2018 FIFA World Cup – Group G Primer

With the World Cup right around the corner, it’s about time to start priming one of the World Cup’s strongest (and VERY top-heavy) groups, Group G. With Belgium, England, Tunisia, and Panama, who’s the heavy favorite? We’ll rank them top to bottom and give you the tournament odds, starting now!

Belgium

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Belgium. Four years ago, they were the “up-and-coming, dark horse” team. Now, they’re one of the favorites. Back in 2014, Belgium’s odds were about 16-to-1, but now, up to 11-to-1 as one of the favorites to potentially make noise and go all the way. What makes Belgium so special? Well, that’s a question that’s pretty, pretty easy to answer.

This Belgium side has been named the “golden generation” by many analysts, with incredible talent from top-to-bottom. In net, one of the world’s most talented goaltenders in Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois on top of a defensive core lead by Man City’s Vincent Kompany. Elsewhere? Just world class talent in Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Man U), need I go on? This Belgium team may be the most talented side in the tournament. Expect Belgium to run through the competition and play England very strong, likely winning their group.

 

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): -140

England

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This England roster is stocked with speed and skill, but can they get over the hump and get deep in a tournament for the first time in over a decade? At this point, from what we’ve seen, there’s potential. Definitely potential. If we know one thing about England football, it’s almost always “potential”, but will that potential finally get put to good use? Let’s find out.

Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, and the gang are looking for vengeance. English football in general has been disappointing recently, and with this influx of tremendous youth, things are looking up. Who’s going to get the nod in net? Between 24 year old Jordan Pickford, 25 year old Jack Butland, or 26 year old Nick Pope, international experience will be a bit lacking. The English team’s decided to go with the youth rather than 75-cap Joe Hart, a semi surprising move to some. This shows the direction that the English squad’s looking to go in, with 2018 being the start of what is hopefully a long-term dynasty. With all the talent on this roster, plan for England to waltz into the Knockout Stage and prepare themselves for some real fun.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +120

Tunisia

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We go from Belgium and England, two of the contenders of the World Cup… to Tunisia. Tunisia’s ranked 21st in FIFA’s rankings thus far, and with a 12-year absence since their last appearance in the World Cup, the Tunisians are looking to make some noise and shock the world.

A large amount of Tunisia’s roster plays in France currently, lead by players such as Vice-Captain Wahbi Khazri of Rennes/Sunderland. Tunisia’s been in good form recently, dropping just one game in a recent friendly against Spain, otherwise defeating teams like Costa Rica, Iran, Egypt in the past year to show that they’re not just a Group G pushover. This Tunisia team’s one of the dark horses of the tournament, and while they’ve got some brutal odds, there’s certainly potential that Tunisia makes it interesting and puts up a few points to keep the English on their toes. With only one win in the World Cup since 1978, every game will likely be tough, but we’ve seen crazier things happen.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +2200

Panama

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If we’re talking absolute dark horses, Panama’s the darkest horse you can find. For fans of the MLS, Panama’s one of the few teams stocked with players playing in the MLS right now, with recognizable names such as Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes) and Román Torres (Seattle Sounders) leading the way with dozens of caps.

Panama’s got one of the oldest squads at the World Cup and in their first World Cup appearance in the history of their national team, this is more about “the experience” than anything for the Panamanians. Will Gabriel Torres, Blas Pérez, and Luis Tejada be able to break up and score at all? With a known “defense first, offense second” scheme, chances are there’s going to be a ton of bus parking and a lot of attempts to counter attack up the field. All in all, expect Panama to get handled by Belgium and England and potentially compete with Tunisia in what could potentially decide who the bottom-feeder of the World Cup is.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +4000

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2018 FIFA World Cup – Group A Primer

The World Cup is upon us! After a few long years of waiting, the best tournament in soccer is here, and Group A is looking to be one of the most wide open groups in recent history. Starting with the favorites, ending with the dark horses, here is the Pro Sports Fandom 2018 World Cup Group A Primer!

Uruguay

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Uruguay is easily the favorite out of this group, for more reasons than one. Uruguay’s a two time World Cup Champion, albeit in 1930 and 1950, showing off the best pedigree in the group. With a fourth place finish in 2010 and a Round of 16 finish in 2014, Uruguay’s likely going to make it out of the group stage fairly easily. Can they make noise?

