Isles Trade Rumors Swirling…. Are Any True?
By Mike Basille
With a three game losing streak and losing their last game to the Winnipeg Jets, it is safe to say this team’s defensive problem is still not fixed. The penalty kill is still last in the league and it does not look like the top defensive pair can carry the load. In the bottom three of the league with 83 goals allowed on the season, this team needs a defensive swing fast. If anything, last game should have put this team over the top on making a trade. They allowed five goals (3 in less than 3 minutes) to a mediocre Philadelphia Flyers squad. This team is must make a defensive trade, an area in which they are weak and thin.
In regards to a possible trade, Carolina Hurricanes defensemen Tim Gleason’s name has been thrown around. After being a healthy scratch last game, it really looked like they were going to ship him. There has still been no sign of him being traded other than that. People may have overlooked that he was being scratched for the purpose of being traded, because he has only played in seven games this season. His stats definitely do not make you think a team should go out and get him but when you’re struggling like the Islanders have been, a veteran d-man could help. This is not the first guy I would pull the trigger on, but if it comes down to it, he would indeed help this team.
The Islanders would never make a trade with the Rangers right? So you would think, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Michael Del Zotto could possibly be seen wearing blue and orange. He still makes some glaring mistakes, but we must remember that this kid is only 23. The last two seasons he has posted a +26 so he must be doing something right! That is better than every Islander on the team had the past two seasons. If I am Garth Snow and the Rangers are serious about this deal, I would snatch him up fast.
Now we all want to know what the Islanders would have to give up for either of these two defensemen. In the case of Tim Gleason I would not want to see the Islanders giving up any more than a 3-4th round pick. He has had a rough start to the season and has found himself on the bench opposed to the ice. Now for a guy like Del Zotto, I would go and give away Michael Grabner. If the Rangers don’t bite on the struggling Grabner, I could see the Isles giving up a second rounder for him, but no more than that. If the Islanders want to turn this season around, they need to make a move now.
Mike Basile is a sophomore at York College Of Pennsylvania. He is a huge sports fan, and when it comes to hockey maybe considered a little obsessive. Giving insight on the Islanders and all things hockey. You can follow him on twitter at @mikeybasile1
Mets Outfield Gets Young-er
By Dan Lagnado
The New York Mets spent money on a free agent! I repeat, the Mets have spent money! It was reported last week that the Mets signed outfielder Chris Young (no, not the one that pitched for them a few seasons ago, but the other one). Young played last season with the Oakland A’s but spent seven of his eight seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Young is a right-handed hitter who has the ability both to hit for power as well as use his speed on the base paths. However, in the past two years, Young has struggled. He hit .200 and .231 in 2013 and 2012 respectively while combining for 26 homeruns and 81 RBI. In 2010 alone he hit 27 homeruns and 91 RBI with 28 stolen bases. His past two down seasons aside, Young still has career averages of 24 homeruns, 73 RBI and 20 stolen bases. The Mets are hoping that he can return to these kind of numbers and give a boost to an outfield in need.
I don’t think this is a bad deal for the Mets. That said, it is not the only move to make and does not answer every outfield question. Young is a solid defensive outfielder with more assists in his career than errors. It’s unclear where he will be playing but he has experience at all three outfield spots, though most of that in centerfield. Even in his subpar seasons Young has had success against left-handed pitching making him at worst a platoon outfielder. At best, Young will be able to regain his 2010 form and become a significant part in a Mets lineup in need of both power and speed.
One thing that I think was a mistake for the Mets was the price. Young signed for one year, which limits risk and was a technique we saw last year with Marlon Byrd. This allows the Mets not to be tied down to a long-term deal with a player who may not contribute. However, the one-year will cost the Mets $7.25 million, making Young the highest paid player that isn’t named David Wright. This is a large monetary commitment to a player who could end up only being a platoon outfielder.
All in all, this move has a chance to pay-off for New York if Young can return to All-Star form. However I would look for them to still sign another outfielder, possibly a left-handed bat in case a platoon is needed. This lineup is hardly a finished product and much of the roster is still in flux. However, this is a nice fairly low-risk signing in terms of years and it is good to see the Mets getting involved so early in the free agency process when last year they didn’t sign a free agent until almost February. I would look for a few more free agent signings from this team as well as a potential trade or two in the works as the team continues to look to the future, though the a much nearer future than in years past.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995
NFL Week 12 Predictions
By Matthew Wieselthier
1:00 PM ET
Lions 27, Buccaneers 21
Tampa Bay has hit its first hot streak of the year. Two straight wins and almost stealing a win against Seattle, it would only make sense to go with the hot streak. However, they have beaten the Dolphins and Falcons, both of which are not great teams with not much upside for the season. They have also only showed up in the first half, having to fight through the second half to grind out their wins. The Lions are not a team you can do that against. Even if you beat them in the first half, the offensive weapons in Detroit’s pocket are too great to just play one half against. The marquee matchup will be WR Calvin Johnson vs. CB Darrelle Revis, but with the rest of the Lions weapons, they should be able to take the second half and win at home.
