1. The first weekend of the NCAA tournament is in the books. Who is your biggest surprise team and biggest disappointing team?
Chrissy: After the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, I would have to say Harvard was the biggest surprise. Going up against Cincinnati, it was hard to say who would come out on top, but I’m pretty sure not many people were picking Harvard. Being an Ivy League school, it’s not very well known for its basketball, but they proved their worth last weekend in a surprise victory. It was a No. 12 seed going up against a No. 5 seed, an unpredictable win for sure. However, the biggest disappointment would absolutely have to be Duke. Expected to go much further, they shocked fans and statisticians across the country. Jabari Parker definitely did not want it to end that way, and it’s still unsure as to whether or not he’ll return next year. It’s hard to see someone have to end his time on a team in such disappointment.
Andrew: No one heard of Mercer University before March Madness, but their win over the No. 3 Duke makes them the biggest surprise team of the tournament. With a strong senior presence, they were able to overcome all odds. Despite allowing 17 three-point shots, Mercer was able to control the paint against Duke’s impressive roster. Keep in mind, Mercer comes from the Atlantic Sun Conference, the same one that saw Florida Gulf Coast make it into the Sweet Sixteen last year. As for the biggest disappointing team, I am not going with Duke, the apparent choice. Instead I am choosing the team that ultimately messed up my bracket, Syracuse. After a dominating first-round performance, freshman Tyler Ennis barely showed up and played sloppy against Dayton. Despite the team’s poor efforts, Ennis had two final shots at the end of the game, which would have put the Orange ahead. Needless to say, both shot attempts did not fall in.
George: As I was walking to class Friday, a mysterious wind swept over me. Something was off about it. I thought I heard something unnatural behind the wind, so I strained my ear to listen. Then I heard it. The wind carried with it the million sighs uttered from the mouths of college basketball fans whose brackets had just been busted by Duke losing to Mercer. According to ESPN, 96.6 percent of eligible brackets were gone, like dust in the wind, at the end of the game. Their frustration at witnessing a veteran team coached by one of the greatest coaches in the history of the NCAA be beaten by a team that had never been in the championships before earns Duke the coveted spot of “Most Disappointing Team (So Far)” and Mercer the spot of “Most Surprising Team (So Far).”
Andrew wins for talking about Syracuse’s sloppy play, George gets 2 points for highlighting a disappointing Coach K team, and Chrissy gets 1 point for pointing out the Ivy upsets.
2. Phil Jackson has been hired by the Knicks to turn the franchise around. Can the Zen Master get the job done? And how long will it take him to get New York to the promised land?
Chrissy: After Phil Jackson had been hired by the New York Knicks, there was hope in the air that things will turn around soon. However, I think it will take a few years before the team is brought to the “promised land.” The team needs to rebuild, and this will not happen in only one year. One of the biggest advantages of his coming to the team will be Carmelo Anthony possibly choosing to stay with the Knicks due to this change in coaching. He may not opt out of his contract now, and this will greatly help the Knicks, seeing as how essential he has been to the team. Jackson has been able to bring a brilliant mind to the NBA and will certainly be able to bring the team to the promised land soon enough. He was definitely bring an element of respect to the team and this is something that can carry them a long way.
Andrew: If anyone can turn the Knicks around, it is the Zen Master. He has a knack for winning, whether it was with Chicago or the Lakers. And as for the Knicks, they haven’t won the title since 1973, when — you guessed it — Jackson was a player on the winning team. That said, if New York wants to win in the short term, it all depends on if they can retain their All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony, who has the ability to opt out of his contract after the 2014 season comes to an end. If Anthony stays, there is potential to see a championship in the future, but tough roster decisions will have to be made. The Zen Master has a talent for picking up good supporting players. If he is able to find players to complement Anthony, then there is no reason why the Knicks don’t have a shot at the title. If, however, Anthony leaves, I don’t see the Knicks being a true championship contender until they acquire another franchise All-Star.
George: Jackson’s success with the Knicks hinges on one factor: his relationship with owner James Dolan. The owner is the heir to a large cable company fortune and has a degree in communications from SUNY-New Paltz and has very little knowledge of basketball itself. Despite this, Dolan has a tendency of overriding decisions he doesn’t like, even if that decision is made by someone with a greater understanding for the sport than he does, like Jackson. If Dolan does as he says he’ll do and doesn’t interfere, then Jackson will be able to hire a disciple of his as a coach. As for how long it will take Jackson to lead the Knicks into the Promised Land, only time will tell. Hopefully it won’t take as long as it took Moses — I’m not sure Jackson’s got another 40 years in him.
George wins for saying Jackson and Dolan need to get along, Chrissy gets 2 points for saying it will be a multi-year project, and Andrew gets 1 point for saying he needs to keep Carmelo.
3. The NFL Draft is coming up. Will Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater or Blake Bortles be the first QB selected?
Chrissy: Out of Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles, I believe Teddy Bridgewater will be the first caller selected in the NFL Draft because of his all-around ability on the field. Even after a disappointing show this past week in practices, missing multiple passes, I still believe he will be the top pick. When put under pressure in the past, he has proven to get the job done and he will be able to do so in the NFL, I think all the teams are able to see that. He has great leadership potential and this is something revered in quarterbacks around the league. Although Manziel displays equally stellar play on the field, his antics off the field are sometimes less than desirable. Cockiness and arrogance seem to come in bulk with many new players, and this may be one of his less desirables attributes. However, it’s going to come down to this handful of players, but I am projecting Bridgewater to be the first caller selected.
Andrew: Despite all this hype surrounding Johnny “Football” Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater, there is one feature that Blake Bortles has that can’t be taught: height. At 6’5,” this quarterback out of University of Central Florida has the prototypical NFL build. While there is still room for improvement for all three of the quarterbacks, all of Bortles supposed “weaknesses” — which include lack of arm strength and ball security — can be easily fixed if given the proper instruction. The other two quarterbacks both definitely have a lot of potential, but Bortles easily has the largest upside.
George: Bortles will be the first. Manziel’s good but has a tendency to run out of the pocket that, according to some, will not translate well into the professional league, where QBs of Manziel’s size tend to stay inside the pocket to avoid the much larger defensive linemen. Also, most franchises may be hesitant to put up with Manziel’s wild behavior. Bridgewater’s chances have been hampered by his mediocre performance at pro day, which left a bad taste in many scouts’ and coaches’ mouths. That leaves Bortles. Though some cite Bortles’s poor footwork as cause for worry, these bad habits can be worked on in practice. He’s got potential. Also his name is fun to say.
Andrew wins for saying Bortles is the prototypical QB, Chrissy gets 2 points for talking about Bridgewater’s clutch play, and George gets 1 point for picking Bortles by default.
Andrew wins Around the Dorm, 7-6-5
“I would like to thank the Academy.” —Andrew