Michigan State Poised For A Late Run Next Season

Don’t be fooled by Michigan State’s past season struggles. They’re not going anywhere.

The Spartans somewhat fell off the wagon this year after they went 20-15 in a rather shaky Big Ten. Not to say the Spartans had a bad season, but it just wasn’t the Michigan State we are used to seeing.

The Spartans finished 10-8 in the Big Ten with a loss in the second round of the Big Ten tournament to Minnesota. Many thought the Spartans might miss out on a trip to the big dance. However, the Spartans were rewarded with a nine seed and a matchup against eighth-seeded Miami.

Michigan State defeated Miami rather handily. However, in the round of 32, the Spartans were faced with the one seed and tournament favorite, Kansas. Despite keeping it close for much of the game, Michigan State lost 90-70.

After Tom Izzo’s young, injured and often overwhelmed team lost, he said the group “gave me everything they could give me.”

Michigan State

Bridges told fans he has “unfinished business” after declaring he would come back for his sophomore season (Photo/ Al Goldis)

The Spartans are looking forward, starting with returning star forward Miles Bridges.

Bridges, who was considered by many to be a lottery pick in next year’s upcoming NBA draft, officially decided to come back for his sophomore season a few days ago. He averaged 16.9 points per game, which are the highest points per game for a freshman at Michigan State since Magic Johnson. Bridges also averaged 8.3 rebounds, which is the most by a Michigan State freshmen since Greg Kelser in 1975-76.

“I got some unfinished business here,” Bridges said. “I want to stay.”

Even though Bridges could have left for the NBA and made millions of dollars, he decided to work on his game while enjoying the college life both on and off the court.

“I’d rather stay here and get better,” he said.

Many still had Michigan State as a highly ranked team going into next year even before Bridges decided to return. Much of that has to do with a core group of young guys, who showed towards the end of the season that they can be really good.

They have an elite low-post scorer with Nick Ward, a potential future quarterback of the offense with Cassius Winston and a dangerous off-ball wing with Joshua Langford. Those players, along with Bridges, were all freshmen and are all returning for their sophomore seasons.

There is a lot that this group has to improve upon, like reducing turnovers and improving on the glass. They will have to get a good contribution from additional players like Matt McQuaid and their incoming class. The new class consists of two really good top recruits.

Michigan State

Top recruit Jaren Jackson will join the Spartans next season in their hunt for another championship (Photo/ Mike Dinovo).

First, there is 6-foot-11, 225 pound forward Jaren Jackson, who was one of the top recruits in the country. The big man has not only been praised for being a big presence down low, but he can also step out and hit the mid or long range jumper, making him a matchup nightmare.

The Spartans also signed 6-foot-9, 250 pound forward Xavier Tillman, who was voted first team all state in Michigan. They are also trying to land highly recruited high school seniors Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot center from California and Mark Smith, an elite point guard from Illinois.

Regardless of if they end up signing McCoy and Smith or not, the Spartans will have a high-powered team on both ends of the floor. They will be more experienced, formulated and ready to make a serious run late in March.

 

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Federer Nadal

Spring Tennis Grades for the Stars

The calendar has flipped to April. That means that the two biggest non-major events in tennis are behind us. With most of the big names taking a few weeks off before the clay court season kicks into high gear, this is always a good time to take stock of the sport.

Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Milos Raonic and Novak Djokovic all missed one or both of the events. Thus, it is not fair to evaluate them. However, here are some grades for other top stars in Indian Wells and Miami.

Roger Federer-The English language no longer possesses enough adjectives to describe how remarkable Federer is. His schedule for the clay court season is up in the air. The 35-year-old is expected to take an extended break. We may not see him again until the French Open in late May. After winning these two titles back-to-back, there is not a high enough grade to give. Grade: A++++

Rafael Nadal- He is finally healthy again and a threat in every tournament he enters. Back in the top five and with only losses last month coming to Federer, Nadal has to be deliriously happy with 2017 thus far. Grade: A