Well, maybe? Chances are Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani’s ability to attack, attack, attack will help a generally young team around them. Of the midfielders on the Uruguay side, just one of them has more than 36 caps, with multiple members of the team still in single digits in terms of international games. With Suarez, Cavani, and Diego Godin all leading the way with a good bit of talent, maybe there’s a chance that Uruguay makes a run. At the very least, they should waltz through the competition within Group A.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): -110

Russia

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Russia’s a very interesting team. Russia didn’t have to go through qualifying to qualify as the host nation, and if they did, maybe things would be a bit different. Alas, as the home nation in a group that’s not convincingly strong, we could see them certainly pound out a few victories. Will they go deep in the tournament? Let’s find out.

Chances are this Russia World Cup team will be short lived, but they shouldn’t have too much trouble getting out of the group stage, lead by Fyodor Smolov, Artem Dzyuba, Yuri Zhirkov, all of whom play in Russia. Igor Akinfeev is Russia’s long time goaltender, with 106 caps, along with Sergei Ignashevich likely giving it one more go at age 38 after 122 caps. Russia’s got the strongest all-around roster in terms of veteran leadership in the group outside of Uruguay, and with home country, they should likely make it past the group stage.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +160

Egypt

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Egypt is a dark horse in the group, for more reasons than one. First things first, superstar Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) is coming off an upper body injury sustained in the Champions League final. That doesn’t bode well, as if Salah can’t play, chances are Egypt’s going to struggle to score. Salah has 57 caps internationally, with 33 goals to his name. Combine the rest of Egypt’s goals internationally… 32. So, Salah’s extremely important to the roster as the main playmaker and scorer.

Other players you may recognize? Ahmed Hegazi from West Brom and Mohamed Elneny from Arsenal will likely have large roles in Egypt’s World Cup run, as well as 45 year old goaltender Essam El Hadary who’s slotted in to be the goaltender for one more run. Egypt hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since 1990 and have yet to win a game in World Cup history, but there may be hope for them yet to pull out a win or two and MAYBE sneak through past the Group Stage.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +500

Saudi Arabia

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The Saudi Arabian side for the World Cup is not exactly an exciting one, lead by Levante’s Fahad Al-Muwallad of Levante and Mohammad Al-Sahlawi of Al-Nassr. Both of these players are good, hard-working players even compared to other, much more dominant countries, so we could see a bit of firepower out of this Saudi Arabia side who’s got the worst odds to win their group of anyone in this tournament.

Simply put, there’ll have to be a lot going right for Saudi Arabia to make it past the group stage. They’ve won two games in their World Cup history, both in 1994, and since have been dominated, being outscored 26-4 over 9 games since 1998. Could this year be different for Saudi Arabia? Likely not, but if you’re looking to put a bet on a dark horse to potentially sneak out of their group, throwing down a few dollars may not be the worst idea you’ve had.

Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +4000

Group A Players To Watch

  • Mohamed Salah (Liverpool, playing with Egypt)
  • Luis Suarez (Barcelona, playing with Uruguay)
  • Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain, playing with Uruguay)
  • Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al-Nassr, playing with Saudi Arabia)
  • Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow, playing with Russia)

Group A Fixture Schedule (EST Time Zone)

  • Russia v Saudi Arabia, THU 6/14 @ 11 AM
  • Egypt v Uruguay, FRI 6/15 @ 8 AM
  • Russia v Egypt, TUE 6/19 @ 2 PM
  • Uruguay v Saudi Arabia, WED 6/20 @ 11 AM
  • Saudi Arabia v Egypt, MON 6/25 @ 10 AM
  • Uruguay v Russia, Mon 6/25 @ 10 AM

You can find me @DonnyOnTheHorn on Twitter, shoot me a follow!

2018 NHL Playoff Predictions

The NHL playoffs are FINALLY here, and we’ve got some absolutely incredible matchups. Who’s going to win what series? What team’s got the best chances to go to the Cup? Will the Penguins 3-Peat? We here at PSF have got you covered. Without further ado, the 2018 NHL Playoff Predictions.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic #1 Tampa Bay Lightning vs Wild Card #2 New Jersey Devils

If I’m at all spot on with my analysis on any series, this one will likely be it. The Devils slipped into the playoffs by one point and have been riding a hot goaltender in backup Keith Kinkaid into the playoffs. If they hadn’t gone 7-2-1 down the stretch, they likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs to begin with. While they’re being carried by a likely Hart Trophy finalist in Taylor Hall, I don’t think the team around Hall will be able to pick up the slack whatsoever, which leaves them in a tough position against a high flying Tampa Bay Lightning roster.

