ hip in tough back-to-backs when the season is not even at its halfway point. Thomas will have the entire All-Star break to rest and rehabilitate. Another injury to that hip is frightening, especially when it cost him nearly eight months. But a full tear is unlikely, and it would be a calculated risk considering the opponent.

Regardless of all of that, the decision has been made. He did not play.

Thomas was not drilling 3-pointers while a man a foot taller than him stumbled to get his hand up. He was not flexing his defensive capabilities against one of the most invaluable point guards in the league. He was also not passing it to the human fountain of youth that is LeBron James.

But, for everyone’s sake, especially the Cavs, let’s all hope he will be by May.

 

Featured image by KEN BLAZE-USA TODAY SPORTS

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NFL Wild Card Weekend

NFL Wild Card weekend preview and picks

The NFL playoffs are here, and the road to Super Bowl LII kicks into overdrive this weekend. For the 12 teams who still have championship dreams, the slate is wiped clean and everyone is 0-0 again. The same goes for people like me who picked games throughout the regular season.

Throughout the playoffs, games will be picked against the spread as well as straight up. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Saturday

Titans at Chiefs – Even though these are both playoff teams, they are trending in opposite directions. After a bizarre midseason slump, Kansas City finished the regular season on a four-game winning streak to claim their second straight division title. Andy Reid’s team put up at least 26 points in all of those games.

The Chiefs finished the regular season looking like the team that dominated the league in the first month of the season. Alex Smith may have limitations as a quarterback, but this is an offense that has done a great job taking care the football all year long and knows that getting the ball to playmakers like rushing champion Kareem Hunt is the winning formula.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from faketeams.com)

The Titans did just enough to squeak into the playoffs despite losing three of their last four games with the offense accounting for 15 points or less in two of those games. Defense does tend to win football games this time of year, and Tennessee has a good one.

But the offense has to be at least average. The Titans offense hasn’t been anywhere near average since November. For that reason, there are reports that head coach Mike Mularkey may still be on the hot seat despite the playoff berth.

Arrowhead Stadium is a very tough place to play. However, Kansas City’s home playoff track record is worrisome. They have not won a home playoff game since the early 90s. In order to continue that trend, the Titans defense will have to play a nearly perfect game. Given the quality of opponent, that is a tall order.

Winner: Kansas City

Good bet: Chiefs (-8.5) KC 28 Ten 17

Falcons at Rams – The scene of a late afternoon/early evening playoff game in Los Angeles will be a beautiful backdrop as two high-powered offenses battle it out. The Rams have been the more consistent team all year long, but this is uncharted territory for this mostly young football team, including coaching sensation Sean McVay.

This team has been in such a good rhythm all year long. Thus, the decision to rest most starters last week is a risky one. A rusty first half this week likely means the end of a magical season for Los Angeles.

Additionally, the kicking unit has struggled a bit since the injury to kicker Greg Zuerlein. Things like that often have a way of rearing their head when it really matters.

Atlanta is one of few teams that can keep up with the Rams top ranked scoring offense. Additionally, the Falcons have been in must win situations for weeks. So, playoff pressure should not change much for them. Most of the Falcons’ main pieces were a part of last year’s playoff run, which was very good, other than the ending. The playoffs are a different animal and experience is invaluable.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: *Falcons (+6.5) Atl 34 LAR 31

Sunday

Bills at Jaguars – It has not always been pretty for these two teams, but they both deserve a ton of credit for getting here and breaking long playoff droughts. This is the simplest game of the week to size up.

As much heat as Blake Bortles gets, the Jacksonville offense ranks fifth in scoring. The scoreboard is all that matters. That is one of few offensive stats worth paying attention to. Make no mistake, Jacksonville’s identity is running the ball with Leonard Fournette and playing defense, but the quarterback is not a major liability.

As for Buffalo, they needed a huge assist from the lowly Bengals to reach the playoffs. Their best offensive weapon is running back LeSean McCoy. Even if the six-time Pro Bowler can somehow go from being carted off to playing in a playoff game in the span of a week, it is impossible for him to be 100 percent.

The Buffalo offense ranks 22nd in scoring with a healthy McCoy. How in the world can this team go on the road and compete against a defense that has been the best in football in several categories all year long? The short answer is that they probably can’t.

NFL Wild Card Weekend

(Photo from zambio.com)

Winner: Jacksonville

Good Bet: Jaguars (-8.5) Jac 24 Buf 10

Panthers at Saints – On a rare occasion, division rivals meet for the third time in one season in the playoffs. It is tough to predict a winner. These teams know each other so well, and there is nothing one team can do to surprise the other.

If quarterback play is as important as it is often made out to be, the Saints will reach the Super Bowl. Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the NFC playoffs by far. Brees is the future Hall of Famer. The fact that New Orleans found a legal two-headed monster at running back and a solid defense to pair up with him this year is almost unfair.