Stan Wawrinka- 2017 looks to be following a familiar pattern for the World No. 3. He is beating the players he is supposed to while occasionally getting tripped up by one of the talented young guns. He struggles against the “Big Four”. However, each of the last three years Wawrinka has been able to catch lightning in a bottle and win at least one huge event. That did not happen in Indian Wells or Miami, but he was by no means terrible. Grade: C

Jack Sock- We may have finally found the next American man to win a singles Grand Slam. The more I see from the 24-year-old the more I like. His forehand is one of the most devastating shots in the sport. He reached his biggest singles semifinal in Indian Wells and the quarterfinals in Miami losing to Federer and Nadal respectively. There is absolutely no shame in that. Grade: B+

Nick Kyrgios- Could Indian Wells and Miami have finally been a turning point for the controversial young Aussie? Let’s hope so. Knocking off Djokovic before coming down with food poisoning in Indian Wells and going toe to toe with Federer in the Miami semis should let him know how good he can be.

He is one of the most naturally gifted players I have ever seen. It was refreshing to spend March talking about Kyrgios’ game as opposed to disciplinary actions related to on and off court behavior. Grade: A

Nick Kyrgios

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

Alexander Zverev- The tall and talented young German continues to cement himself as the second best prospect of the young generation. Upsetting top seeded Wawrinka in Miami adds to a growing list of big wins that the almost 20-year-old has already had. Despite losing to Kyrgios in both Indian Wells and Miami, Zverev may be a safer long-term bet in terms of career success. Unlike Kyrgios, Zverev is already handling himself very well on and off the court. Grade: B

Elena Vesnina- By winning her biggest career title in Indian Wells, the Russian veteran proved that her game and mental toughness had levels most people did not know existed. By losing her opening matches in Miami and Charleston respectively, she proved that she is just another WTA player in the last 18 months who had a career altering breakthrough and could not back it up. Grade: B

Angelique Kerber- A fourth round showing backed up by a quarterfinals appearance is not a bad month, unless you are the World No. 1. Despite the title, the German counterpuncher has yet to play like the best in the world in 2017. She is looking to vulture a championship trophy as the main attraction at a small hardcourt event in Monterrey Mexico this week. Grade: C-

Svetlana Kuznetsova- The fact that this two time Grand Slam champion continues to put herself in big time finals like Indian Wells in her early 30s is more than commendable. The fact that she blew a lead in a big time final once again makes you wonder just how good she could have been if the mental skills match the physical ones. A fatigued Kuznrtsova was no match for Venus Williams in Miami. Grade: B-

Venus Williams- Much like Federer, Venus simply continues to amaze. The run to the Australian Open final was no fluke.  She reached the semis of Miami. In the process, she became the oldest player to ever defeat a World No. 1, knocking off Kerber in the quarters.

What a splendid way to back up a run to the last eight in Indian Wells. Her opening match loss in Charleston yesterday is understandable. She has never been a big fan of the clay. Throw in a little jet lag, and you could almost see it coming. Even at 36, no one wants to play Venus Williams. Grade: A-

Caroline Wozniacki-The Dane’s late 2016 resurgence has carried over into this year. A quarterfinal appearance in Indian Wells followed by a runner-up trophy in Miami, and a return to the top 10 is just a matter of time. Grade: B+

Johanna Konta- Ranked outside the top 100 is recently as the summer of 2015,  Most folks are still trying to get their arms around who this Brit is and where she came from. Her relative anonymity will not last much longer. After overpowering Venus and Wozniacki on her way to the Miami title, she is knocking on the door of the top five in the world. Grade: A-

Johanna Konta

Photo: lastwordontennis.com

Simona Halep- Admittedly, this grade is a bit kinder than it normally would be for a top five player who failed to reach the semis in Indian Wells or Miami. In fact, the stealthy Romanian has not reached the semifinal of any event in 2017. Even so, Miami could be a real building block for Halep. Reaching the quarterfinals and narrowly losing to the eventual champion is nothing to sneeze at. More importantly, by her own admission, it was the first event of the year that Halep entered and exited healthy. Grade: C+

Agnieszka Radwanska- In a sport dominated by power, the diminutive Pole’s cerebral style of play is a pleasure to watch. However, her fall from grace in 2017 has been swift and mystifying.