Now, onto the Lightning. This is an incredibly well put together roster, ending up with the top record in the entire Eastern Conference. This comes with many, many reasons. The Lightning have six 20-goal scorers on their roster, including Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, both of whom ended up over a point-per-game during the season. On the back end, they have Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Anton Stralman, and Mikhail Sergachev, all of whom are incredibly talented assets who all have two-way abilities and can shut down the opposing team when asked. That’s a scary sight for any opponent. Then, counter in the fact that goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy put up a .920 save percentage this season… oh boy.

So, the prediction. I’ll take the Lightning in 5, although I wouldn’t really be surprised to see the series go 6 with how often home games are won. I’d guess that the Lightning don’t have many issues with the Devils, with just sheer firepower and team ability having a major gap in this series.

Atlantic #2 Boston Bruins vs Atlantic #3 Toronto Maple Leafs

The rivalry continues, and boy, oh boy… this is going to be incredible. The Bruins ended up just one point behind the Lightning for the top record in the East and their punishment was to face one of their biggest rivals in the Maple Leafs. This series may be the toughest to pick, for a multitude of reasons.

First things first, goal scoring should be at a premium in this series. Not because either goaltender is bad, but because both offenses are super fluid and both teams produce at a crazy high level. The Bruins have one of the best top-lines in hockey, with three 30-goal scorers in Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Patrice Bergeron. That in itself is scary, almost guaranteeing that the Bruins top line will score on you at least once, maybe more. Throw in talented players like David Krejci, Danton Heinen, Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, and Ryan Donato… that’s a hell of a lineup.

The Leafs are no slouch either. The top three point-getters on this team are aged 20 (Mitch Marner), 20 (Auston Matthews), and 21 (William Nylander). These three studs are are all incredible talents and are super, super hard to contain, making this a task for the top line of the Bruins who may be more concerned in stopping the high-powered offense that the Leafs are known for. With guys like James Van Riemsdyk, Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, Patrick Marleau, and Nazem Kadri behind the three young guns, we could see a series here with an incredible amount of scoring chances created, and that takes us to the goaltending.

Goaltending may end up making the difference in this series. Which goaltender can make the big saves? With Frederik Andersen of the Maple Leafs at a .918 save percentage and Tuukka Rask of the Bruins at a .917 save percentage, we’ll really have to see who the star of the series is. Both of these goaltenders are known for being rock solid and consistent, and both make crazy saves on a pretty game-by-game basis,

Picking a winner is easier said than done, and the old adage “you’re not in trouble until you lose at home” may end up being key for this series. With two evenly matched teams, the Bruins having home ice advantage may sway the series, so I’ll take the Bruins in 7, winning a nail-biter at TD Garden in front of the sold out crowd of 17,565.

Metro #1 Washington Capitals vs Wild Card #1 Columbus Blue Jackets

The curse of Washington looks to be broken for yet another year, with the Capitals facing off against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

In my eyes, there’s a clear winner of this series. Not knocking the Blue Jackets, but having to face against the league leading goal scorer with a goaltender who’s usually not great in the playoffs is a scary thought. CBJ’s Sergei Bobrovsky has had some issues in the playoffs throughout his career, posting an .882 SV% last year, a .908 SV% in 2013-14, and an .877 SV% in 2010-11. While this could change easily with how good Bobrovsky is as a goaltender, I’d say the chances are he may struggle a bit.

This series will come down to the star-power, and both teams have players who’ve been in the playoffs before and can lead by example. The Capitals have Alex Ovechkin, who’s the league’s leading scorer yet again, on top of Nick Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, TJ Oshie, star goaltender Braden Holtby, and Norris-contender John Carlson. Compare that to the Blue Jackets having Artemi Panarin, Cam Atkinson, Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, and stud rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois. Edge… Capitals.

Personally, I’ll take the Capitals in 6. I just feel like this Columbus team is still a step or two behind the top dogs in the conference and Alex Ovechkin is hungrier than ever to finally get the monkey off his back and make a deep run into the playoffs. Either of Braden Holtby and Sergei Bobrovsky can steal a game with their stellar goaltending ability, but I feel as if the Capitals are much more built for a series and they should win.