Carolina is similar to New Orleans. Cam Newton has been nowhere near his MVP form of two years ago, but he has played good complementary football to go with a versatile group of running backs and a good defense all year long.

It is very hard to beat the same NFL team three times in the same season. The opportunity does not present itself all that often. New Orleans has won both matchups with Carolina this year fairly convincingly. Even so, Carolina is here for a reason and this meeting will be much closer.

There is not much that separates these two teams. The defenses are both easily in the top half of the league in most categories. Also, although they accomplish it differently, both teams rely heavily on the ground game. The one thing that jumps out is that Brees has half the number of interceptions Newton does. Turnovers decide the vast majority of football games from preseason to the playoffs. Moreover, New Orleans has the most basic advantage of all, which is playing at home.

Winner: New Orleans

Good bet: Panthers (+6.5) NO 27 Car 24

 

Featured image from nflodysseyonline.com

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NHL midseason sleepers

Potential sleepers at halfway point

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks are currently out of the playoff picture. These clubs have won six of the last nine Stanley Cups.

The championship pedigree of these two teams makes this a curious case at the halfway point of the season. The Pens are the reigning champs who came into the season with the best odds (8-1) to repeat once again. Chicago began the grind coming off a year in which they finished No. 1 in the West. The Hawks were given the fifth best odds (12-1) to raise Lord Stanley for the fourth time in nine years.

There is room for excuses and explanations for why this is happening. You can look at it from various angles, but maybe their reign as the NHL’s elite is over for the time being. That’s what I’m hoping for at least. It would be tough to make that case for Pittsburgh with them being back-to-back champs and then Chicago just given their DNA.

I don’t like either of these teams. It’s nice to have more novelty teams, which makes for more stories. Those outside of these hometown cities must continue to drive them further into the cellar. We can’t sleep on them either. Nevertheless, we need to dissect what’s happening with two of the most successful teams in the last decade.

What’s going on in the City of Steel??

NHL midseason sleepers

Photo from NHL.com

The Penguins have been battling this year to say the least. Seemingly every game has them down another man. They currently sit a point behind Carolina for the second Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh continues to fight through their regular season adversity with AHL call-ups and college signings. If they find a way into the postseason at full strength, the Pens will not be overlooked.

The first order of business on their team dissection is that dreaded goal differential. Coming into Thursday, the Penguins are -14 on the year. Matt Murray (No. 1 goalie) logs the most minutes for them and has been battling injury almost all year. When he’s been in the net, he hasn’t been as sharp as he’d like to be either. Murray has been somewhat average with a goals against close to three and a save percentage hovering around 90 percent.

Furthermore, the Penguins backend is either out of commission or less than advertised. Excluding Kris Letang, Olli Maatta and Justin Schultz, Pittsburgh’s current D-core has registered just 19 points. The entire core is a combined -52 with only one (Schultz) in the plus column, who has played just 24 games. The Pens are more than capable of turning it around as they reach their halfway point, but need to act fast. They lost some pieces in the expansion draft and free agency. But there hasn’t been an excess amount of changeover for the two-time reigning champs.

Troubles in the Windy City..

NHL midseason sleepers

Photo from NHL.com

The people of Chicago and fans of their beloved Blackhawks find themselves in a weird place. At the midpoint of their season they find themselves in last place in the toughest division in hockey (the Central) and four points behind the second Wild Card spot in the West. Will they find their form down the stretch? Or has this been a downward spiral for them since the end of the 2016 season?

Chicago is coming off two straight first-round exits. In each of those series against Nashville and St. Louis, the Hawks’ core players (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane…) were shut down, and they were forced to dig deep. The depth of the Blackhawks roster was exposed, which is perhaps why they are not the same dominant team at this point of the regular season. Kane is still doing Kane things with 38 points in his first 38 games, but Toews is not as lethal with 24. The Hawks have a few young guns putting up points, but are they a complete enough team to overcome this slow start?

Corey Crawford is still a top 10-15 net minder with 16 wins and a 2.27 goals against, but has no partner. Chicago has used two other goaltenders that have appeared in 14 games and have combined for just two wins. In the modern day NHL, we all know having two solid goalies is crucial to your success. Crawford has accounted for 34 of the team’s 42 points coming into Wednesday’s meeting with the Rangers.

DO not sleep on them..Battle.

We can discuss all the injuries and how these two teams have underperformed so far this season, but no. The trap opposing teams cannot fall into is forgetting about the championship DNA in each of these two clubs.

The second half of the regular season is a sprint. The marathon part is over, and good teams play their best when everything is on the line. Every two points is crucial, and that’s what scares me the most about these two teams.

The last thing they need is a chip on the shoulder, which is what we all are giving them. The core and the leaders of these two teams have won and know how to win when it matters most. Therefore, they must keep a foot on the gas pedal and battle.

 

Featured image by A-B Tech

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