She was blasted off the court by bigger hitters in just her second match in both Indian Wells and Miami, winning just 11 combined games in those defeats. Apart from a runner-up result in Sydney, Australia in the second week of the year, 2017 has been a disaster for Radwanska. It just looks like the power of the modern game has finally overtaken her. She has been a top 10 mainstay for the better part of a decade, but with just nine match wins in six events this year, she does not even look like a top 30 player at the moment. Grade: D-

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Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Day four of TGH’s Draftmas takes a look at the Jacksonville Jaguars. What will the Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft look like?

Summary

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NFL Draft

(Photo Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Jaguars went 3-13 last season and have had a very busy offseason within the front office. Tom Coughlin was hired to serve as the Executive Vice President of football operations. Coughlin was the first ever head coach in Jacksonville Jaguars history and led them to the AFC Championship Game in just their second season.

Coughlin went 68-60 in Jacksonville. His 68 wins and 53 percent winning percentage are both the best in franchise history. Coughlin will be looking to bring that success back to Jacksonville this time from the front office.

Jaguars general manager David Caldwell received a two-year extension in January. One of his recent moves was letting go of head coach Gus Bradley who went 14-48 as the Jaguars head coach. When Bradley was fired Doug Marrone was named the interim head coach. Marrone went 1-1 and his interim label was removed.

The Jaguars haven’t made the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won more than five games in a season since 2011. Jacksonville had a good free agency period signing defensive tackle Calais Campbell, cornerback A.J. Bouye, and safety Barry Church. These moves were solid and building a strong defense will be the key to winning more than five games and getting to the playoffs.

Picks and Needs

The Jaguars have eight picks in the draft. That is a solid amount of picks to try and build this franchise into a playoff contender. There is room to maneuver around for more picks by trading down or if there is a player they want they have the pieces to move up to acquire that player.

First Round: (1) No. 4

Second Round: (1) No. 35

Third Round: (1) No. 68

Fourth Round: (1) No. 110

Fifth Round: (1) No. 148

Sixth Round: (1) No. 187

Seventh Round: (2) No. 222, No. 240

Having eight picks can really help this team build depth. The Jaguars have shown in free agency over the past few seasons they want to build an elite defense. The expectation is that this will be an offensive heavy draft but they still have needs on both sides of the ball.

Offensive Needs:

Tight End

Center

Left Guard

Left Tackle

Quarterback

Defensive Needs:

Outside Linebacker

Defensive Tackle

Nickel Cornerback

Targets and Thoughts

Assuming there are no trades, these are the players the Jaguars should target in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL draft.

First Round:

Pick #4: Jonathan Allen DT, Alabama

Jacksonville Jaguars 2017 NBA Draft

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

When Tom Coughlin was leading the Giants to Super Bowl victories over the New England Patriots it was because of the depth on the defensive line. Jonathan Allen is a franchise changing lineman, similar to Warren Sapp and Aaron Donald. Drafting Allen would allow Coughlin to build something similar in Jacksonville.

Second Round:

Pick #35: Pat Elflein C, Ohio State

Building the offensive line is important to the success of an NFL franchise. Jacksonville needs help up front in multiple positions. The strength of the offensive line starts with the center and Pat Elflein is a perfect fit in Jacksonville to be the quarterback of the line.

Third Round:

Pick #68: Brad Kaaya, Miami

Drafting Blake Bortles third overall was a major reach. Bortles is still relatively young but has the same amount of wins as he does of interceptions for touchdowns. Brad Kaaya needs time to develop and sitting behind Bortles while he struggles could be the perfect fit.

Conclusion

The Jaguars are not far from contending in the weak AFC South. Adding depth to the defense will really turn Jacksonville into a team nobody wants to face. On offense, if they shore up the offensive line and help Bortles stay away from turnovers, then Jacksonville will win more the five games and compete for the division’s crown.

Thank you for joining us on our fourth day of TGH Draftmas! Check back tomorrow where we will be bringing you the Draft Profile of the Tennessee Titans!