Metro #2 Pittsburgh Penguins vs Metro #3 Philadelphia Flyers

As the previous tweet says… buckle up. This is going to be a hard-fought, nasty series between on of the best rivalries in hockey. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews on this series, but it seems like the consensus has the Penguins winning this series easily… I’ll tell you why that’s wrong.

The Penguins SHOULD win this series. Let’s face it, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist, Kris Letang, and more studs from top-to-bottom, this Penguins team should be a strong bet to make the Conference Finals again. The one area that scares me about the Penguins more than anything is goaltending. Matt Murray’s finally shown weakness and posted just a .907 save percentage in the regular season, and as a goaltender commonly referenced to have a weak glove hand, that’s not a good sign against the Flyers.

The Flyers have a tremendously high powered offense, lead by Hart Trophy candidate Claude Giroux. The beauty of this Flyers team is their depth. The Flyers had 11 players who scored 10 goals this season, including five over 20 goals. That should frighten Penguins fans, especially with players like Sean Couturier, Jakub Voracek, Travis Konecny, and Wayne Simmonds all able to grind out close to the net and get into the dirty areas to score. This will be a nasty series on the back end too, and Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere have shown to be two of the best young two-way defensemen in the NHL. Could the Flyers provide an upset for the ages of the reigning Stanley Cup Champion Penguins?

This series will likely go seven. The realistic, “crowd-sourced” opinion would likely tell you that the Penguins will win in 5 or 6, but I’ll go with the Penguins in 7. Home ice is huge in the playoffs. Having that crowd behind you can make all the difference. Both arenas are known for being generally tough to play in and both fanbases are extremely supportive and strong. This should be one for the record books.

Western Conference

Central #1 Nashville Predators vs Wild Card #2 Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche have made an incredible run from worst-in-the-NHL to a playoff team, lead by my Hart Trophy pick Nathan MacKinnon. What a shame that they’ve run into the reigning conference champions and current best team in the league in the Nashville Predators. Can the Avalanche pull off an upset? That remains to be seen.

Before getting into things, I will say this… the Avalanche have a better shot at winning this series than any other wild card team does, in my eyes. This is a team with an incredible passion and excitement, running on fumes to get to this point as is… and they don’t want to be done just yet. This is the Nathan MacKinnon show. He is an absolutely electric hockey player who has benefitted on having a bigger role with the mid-season departure of Matt Duchene, and he’ll look to ride that into the sunset and bring some playoff wins back to Colorado. With Mikko Rantanen, Tyson Barrie, and Gabriel Landeskog all having tremendous years around him, this Avalanche team is not as deep as most playoff teams, but they’re as talented up top as most if not all.

Now, the Predators. I like it, I love it, I want some more of it. That’s a fact. This Predators team is fun to watch, skilled, exciting, and just overall an extremely talented bunch. With just 29 losses all season, including only 18 in regulation, this Predators team is TOUGH to beat. This team doesn’t have many high powered scorers, but what they do have is 13 10-goal scorers. Talk about depth. Lead by Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Forsberg, P.K. Subban, and Roman Josi, this Predators team is extremely defensively sound as well. They’ve helped their goaltender Pekka Rinne have a career year, with a .927 save percentage and potentially a Vezina going his way. With that scoring depth and incredible defensive play, I find it’s going to be hard to pick against the Predators. For that reason, I’ll take the Predators in a very hard-fought six games.

Central #2 Winnipeg Jets vs Central #3 Minnesota Wild

This will be the shortest series of them all. I’m pretty convinced on that one. As much as I’d love to see a hard fought seven game series, I think that’s unlikely. Sad to say, but the truth may hurt.

Winnipeg! Back at it again in the playoffs with the white out crowd, and this season you have something to be thrilled about! 114 point season, 52 wins, one of the most high powered offenses in the NHL… can the Jets make a run? 110%, they can. Patrik Laine is a beast. Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler are STARS. Kyle Connor’s turning into something extremely special. Dustin Byfuglien’s one of the scariest defensemen in the league. Oh, right, and Connor Hellebuyck with a .924 save percentage… oh boy, Minnesota, you’re in for one.