Packers 28, Vikings 13
Even undrafted third-string QB Scott Tolzein can handle this dreadful Vikings defense. Ranked 30th in the league, the Vikings have yet to stop any team from bulldozing them. The Packers starting lineup may mostly be in the infirmary right now, but the ones on the field should be able to stop the Vikings offense, which has the 25th best passing game in the league. Very simple, the Packers will take this game easily.
Texans 27, Jaguars 10
The Texans are the best terrible team there is. They are ranked 8th in offense and tops in the league in defense. They just can’t seem to close out games. Despite being strong at basically every part of the game, the Texans are out of playoff contention and having a very disappointing season. The future should be bright however with QB Case Keenum proving to be a viable option at starting QB.
Chiefs 17, Chargers 14
Andy Reid’s bid to coach his new team to a perfect season is finally over. The Chiefs fell to the Broncos last week and now they have to restart the streak and don’t have an easy team to do it against. Division rival Sand Diego Chargers may have a losing record, but they are a fighting team and don’t lose easily. QB Philip Rivers is having a comeback season and is leading the 4th best passing offense in the NFL. However, the Chiefs defense has been one of the tops in the league all season and has 6 returning Pro-Bowlers from that side of the ball.
Panthers 34, Dolphins 17
The Panthers are the hottest team in football winning six straight games and looking good doing it. Despite being underdogs in their last two matchups, they have come out on top, controversial calls or not. And their defense can do most of the talking for them. Led by former Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly, Carolina has the 3rd best defense in the league. That should bode well for them against the 31st best offense in the league of the Dolphins.
Browns 21, Steelers 20
The Browns are doing much better than anticipated, especially after trading RB Trent Richardson to the Colts. However, that deal seems to have helped the Browns record wise, who are .500 since trading him away after a 0-2 start. They are also impressive passing wise surprisingly, still able to go through the air despite going through so many QBs this season. Their defense is where they shine though, being 4th in the league and have been stopping even the top offenses in the league.
Bears 19, Rams 12
The Bears have been injured and that’s been a major cause of their loses this season. Even with QB Jay Cutler injured, Josh McCown has been a suitable replacement and the running game of RB Matt Forte has been quite good this year. The Rams are also injured at QB and terrible in general, having a good game here and there but not good enough to say they could win any game.
Jets 22, Ravens 17
The Jets have been on and off every other week. According to the pattern, this week they should be on. And it seems like they should be, they have the 9th best defense in the league led by their defensive line and linebackers. They also are very good in the running game, whether it be Chris Ivory or Bilal Powell taking the lead. The Ravens have also been very shaky this season, with the 3rd worst offense in the league, headlined by their lack of a running game with Ray Rice. For both teams though, this is a must win to stay in the AFC Wild Card hunt for the 6th seed.
4:00 PM ET
Raiders 20, Titans 13
The Raiders may not have a good passing game, but they have one hell of a running game. Ironically, the best rusher for them is QB Terrelle Pryor. He can make a throw when he needs, but he’s better with his legs. The Titans are trying to make a resurgence from their strong start but are not looking too hot lately. The Raiders should be able to take this one, as they are able to in odd situations.
Cardinals 24, Colts 21
The Cardinals have been strong all season, and Andre Ellington having his dreadlocks pulled out last week shouldn’t stop that. On the other hand, the Colts have been shaky the past few weeks, including last week when they squeaked out a Thursday Night win against the Titans. The Cardinals have looked really good lately, helped out by the 9th best defense in the league.
Cowboys 38, Giants 27
The Cowboys have a top QB this year in Tony Romo. They just need a healthy RB in Demarco Murray, who is continually injured. The Giants may have won four straight, but they haven’t played any great competition. The Packers would have been a quality win if they weren’t in the infirmary now. Playing a quality opponent like the Cowboys should bring the Giants back down to Earth.
8:30 PM ET
Broncos 47, Patriots 24
The Broncos are the best of the best, with both sides of the ball working together better than any other team. Now with LB Von Miller back, the defensive side has come back into action and the offense is tops in the league with QB Peyton Manning at the helm. The Patriots have been weak on both sides of the ball this year, especially defensively. That can’t help with Broncos top offense. Expect trouble for New England tonight.