Here are the last two days of TGH Draftmas:

Draftmas Day 2: San Francisco 49ers

Draftmas Day 3: Chicago Bears

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NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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College Basketball

Winners and Losers of This Past Week in College Basketball

It was a busy week in college basketball with the conference tournaments coming to an end yesterday afternoon. With what is shaping up to be another classic NCAA tournament, we take a look at the winners who benefited from this past week and the losers who didn’t fair so well.

Winners:

Duke:

Arguably the biggest winners over the weekend, Duke became the first team in ACC tournament history to win four games and capture the ACC tournament championship. A projected four seed at the beginning of the tournament Duke jumped themselves into an official two seed by the end of the weekend.

But what is more important for Duke is that they might finally be the team that everyone thought they were going to be at the beginning of the season. Despite being ravaged by injuries at the beginning of the season Duke was considered the best team in the country by far with arguably the most talented roster in the country.

And with the tournament starting later this week the Blue Devils are peeking at the right time.

Michigan:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Geoff Burke)

The Wolverines had a rough start to this past week after their plane skidded off of the runway on their way to the Washington D.C. The Wolverines weren’t even able to use their game jerseys in their first game against Illinois, they were forced to use their practice jerseys.

Not only did they win their first game but they actually ended up winning the entire Big Ten tournament. It’s hard enough to win the Big Ten tournament being an eight seed, but doing it after a plane crash is something among itself.

 

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island was on the bubble the entire week, most of the week being one of the first four teams out. So they made sure there wasn’t any question about their right to be in the tournament.

Ranked at the beginning of the season Rhode Island was a team on the rise. But throughout the season had to deal with multiple injuries that almost kept them out of the NCAA tournament. But, to no avail the Rams, with a four seed in the A10 tournament, won their first A10 tournament championship and a trip to the big dance since 1999.

Losers:

Oregon:

Oregon did have a decent weekend in terms of wins. They did beat UCLA and they came in second in the tough PAC-12 tournament, which is an accomplishment.

But the Ducks lost one of their key contributors Chris Boucher for the rest of the season in their game against California with a torn ACL. The 6-11 Boucher averaged 11.8 points per game, 6.1 rebounds and a Pac-12 leading 2.5 blocks. His absences could very well have an impact on Oregon’s performance in the NCAA tournament.

Syracuse:

winners and losers college basketball

(Photo/ Getty Images)

The Orange were knocked out in the first round of the ACC tournament earlier this week after losing to Miami.  A few days later they didn’t make the NCAA tournament.  That should be enough of a bad week, but the Orange weren’t done there.

Jim Boeheim single handedly made enemies with the entire city of Greensboro after their loss to Miami in a post game press conference. After asked what he thought about the ACC tournament being in Brooklyn he responded, “There’s no value in playing in Greensboro. None.”

Greensboro responded as any proud city would.

Illinois State:

In yet another mid major snub, the Illinois State RedBirds fell short of a NCAA tournament at large bid.  The Red Birds finished 27-6 overall and 17-1 in their conference, losing to Witchita State in their conference tournament championship game.

Many believe mid major teams like Illinois State should be able to receive at large bids more often and this years Illinois State team would be the team to do it.  But the committee didn’t see it that way, as the Red Birds were left out yet again, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

 

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NCAA Baseball: Super Regionals Preview

Regional Picks: 10 for 16

Gainesville Super Regional: Florida St Seminoles at Florida Gators

For the second consecutive year, these bitter rivals will meet with a spot in Omaha on the line. The Gators have had the edge lately, eliminating the Seminoles last season and sweeping a three game series this year. They also have plenty of momentum after blowing out Georgia Tech in the regional final. In case this team didn’t look dangerous enough, they are now fully healthy as first baseman Peter Alonso returned from a broken hand to hit 8-14 with three home runs in the regional. Florida St rolled through the Tallahassee Regional, capping it off with an 18-6 blowout of South Alabama. The Noles have one of the hottest, most dynamic offenses in the country, led by Dylan Busby who is batting .500 with 6 home runs in the last 7 games. This certainly has the potential to be a great series with two elite offenses, but I think Logan Shore and AJ Puk on the mound will be the difference, and the Gators will prevail.

Louisville Super Regional: UC Santa Barbara Gauchos at Louisville Cardinals

Louisville has been a complete juggernaut at home, now with a 36-1 record after three easy wins over Western Michigan, Ohio St. and Wright St. They head into their fourth consecutive super regional with tons of confidence, especially in starting pitchers Kyle Funkhouser and Brendan McKay, who only gave up a combined one run in the regional. They will be a tough test for the young Gauchos, who appear to have put it all together after a rocky finish to the regular season. UCSB will need a strong start from ace Shane Bieber, who shut out Washington in game 1 to have a shot against Louisville’s top 10 offense. The Gauchos pitching should give them a chance, but Louisville has a much better offense, and when you add in the home field advantage, the Cardinals should advance.

Coral Gables Super Regional: Boston College Eagles at Miami Hurricanes

This is a matchup of ACC schools, but that’s about all they have in common. The Hurricanes are amongst the baseball blue bloods, with a four National Titles and an NCAA Tournament streak that dates back to 1973, while the Eagles haven’t been to Omaha since 1967, and before this season hadn’t had a winning record since 2010. Miami got a test in their regional, but defeated Long Beach St in an 8-7 walk off win. Miami didn’t get their usual production from star Zack Collins, who had more strikeouts than hits in the regional, but saw Willie Abreu and Jacob Heyward (Jason’s brother) step up. Boston College is probably the closest thing to a Cinderella in this year’s tournament, but after beating Utah and Tulane twice, are done flying under the radar. They’ll need their pitching to stay hot, as the Eagles only gave up eight runs in three games. However, Miami is on another level from the teams BC eliminated, and will likely have too much offensive firepower.

College Station Super Regional: TCU Horned Frogs at Texas A&M Aggies

An in-state battle between the past and the present in the Big 12, TCU is looking to make it back to back super regional wins over the Aggies. However, this time, the road to Omaha will have to go through College Station, where A&M is coming off of an easy regional win, having blown out Binghamton, Minnesota and Wake Forest. They scored 30 runs in the last two games, in large part because of Boomer White, a TCU transfer, who is batting .398 on the year. His old team is also high on confidence, entering their third consecutive super regional. Coach Jim Schlossnagle has this team playing as well as anyone in the country, after three wins over Oral Roberts, Arizona St and Gonzaga. The Frogs dominated all three aspects of the game, hitting .318, posting a 1.33 ERA and not committing a single error in the regional. Texas A&M can get hot at the plate, especially at home, but I like TCU’s well-rounded and experienced team to advance.

Lubbock Super Regional: East Carolina Pirates at Texas Tech Red Raiders

Texas Tech survived a scare against Dallas Baptist in the regional final, largely due to Hayden Howard’s work out of the bullpen, and three clutch RBIs from Orlando Garcia. The bullpen also pitched four shutout innings earlier in the weekend, which allowed Tech to come back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat New Mexico. They will meet the East Carolina Pirates, the last remaining team from North Carolina, who are arguably the most surprising team still in the field. The Pirates stunned defending National Champs Virginia on a walk off in the second game, before taking care of William & Mary to advance. The Pirates offense was on full display, as they scored at least eight runs in all three wins. The Pirates proved that they can play with anyone in the country, but I think Texas Tech in Lubbock will be too much for them.

Starkville Super Regional: Arizona Wildcats at Mississippi St Bulldogs

Mississippi St. may have come from nowhere to win the SEC title, but they are certainly in the national spotlight now. Their improved pitching was on full display in the regional final win over Louisiana Tech, where State shut out the other Bulldogs, allowing only two hits while striking out 14. They also have the advantage of playing at one of the most hostile venues, where they boast the biggest crowd in the country, and the cowbells don’t stop all game. The lone representatives of the Pac 12, Arizona came out of the losers bracket to knock off Lafayette twice and advance. The Wildcats showed off their pitching, particularly their bullpen, which the Cajuns had no success against. This pitching should be enough to keep things interesting, but the Bulldogs are a better team, and should take it at home.