8:40 PM ET
49ers 23, Redskins 14
Robert Griffin III is probably the biggest disappointment of anyone this year. He has shown no upside and is probably the main reason for the Redskins poor record. Even going against an even worse passing offense (the worst in the NFL) in the 49ers shouldn’t help him. That being because QB Colin Kaepernick is finally getting back to where he was, piece by piece. The defense is also very strong, 9th in the league and should easily stop the Redskins offense to end off Week 12.
Baylor and Ohio State: Who Deserves Third Place?
By Nick Vespasiano
Every year, as the college football season enters its final weeks, I’ll catch myself hoping that any there are no undefeated teams outside of the top two. It’s like I want the BCS rankings to make sense rather than be forced to trust that the right two teams are playing for the National Championship. Then I remember, as frustrating as it is to see an undefeated team not get the chance they deserve, it’s situations like these that forced college football to change its current format. If the rankings end up with “too many” undefeated teams this year, I will be thankful that starting next season the BCS will be replaced with the College Football Playoff, where the nation’s top four teams will get their chance.
With Louisville, Missouri, Oregon, Stanford all managing to slip up after high pre-season rankings and undefeated starts, only two undefeated teams remain on the outside looking in. At this point in the season, at 10-0 and 9-0 respectively, Ohio State and Baylor are both in the ambiguous situation where winning out is their only option but it might not matter in the end. Alabama could lose its 11/30 game at sixth-ranked Auburn and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston’s season (and freedom) could be in jeopardy. Which one deserves to move up if Alabama or Florida State goes down? Right now the BCS rankings say Ohio State but that hasn’t hindered any national debate.
Both of these teams have elite offenses. Led by quarterback Braxton Miller and running back Carlos Hyde, the Buckeyes rank fourth nationally in points per game. Miller, Hyde, and senior Jordan Hall have combined for over 2,000 rushing yards this season. Miller, however, has passed for an underwhelming 1,466 yards. As for Baylor’s offense, it’s averaging 61.2 points per game and 684.9 yards per game, both best in the country. Quarterback Bryce Petty is having a Heisman caliber season, completing 65 percent of his passes for 2,992 yards, 24 touchdowns and still just one interception. Running backs Lache Seastrunk and Shock Linwood have amassed 1,700 yards together this season and Linwood has really stepped up in relief of the still injured Seastrunk. I have to give the edge on offense to Baylor because of their more balanced attack. Any defense would be more confident loading the box and challenging Ohio State to pass than doing so against Baylor. Petty will beat you with his arm and when he can’t, he has a talented backfield to pick up the slack. Ohio State’s offense is much more one-dimensional than Baylor’s.
Ohio State ranks thirteenth in the country in points allowed per game while Baylor sits at seventh. Both teams have decent defenses, but the lack of points against speaks to how dominating the offense is when on the field. Neither defense is very consistent but Ohio State’s is the least consistent of the two. After shutting out Purdue on November 2, they gave up 35 points to a 3-7 Illinois. They allowed 34 points to a 1-10 Cal, and then two weeks later, held a great Wisconsin offense to its second lowest points of the season with 24. Baylor’s defense not only has the edge in consistency but also the luxury of the best offense in the country (and possibly of all time) to take off some of the pressure. Baylor’s defense also plays against Big 12 offenses the likes of which Ohio State does not. Baylor’s defense wins this one too.
When looking at each team’s schedule, they appear even for the most part. Ohio State’s best game was a 31-24 win against now 19th ranked Wisconsin on September 28. Baylor’s came later against the 10th ranked (now 20th) Oklahoma Sooners by a lopsided score of 41-12. Both teams played the University of Buffalo early this season at their respective home fields. Baylor won 70-13 and OSU won 40-20, but we already knew Baylor’s offense was better. Ohio State’s opponents’ combined record is 46-56; Baylor’s is 46-46. The remaining opponents records, provided OSU plays Michigan State for the Big Ten title, are 20-10 for The Buckeyes, 19-11 for Baylor’s. With such equal schedules, the edge goes to Ohio State with the better signature win over Wisconsin.
Baylor deserves to take on Alabama or Florida State should one of them lose. The Bears have done more with a resume that is on par with Ohio State’s. This could all be for nothing if ‘Bama and FSU win out. That will all change next season with the new format where both Baylor and OSU would control their own destinies.
Nick Vespasiano is a senior English major at St. Olaf College and aspiring sports writer. He was raised in Minnesota, favorite teams are the Vikings, Wild, and Twins. Favorite athletes are Randy Moss and Jaromír Jágr.