Columbia Super Regional: Oklahoma St Cowboys at South Carolina Gamecocks

It was a great weekend for Gamecocks fans, as the team advanced through the Columbia Regional, and watched archrival Clemson get knocked out, opening the door to host a super regional. Carolina had a rough start, losing to Rhode Island and winning ugly against Duke, but turned it around to outscore their final three opponents by a combined 43-8. Oklahoma St. was the only team to knock off a national seed, and absolutely dominated Clemson twice to advance. The Cowboys hit .385 in the regional, and never trailed at any point. They come in hot, and also have the advantage of staying in South Carolina for an additional week, cutting out much of the travel. This is probably the most even match-up of the round, but I think Oklahoma St will score just enough to get it done.

Baton Rouge Super Regional: Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at LSU Tigers

After a series of rain delays, on Tuesday LSU became the fifth SEC team to qualify for super regionals. The Tigers got a great performance from Jared Poche, who threw six scoreless innings out of the bullpen just three days after starting against Utah Valley. The bats came alive, spurred by a go ahead home run from Greg Deichmann, and LSU was able to knock off Rice. This weekend, they will get a visit from Coastal Carolina, fresh off upsetting NC State in the Raleigh Regional. The Chants loaded the bases with one out in the ninth down by two, but because of a bizarre rain delay, had to finish off the game the next day. Coastal eventually took the lead, and held on thanks to All-American closer Mike Morrison. The Chanticleers are a team that simply finds ways to win, and has some of the best pitching in the country. However, LSU has pitching to match and should advance at home.

 

Terrance’s Top Ten Returning College QBs #10: DeShone Kizer

College football is coming and it is coming soon. We are almost less than three months away from the season opening game between California and Hawaii, which will be played in Australia. And since it is so close to the college football season let’s make a top ten list of the best returning quarterbacks in the nation.

And at number 10 on my list we have…

Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images

Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images

#10- Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer- At 6’4″, 230 pounds, DeShone Kizer is the only quarterback featured on my list that is in a quarterback competition. He will have to beat out Malik Zaire for the starting quarterback spot but I believe he will be the week one starter over Zaire. That is the only reason why he is only 10 on my list. If he was not in a quarterback competition he might be multiple spots higher on my list. Kizer’s ability to make pass through the air and on the ground is why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation. And with his amazing talent comes, a kid who shows great poise and decision making ability. When he took over for Zaire he took Notre Dame to an 8-3 record and helped them make a Fiesta Bowl appearance. He ended his 2015 campaign with 2884 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 520 yards and 10 touchdowns.

His top three games last year, in no particular order, were against Virginia, Clemson, and Temple. All of those games on the road. The Virginia game was the one that Kizer came off the bench to fill in for a hurt Zaire. On the last drive of the game, Kizer hooked up with wide receiver Will Fuller for a game-winning 40 yard touchdown pass. In the Clemson game, the Irish lost, but it was Kizer’s coming out party. On a night game in Death Valley, S.C., he threw for 321 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 for 34 passing. There were only two QB’s last year to throw for more than 300 yards and at least only one interceptions against Clemson’s great defense; he was one of them. The other was Jacob Coker of Alabama. Against a pretty good Temple defense he had his highest adjusted QBR, 92.2. Kizer is one of the of the best QB’s in the nation and at Temple he made the defense look bad. He threw for 299 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. He can and will put his impact on every game he starts next year. If he starts all of the games, he will easily have Notre Dame in the mix for a College Football Playoff spot. And just maybe a trip to the Big Apple in early December.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

With DeShone Kizer at QB for the Irish, at the most I can only see the Irish losing two games. One being there October 15th bout against rival Stanford in South Bend and the other is their season finale against Southern Cal on November 26th. They will have a tough time with Texas in the season opener and Miami later in the season but I think they can pull out a win against both of those teams. I really see Notre Dame winning all but one regular season game and that will be because of the arm and feet of DeShone Kizer.

Number #9 QB

Best Remaining College Basketball Games

There is still one month of regular season college basketball to be played before teams get into their conference tournaments. A lot of teams will be fighting for spots in the tournament or for higher seeds, making this next month exciting. Here are some of the games that should be great to watch the rest of the way:

The first game between Kansas and Oklahoma was a close game with some controversy. Photo courtesy usatoday.com.