Thursday Night Football Preview: Saints vs Falcons
By Matthew Wieselthier
Before the season, this game was circled on the calendar as a game that could decide the NFC South. The Saints heading to the Georgia Dome to face the Falcons was to be a top game of the season. However, the Falcons have looked terrible. They’ve been bruised up at the WR position with Roddy White being on and off the field and Julio Jones being on the IR. The RB position has been inconsistent with no option looking great and maybe could there be regrets on losing Michael Turner. Whatever the case may be, the RB turntable of Stephen Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Jason Snelling has been far from good. And now, a Super Bowl favorite has turned into the laughing stock of the NFL.
The Saints are one year since “Bountygate” and cannot be more thankful. At this point in the season last year, they were 5-6 and missing Sean Payton, who was suspended due to the bounty problems of the past. This season, they got their head coach back and have been successful ever since. The Saints are 8-2 and are on top of the NFC South. They are averaging 28.8 points per game, which is good for 2nd in the league. Drew Brees has the 4th best passer rating in the NFL (106.7) and the defense is 5th best in the league, giving up 18.8 points per game.
In this preseason-hyped game that has turned sour, the Saints should be able to march into the Georgia Dome and take the win with ease.
Prediction: Saints 31- Falcons 17
Matthew Wieselthier is the Sports Director at WPOB 88.5 FM, Plainview. He is also the PA announcer at all sporting events at POBJFKHS. You can follow him on twitter at @wieselsports66.
Three Intriguing Match-Ups for College Football’s Week 11
By Nick Vespasiano
(19) Wisconsin vs (25) Minnesota
As a native Minnesotan, it’s hard to feel anything but apathetic about Gophers football. So far this season they have exceeded everyone’s expectations but their own. Jerry Kill and this coaching staff have turned this team around, especially by playing to the strengths of the running game. Junior running back David Cobb has burst onto the Big 10 this season, rushing for 942 yards thus far and averaging 142 yards in Minnesota’s last four games. The key matchup will be this heavy run attack going up against a Wisconsin defense that has impressed all season. New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s switch to a 3-4 scheme has worked wonders for the run defense, which ranks fifth in the country with 4.3 yards per carry for opponents. Last week the Badgers’ defense held an Indiana offense that is averaging 40-plus points per game, to just a field goal. The Gophers have their hands full on defense, with Heisman Trophy sleeper, sophomore running back Melvin Gordon and dynamic playmaker Jared Abbrederis highlighting Wisconsin’s offense. The main storyline here is the renewed rivalry. Wisconsin has won the last nine meetings but both teams go into the game at 8-2, making this matchup relevant for the first time since 2002. This Saturday will also mark my first Gophers game at TCF Bank Stadium, which should be cool.
(4) Baylor vs (10) Oklahoma State
Those poor Baylor Bears, they have to win out the rest of the season with no guarantee that it will even matter (sound familiar Ohio State?). This is arguably the hardest opponent on their remainder of their schedule and all signs point to a shootout. Baylor and Oklahoma State rank first and fourteenth respectively in points scored per game. I was surprised to see they both rank in the top-fifteen in points allowed per game but both defenses are inconsistent. For example, Oklahoma State held Mississippi state to three points and gave up 35 the next week to UT-San Antonio. However, OSU had a nice 52-34 win week 8 over Texas Tech, a team with a potent offense like Baylor’s. Both teams feature great passing offenses. Clint Chelf has impressed replacing JW Walsh at quarterback for OSU. While Baylor’s Bryce Petty sits third on most hypothetical Heisman ballots (including mine). The edge on offense here goes to Baylor because of their running attack. Star junior Lache Seastrunk is still injured but freshman Shock Linwood has replaced him effortlessly and has 812 yards on the season. Add Petty’s 10 rushing touchdowns and the ground as dangerous as the air against Baylor. Both teams rank higher than I would have expected. There are Big 12 title (and possible National Title in Baylor’s case) implications. The last 10th ranked team Baylor played was the Oklahoma Sooners on week 9, and they won by four touchdowns.
(12) Texas A&M vs (22) LSU
In last season’s matchup on 10/20, LSU defeated Texas A&M 24-19. Johnny Manziel played probably his worst game of the season finishing 29-59, 276 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT, and just 27 yards rushing. That was in College Station. This year the Aggies travel to Death Valley for the first time in the careers of head coach Kevin Sumlin and repeat-Heisman hopeful Johnny Manziel. For LSU to earn a second straight win against A&M, they’ll have to keep the ball out of Manziel’s hands and that means running the football. Sophomore running back Jeremy Hill is averaging 6.8 yards per carry, totaling 964 yards and 13 touchdowns through week 10. He had 127 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries in last season’s game and can expect to see a lot of action for LSU to keep the clock moving. Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger and junior wide receiver Odell Beckham are one of the deadliest QB/WR duos in the SEC. In the midst of a breakout year, senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger will at least have to play the “game manager” role well and above all, not turn over the ball. That was the key last season where LSU won the turnover battle with zero to A&M’s five. How well Manziel and A&M’s offense plays depends on LSU’s defense which has been inconsistent this season. Head coach Les Miles plans to regularly rotate two to three players at every position on defense to limit fatigue versus an athletic no-huddle offense. We’ll see if they’re up for the challenge, Manziel, Malena, Evans, and the top offense in the SEC have a tendency to tire out a defense.
is a senior English major at St. Olaf College and aspiring sports writer. He was raised in Minnesota, favorite teams are the Vikings, Wild, and Twins. Favorite athletes are Randy Moss and Jaromír Jágr.
Prince Fielder Traded to Texas Rangers in Exchange for Ian Kinsler
By Ben Ozur
This is no joke! It has been confirmed that this trade is official. Quite the movement of talent to say the least, not to mention the money! But why did this trade happen?
The Texas Rangers made it very clear that they wanted to move a middle infielder, whether it be Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, or Jurickson Profar. It was clear that Kinsler would be the best of the three for them to move, as the other two are still in their young 20s. Also, Kinsler’s contract doesn’t last as long as the others, so they don’t lose a ton of control of a valuable player. With this trade, Profar can now become the everyday second baseman. But there’s more to that than you may think.
The Texas Rangers wanted Profar in the lineup every day, as opposed to the utility role he served in 2013. Thus, a trade needed to be made. But was Kinsler unhappy about this? Perhaps. There were many rumors that Kinsler would have to change positions to either leftfield or first base. Kinsler is a two-time 30/30 player (HRs and stolen bases), so considering his speed, moving him to first base would waste that speed. This potential move makes sense, considering David Murphy just left as a free agent to play with the Cleveland Indians, and Mitch Moreland hasn’t played up to his full potential. There are plenty of outfielders on both the free agent and trade markets, but not first basemen. So they made it happen by acquiring Prince Fielder. Now, why would the Tigers do this?
The Detroit Tigers were expected by many to repeat as AL Champions in 2013 and maybe even win the World Series. They received these expectations after signing Prince Fielder to a 9-year/$214M contract in the 2011-12 offseason, and his first year was a huge success. He won a Silver Slugger and took his team to the World Series. This was seen as a very hefty contract, but the Tigers had the money to spend and felt that they needed that left-handed bat in the middle of their lineup. Though he had a down year in 2013 (at least for his standards), he has done everything the Tigers have asked him to do.
The Detroit Tigers also have a large hole at second base. Omar Infante, their regular second baseman in 2013, is now a free agent. Not knowing if he would resign, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski didn’t hesitate in finding his replacement. Ian Kinsler, in my opinion, is the third-best second baseman in the game (only behind Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia), and with the inflation currently in the game of baseball, Kinsler’s contract doesn’t comparatively look too much look like an overpay. Trading for him seems to be worthwhile, but at what cost? Prince Fielder!
So now everyone wants to know: who won this deal? It’s too early to tell, considering it just happen. But I’d presume that most people believe that this was an absolute steal for the Rangers. Not so fast. There are many factors that must be considered in this:
- Who wins the money-side of the trade? Considering that there isn’t a drastic difference in their talent, I would rather take a guy who’s making over $100M less. This is a big win for the Tigers.
- Who had a bigger net upgrade between first and second bases? I believe that each player is a top five player at his respective position. Because first base is a significantly stronger position than second base right now, finding a good second baseman is hard. It’s not as difficult to find a talented first baseman. Now, I still believe in Mitch Moreland. I don’t think that the Rangers HAD to trade for Fielder as much as they had to move Kinsler. So it doesn’t make too much sense, from this perspective, for the Rangers. But it made MUCH less sense for the Tigers. Because now we must ask the biggest question of all: who takes over as the Tigers’ first baseman in 2014? Um… exactly! Who will fill the role of cleanup hitter now? Ultimately, Victor Martinez will get the first stab at it, but his hitting prowess doesn’t compare to that of Prince Fielder. It is no contest here: advantage, Rangers.