#6 Kansas at #3 Oklahoma, Saturday February 13

The first time these two teams played in Lawrence, Kansas, it was an overtime thriller that many say was the best played game all season. Now the rematch has a chance to be another classic and could result in the winner being the Big 12 regular season champion. Oklahoma should have the edge playing at home and with Buddy Hield on their side.

#15 Texas A&M at LSU, Saturday February 13

Texas A&M dropped a game at home to South Carolina, which has made the SEC wide open. LSU now leads the SEC with an 8-2 record. This game specifically will be a good watch because Ben Simmons will be going up against a great team. If the Tigers can win this game it would help move them off of the bubble.

Alex Caruso has plenty of big game experience, which will be useful down the stretch. Photo courtesy d1nation.com.

#22 Kentucky at #15 Texas A&M, Saturday February 20

Kentucky only has three SEC losses and can win the conference with how wide open it is. Jamal Murray has been on fire and he looks like he is capable of carrying the Wildcats to a championship. Texas A&M has a few key games left and this will be there last big test of the regular season.

#12 Miami at #9 North Carolina, Saturday February 20

Miami is a team that no one is talking about, but is capable of beating anyone in the country. Angel Rodriguez has the potential to lead Miami to big wins down the stretch. North Carolina can really help separate the top of the ACC with a win in this game.

#3 Oklahoma at #10 West Virginia, Saturday February 20

These teams are currently tied at the top of the Big 12. Oklahoma can seal a Big 12 championship with a win over Kansas and West Virginia. West Virginia’s defense should make this a great game to watch. Their press going up against Buddy Hield will make it a very interesting game.

#7 Virginia at #12 Miami,  Monday February 22

The second game in the round robin that will decide the ACC is Virginia at Miami. Virginia’s defense, again, is always great to watch, but their offensive ball control drives some fans crazy. Miami isn’t a great scoring team, so they will have to make the most of each possession.

Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono has led Villanova to a number one ranking this season. Photo courtesy cbssports.com.

#1 Villanova at #5 Xavier, Wednesday February 24

Villanova is number one for the first time in school history and is in the Big East driver’s seat. A win over Xavier in this game could seal it for the Wildcats as well as get them closer to locking up a number one seed. If Xavier is able to win every other game on their schedule and get a help in the form of a Villanova loss, or two, this game would put them at the top of the Big East. This is also a revenge game for Xavier, who lost at Villanova by 31 points earlier this season.

#9 North Carolina at #7 Virginia, Saturday February 27

The last of the ACC round robin features a culture clash. Virginia is going to play great defense and hold the ball on offense, while North Carolina will try to get out on the fast break every chance they get. The winner of this game could be the number one seed in the ACC tournament.

#2 Maryland at #18 Purdue, Saturday February 27

Iowa doesn’t have any marquee games down the stretch, making this the best game left in the Big Ten season. If Iowa slips up this could decide the Big Ten champion. Purdue has plenty of talented big guys making their team a Big Ten throwback. Maryland has enough talent on its roster to make this game interesting, but they will need to be tough to beat Purdue.

Jamal Murray has been heating up lately, making Kentucky a serious threat. Photo courtesy twitter.com.

LSU at #22 Kentucky, Saturday March 5

Another revenge game on the slate. Kentucky lost to LSU in Baton Rouge and now gets them in Rupp Arena. This game is the season finale for both teams and could decide the SEC. With Jamal Murray heating it up, Simmons and Murray will be a great battle of freshmen.

#11 Oregon at #23 USC, Saturday March 5

Oregon is leading the Pac-12 and this game could put the icing on the cake. The Ducks are playing great basketball and are capable of making a deep tournament run. USC has been a surprise this season and could still win the Pac-12.

 

 

 

NBA All-Star Weekend

The NBA All-Star Weekend won’t disappoint. Photo: youtube.com

Football doesn’t entertain us with the Pro Bowl but the NBA sure does entertain us on All Star Weekend. If you’re a little disappointed from watching the Pro Bowl, cheer up because All Star weekend is coming up. That said, it is time to preview the event that always has us talking about an amazing display of three point shooting, creative, high-flying dunks and flashy plays in the All Star game.

The events start at 8:30 est. Saturday, February 13th on TNT.