- Who had a bigger hole to fill? There are more available second basemen than first basemen on the free agent market, so finding one wouldn’t be terribly difficult. The Tigers could’ve found any second baseman and given him a smaller contact, and he could’ve been serviceable. Brian Roberts and Mark Ellis fit this profile perfectly. Like I just said, the Tigers’ first base is a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, hole to try to fill. So the Tigers didn’t fill a hole, they created one. On the other side, the Rangers had a surplus of middle infielders and felt a need for an upgrade at first base (like I said, I don’t completely agree, but I understand where this is coming from). So, there wasn’t a huge problem to fill, by default, the Rangers win this argument.
- And, of course, who’s the better player? You could look at this from a bunch of different angles. To make it simple, we’ll look at three: at the plate, on the bases, and in the field. Fielder clearly has the advantage at the plate, but not as much as you may have first expected. There are many comps to Fielder as a first baseman at the plate (i.e. Votto, Goldschmidt, Davis, Gonzalez, and Freeman) and not as many to Kinsler (considering power and contact, only Robinson Cano and Brandon Phillips). I’ll still give Fielder the benefit of the doubt. On the bases and in the field? Kinsler is the clear-cut winner. When you put this all together, what’s the answer? They really are so close, it’s hard to make the call. I could easily be persuaded either way.
So one edge for the Tigers, two for the Rangers, and a tie. Does this mean that the Rangers automatically win the trade? Not quite. The money argument is the most lopsided, in my opinion. They are similar players, after all, yet Fielder is being paid more than double what Kinsler is making.
So considering all of this, who wins the trade? I really don’t know. It is still too close to call and too early to judge. If I had to make a guess, I think this gives the Rangers a bigger immediate boost, but the Tigers will be more satisfied in the long haul. Again, I don’t feel strongly about this on either side; it’s just my prediction. What I can tell you is that a trade of this magnitude (one star for another, straight up) is very rare. Normally, it’s easier to judge the winner, but not here.
The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers have made significant trades to their roster, so these two teams will be very interesting to watch going forward.
Ben Ozur is an absolute baseball guru. He is a huge Mets, Jets, Knicks and Islanders fan whose life revolves around fantasy sports.
Duke Nails Top Prospects
By Christian Pierre-Louis
In the mere span of a few seconds Friday afternoon, Duke became the likely favorite for the 2014-15 national championship. That’s what happens when two of the five best high school players in the country announce their decision to be Blue Devils. Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones are both headed to play for Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. They chose the Blue Devils over Kansas and Baylor.
The two players always thought to be a package deal, never really wavered in that aspect of each one’s recruitment. Okafor and Jones didn’t play high school or AAU basketball on the same team, but represented USA Basketball together and became close friends from playing at elite camps and tournaments around the country. A couple of teams attempted to split them up, but it never worked. Despite various rumors to the contrary, Okafor and Jones followed through on their package deal.
Okafor, a 6-foot-11 center from Whitney Young (Ill.), is ranked No. 1 in most rankings including the 247Sports Composite, Rivals, and ESPN. He is an absolutely dominant force on the inside, and is the best back-to-the-basket player to come across the high school landscape in a very long time. He can get position on the interior, and then is able to score in a variety of ways. Okafor is also capable of passing out of double teams. He has terrific hands and is an outstanding rebounder.
Meanwhile, Jones, a 6-foot-1 point guard from Apple Valley (Minn.), is among the top five in all the major recruiting rankings. It became clear a couple of years ago that he would be the best pure point guard in the country, given his high-level basketball IQ and ability to run an offense and control tempo. Jones is a great passer with vision, but he’s also very adept at scoring in his own right. He has good range to the 3-point line and while he isn’t overly explosive, Jones can change speeds effectively.
Okafor and Jones join previous commit Grayson Allen in Duke’s 2014 recruiting class. Regardless of who stays and who goes pro from this year’s Blue Devil team, it’s certainly not a stretch to say that Duke will be the favorite heading into next season. Okafor gives them the most dominant big man in the country, while Jones is clearly one of the top point guards in the nation. Even if Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood decide to go pro, Krzyzewski will have the pieces to win a national title.
Christian Pierre-Louis is a journalism major at Seton Hall University. He is a HUGE fan of the, LA Lakers, NY Giants, and NY Yankees. He is also an assistant sports producer at Seton Hall’s radio station WSOU 89.5 FM. You can follow him on twitter at @CPL_78.
This Weekend in College Basketball
Recapping the most important news from this past weekend
By Jared Bursky
Future Stars Make Their Decision
Last Tuesday, we were able to get a glimpse of how dynamic freshmen can make an immediate impact in college basketball. We also saw extraordinary talents in Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle who represent the future of the NBA. Five ranked teams were in action Friday, including number one to be Michigan State, but that was hardly on the minds of many college basketball fans. Friday featured seismic announcements from four of the top high school basketball recruits in the country.
Committed to Duke
1. Jahlil Okafor (6-10, 265) ESPN 100 # 1
Whitney Young H.S.
Center/ Power Forward
2. Tyus Jones (6-1, 171) ESPN 100 # 4
Apple Valley, Minnesota
Apple Valley High School
Duke will be loaded next year with Okafor and Jones coming in as a package deal. They are the perfect compliments. A pass first, true point guard and a dominant low post big man along with returners mean big things for Duke next year.
Committed to Kansas
1. Cliff Alexander (6-8, 225) ESPN 100 #3
Curie High School
Illinois or Kansas? His choice was Kansas, but not before he mistakenly picked up the Illinois hat at first at his announcement. You know this one is hurting in Champagne, Illinois but for now, Kansas will plan on doing great things with Alexander.
Committed to Arizona
1. Stanley Johnson (6-6, 220) ESPN 100 #9
Mater Dei High School
Arizona got Aaron Gordon in last year’s recruiting class, now they have another stud to follow. Johnson is a great scorer and has the tools to make an immediate impact in an Arizona program that seems to be back near the top.
MSU Survives Columbia
Michigan State, coming off a huge win in Chicago against #1 Kentucky, struggled with a tricky Columbia squad for thirty-five minutes. The Spartans were able to pull away in the final minutes and finished with a 64-53 win. The fact that this game was this close is shocking.
Wisconsin Rallies against Green Bay
The Badgers overcame a seven point second half deficit to defeat Green Bay on Saturday. Green Bay junior Keifer Sykes scored a career high 32 points but it wasn’t enough against Wisconsin, who was lead by Frank Kaminsky’s 17 points.
Battle of Defense: #10 Ohio State shuts down #17 Marquette
52-35? Sounds like Peyton Manning just lead the Broncos to a win. However, Ohio State limited Marquette to 35 points due primarily to the great performance of Aaron Craft (10pts 7 reb 10ast 2stl). Marquette shot just 19% from the field in the defensive struggle.
Sunday Action (Upset City Edition)
Indiana State over #21 Notre Dame
The Sycamores had five players score in double figures as their balanced attack outlasted Notre Dame 83-70 in South Bend. Notre Dame received solid production from their starters but the bench could not contribute much as the Irish were sent to their first loss.
Belmont shocks #12 North Carolina
Another upset on the road. Belmont went into Chapel Hill and defeated the Tar Heels 83-80 on the shoulders off J.J. Mann (28 points). UNC got a terrific effort from James Michael McAdoo who had 27 points and 13 rebounds. This was one of three home losses on the day for teams in the ACC.
#7 Michigan Falls in Ames
Not that this was not an upset; Michigan is a very good team, but Iowa State does have something brewing in Ames. #7 Michigan’s Mitch McGary made his season debut Sunday but in a losing effort, as the Cyclones defeated them 77-70. Melvin Ejim led Iowa State with 22 points.
Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10
NFL Predictions Week 11
By Matthew Wieselthier
1:00 PM ET
Jets 24, Bills 13
The Jets are arguably the most surprising team this season. After being projected as one of the worst, the Jets are in playoff contention, and there is one big reason why. The “Sons of Anarchy.” The defensive line for the Jets, comprised of Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, and Sheldon Richardson, has tortured quarterbacks and offensives in general with the pressure they’ve put on QBs. The offense should also get a lot stronger this week with WR Santonio Holmes and TEs Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow returning from injuries (suspension for Winslow).
Buccaneers 28, Falcons 24
The Buccaneers may have looked bad most of the year, but the past few weeks, they have started to look like a decent team. The Falcons, on the other hand, are the most disappointing team this season, going from Super Bowl favorites to the favorites for a top 5 draft pick. The Buccaneers have looked like a good team since Mike Glennon took over at QB. The one thing they needed was a W. They got that last Monday versus the Dolphins, and the momentum should continue into this week.
Lions 31, Steelers 16
The Lions have looked very strong the past few weeks. We can say this over and over again. Matthew Stafford has looked very strong, a big thanks to WR Calvin Johnson. The Lions new two-headed rushing attack of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell has been stellar. If anything goes wrong with the Lions offense against the tough Steelers defense, the terrible Steelers offense should help them out. There has been no running game from the Steelers and QB Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t looked great either. The Lions should have ease in taking this game.
Eagles 34, Redskins 31
The Eagles are on a nice hot streak. Nick Foles has looked great in the past few weeks and so has LeSean McCoy in the running game. Meanwhile, the Redskins are exactly where they were last year. 3-6 last season, the Redskins racked up a 7 game winning streak to win the NFC East title. The Redskins are once again 3-6 and things are once again looking gloom. A miracle happens once, not twice, and not this year.