Taco Bell Skills Competition: This is the first major event of the night and typically this event is for guards and a few small forwards, but for the first time ever the skills competition will include front court players. There will be eight participants: Jordan Clarkson (Los Angeles Lakers), Isaiah Thomas (Boston), Karl-Anthony Towns (Minnesota), C.J. McCollum (Portland), Anthony Davis (New Orleans), Draymond Green (Golden State), DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento) and defending champion Patrick Beverly (Houston). The finals will come down to Draymond Green and Isaiah Thomas in my opinion and will be much more entertaining by including front court players.

Prediction: Draymond Green. Draymond is very talented and versatile and he will show case his versatility by winning this competition.

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest: This is the second event and there are eight participants: Devin Booker (Phoenix), Chris Bosh (Miami), J.J. Redick (Los Angeles Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Toronto), Kris Middleton( Milwaukee) , Klay Thompson (Golden State), James Harden (Houston) and defending champion Steph Curry (Golden State). I believe the finals will be between J.J. Redick and defending champion Steph Curry. Steph Curry is on top of the world and currently the best player in the NBA. I believe he will defend his title.

Prediction: Steph Curry. He is the best shooter in the league and he will prove it again in this competition.

Verizon Slam Dunk Contest: The main event on Saturday night has shown us that humans can fly over the years. There have been so many players who have shown amazing talent and dunking over the years, Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Spud Webb, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Nate Robinson, Dwight Howard, Blake Griffin and maybe the best of all time, Vince Carter. Most of these players participated in this before becoming superstars. It is a stepping stone to stardom. This year the four participants are: Andre Drummond (Detroit), Will Barton (Denver), Aaron Gordon (Orlando) and defending champion Zach LaVine (Minnesota). I think a lot of people will learn about Will Barton and he will make it to the finals and go up against Zach LaVine.
Prediction: Zach Lavine: This man can defy gravity. His is super athletic and is going to be a star in this league one day.  I believe he will defend his title and go back to back in Toronto.

Top 5 NBA Games to Watch (Week of 2/1 – 2/7)

#5- Detroit Pistons @ Boston Celtics (Wed. 2/3): Detroit is currently the 8th seed and Boston is the 5th seed, as these two young teams who are trying to emerge as contenders in the East get ready to clash. Reggie Jackson versus Isaiah Thomas should be a great matchup to watch. Andre Drummond is a stud and is turning into a star. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and this could eventually be a preview of a potential playoff series.

My prediction: Detroit 92 @ Boston 98

#4- Miami Heat @ Dallas Mavericks (Wed. 2/3): This should be a great out of conference game. Miami and Dallas are both currently the 6th seed in their respective conferences. Both teams aren’t considered title threats but any team who makes the playoffs is dangerous. These teams have lots of Finals history against each other in the last 10 years so this could cause fireworks.

My prediction: Miami 101 @ Dallas 94

#3- Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Fri. 2/5): These teams met in the playoffs last year and there is bad blood. Cleveland swept Boston but Kelly Olynyk injured Kevin Love for the rest of the playoffs and J.R. Smith punched Jae Crowder. This may be an old fashioned eastern conference match up that could get physical. Entertaining and exciting may not even begin to describe this game. Tune in basketball fans; this will be a good one.

My prediction: Boston 99 @ Cleveland 104

#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (Fri. 2/5): Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. Another matchup between division rivals and future hall of famers. These teams have had great battles over the years and the games are always exciting. I see no reason this one should be any different. There isn’t much to say except get the popcorn then kick back and relax and enjoy the show.

My prediction: San Antonio 91 @ Dallas 83

#1- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors (Sat. 2/6): The star power in this one might take us to space: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. This is the marquee game to watch this week and this will be the first time these two teams play this season. This is one of those games that when you look back, it could go down as game of the year. I know NBA fans are licking their chops to catch this one. The NBA is smart to showcase this game Saturday night because games don’t get better than this. I would say get that couch comfy, but this game is going to be so electric you might not even sit down. I hope you can feel my excitement for this game because come this Saturday NBA fans are in for a real treat!

My prediction: Oklahoma City 104 @ Golden State 105