Cardinals 28, Jaguars 14
The Cardinals are another team in the running for most surprising team this season. Their most surprising player is RB Andre Ellington, who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry, is still sharing time with Rashard Mendenhall, but still taking advantage of his time and showing why he deserves to be seriously considered as a decent RB in the league. The Jaguars are still one of the worst teams in the NFL despite upsetting the Titans last week. Don’t expect that fact to change against a tough NFC opponent.
Texans 37, Raiders 17
Isn’t it about time that Case Keenum got his first victory as a starting QB in the NFL? He has played fantastic since getting the job, holding a 105.1 passer rating and throwing 7 TDs with no interceptions. The Raiders have their own QB issues. Starting QB Terrelle Pryor is out with a knee injury, prompting the first start in the career of Matt McGloin. This is a very interesting matchup of previously undrafted QBs starting against one another.
Bears 23, Ravens 10
The Bears have a nice situation in which they can trust their backup QB when Jay Cutler gets injured. Josh McCown has been quite successful this year, throwing for a 60% completion percentage and a 103.2 passer rating. The Ravens still don’t look that great and against a tough Bears defense, that fact shouldn’t change.
Browns 27, Bengals 23
The Browns haven’t played two games against the Bengals in a season since 2002. That fact may change with the way both teams have been performing recently. Since putting on an offensive show versus the Jets in Week 8, the Bengals have dropped two straight games against teams they should have dominated (Dolphins and Ravens). Now they play another division rival and need things to change before their bye week with a struggling Andy Dalton. The Browns have a chance to shock everyone with a win this week. They are in second place in the AFC North and have a chance to be one game back after this week. QB Jason Campbell has been very successful since taking over in the Cleveland QB debacle.
4:00 PM ET
Chargers 32, Dolphins 17
The Chargers are another team on the rise and surprise this season. QB Philip Rivers is having a comeback season with 18 TDs to 7 interceptions and a 105.9 passer rating and looking like the Rivers of old back when the Chargers were a regular playoff favorite. The Dolphins also looked like they were on the rise until they lost to the previously winless Buccaneers on Monday Night, not even showing up in the first half and looking dreadful all night.
Giants 24, Packers 13
The Giants may be the luckiest team in the league at the moment. After starting off 0-6, the Giants have taken down 3 straight either bad or injury riddled teams. This week, they get another injured and limping team with the Cheese heads. The Packers not only lost QB Aaron Rodgers, they lost their backup QB Seneca Wallace to injury last week. Scott Tolzein is making his first career start and he won’t have the Packers best check down target/tight end Jermichael Finley, who had spinal fusion surgery since being put on the IR, possibly ending his career. The Giants are getting very lucky. Don’t expect that to last much longer though.
Seattle 38, Vikings 14
The Seahawks were looking like they were on the decline, playing close games against not great opponents, headlined by having to squeak out an OT win versus the Buccaneers. They finally came back last week in an absolute destruction of the upsetting Falcons. Expect that to continue because the Seahawks are a top team with a top defense and a solid offensive attack against a horrible Vikings team who have not much upside.
49ers 27, Saints 25
The 49ers are very strong and arguably still underrated after losing such a tight game against the Panthers last week. QB Colin Kaepernick is back to being a top QB after a weak start to the season. The defense is also very strong, as shown last week when they held a strong Panthers offense to only 10 points. The Saints are very strong too, but tough defenses haven’t had that much trouble in stopping them. That fact should stay the same this week.
8:30 PM ET
Broncos 20, Chiefs 14
The two top teams in the NFL going against each other on Sunday Night. What more can anyone ask for? The Chiefs and their top defense in the NFL are going face to face with the Broncos’ top offense. The Chiefs are arguably the worst 9-0 team ever, that being that they haven’t played anyone with a winning record. But at the same time, the Broncos have only played one team with a winning record in their only loss of the season to the Colts. Peyton Manning is still the best QB in the league and that should propel the Broncos to victory in this AFC West showdown.
8:30 PM ET
Panthers 35, Patriots 24
The Panthers are arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now. They have the 2nd best defense and their offense is just getting better and better. The Patriots are still the walking wounded on the defensive side and Tom Brady has looked awful this entire season. Don’t bet against the hot streak. Carolina should be able to bring home the W in this week ending primetime showdown.
Matthew Wieselthier is the Sports Director at WPOB 88.5 FM, Plainview. He is also the PA announcer at all sporting events at POBJFKHS. You can follow him on twitter at @wieselsports66.