Now, the Wild. This Wild team has a lot of tier-2 talent, but outside of guys like Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund, can someone who’s a bit less prominent pick up the slack? We know Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba can all play at a high level, but with Ryan Suter missing the entire postseason with surgery, will they be able to get over the hump and really figure it out? Devan Dubnyk’s had another good year with a .918 save percentage, but can the Wild match the Jets speed and skill?

The answer to that is probably not. The Jets should win this series in 5. Maybe 6. I don’t see any way it goes over 6, unless the Wild get random production from guys like Jared Spurgeon and the oft-injured Zach Parise. Winnipeg should win this series.

Pacific #1 Vegas Golden Knights vs Wild Card #1 Los Angeles Kings

The Kings are probably thrilled about this matchup, but should they be? Long story short, no. Not one bit.

Vegas has shown the entire hockey world that they are absolutely, positively for real. This team of ragtag misfits who were all abandoned by their teams in the expansion draft have come together and had one of the most incredible seasons of any team in professional sports, breaking records along the way. This team is no joke. William Karlsson scored 43, yes, 43 times this season en route to an almost point-per-game season. Jonathan Marchessault had 75 points in 77 games. Even afterthought David Perron put up 66 points in 70 games, all thanks to incredible coaching from Gerard Gallant. Veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury put up a .927 save percentage on the year, just furthering the idea that Vegas is for real.

Now, the Kings are a playoff team. We all know that’s the case. We’ve seen them take wild card teams on runs and win the entire Stanley Cup within the last few years… but can they do it this year? Anze Kopitar’s been incredible, with 92 points on the season. Drew Doughty put up 60, right below Dustin Brown’s career resurgence with 28 goals and 33 assists (61 points). This series will go straight down to Jonathan Quick’s ability to steal a game. Quick’s known to be an acrobatic, “different” goalie. He was one of the best this season, but the need for him to be sharp is extremely, extremely prevalent if the Kings plan on making a run.

The Vegas Golden Knights will win this series in 6. It’s a cinderella story. It’s something you can’t really put your finger on how this happened, but you don’t want it to stop. I certainly don’t want to see it end here. Vegas in 6.

Pacific #2 Anaheim Ducks vs Pacific #3 San Jose Sharks

This series really just screams “meh” at me. I’m not excited yet, but I’m sure that’ll change when they get on the ice and get physical, as you’d expect a series between these two teams would.

Anaheim. What can you say about the Ducks other than that it’s kind of surprising they’re getting home ice in the playoffs after so many close games all season. Having that experience winning tight games will help a ton come playoff time, and you’ll need experience against the extremely experienced Sharks. The Ducks have a new scoring leader in Rickard Rakell, with the usual suspects in Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry behind him. Can John Gibson (potentially Ryan Miller if Gibson’s injury is serious) buckle down and stop the Sharks offensive firepower?

The answer is yes, but it won’t be easy. This Sharks team has the efficiency thing down pat, with several players shooting over 13% on the season, including Logan Couture and Joe Thornton. With Brent Burns always willing to throw pucks on the net and generate the rebounds in tight, I think the Sharks are a formidable opponent for the Ducks tight style of hockey.

Who wins? I’ll take the Anaheim Ducks in seven games in this showdown of California’s finest teams, simply because I feel as if John Gibson is going to outplay Martin Jones and help steal a few games for the Ducks. The scoring should likely be even, but I’ll give the Ducks the nod defensively and in net.

Rest Of The Way

Here’s how my bracket fills out the rest of the way…

2nd Round:

Nashville over Winnipeg in 7

Vegas over Anaheim in 6

Tampa Bay over Boston in 7

Washington over Pittsburgh in 6

 

Conference Finals:

Nashville over Vegas in 5

Tampa Bay over Washington in 6

 

Stanley Cup Finals:

Tampa Bay over Nashville in 7

 

Bracket Breakdown – Midwest

With the seeding for March Madness just announced, we here at PSF have decided to do our due diligence and break down each segment of the bracket for you down to a science for you, highlighting some of the key matchups and teams you should expect to make moves. Without further ado, here we are.

Favorite: #1 Kansas

The favorite absolutely, positively has to be Kansas. While we are surprised Kansas landed as a the 1 seed in the Midwest, it’s very well deserves. Kansas defeated #7 Kentucky, #18 Texas Tech, #17 TCU, and a WVU team three times, ranked #6, #20, and #18 all at times of their victories. Lead by Devonte’ Graham and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, this Kansas team has firepower. Five players scoring 12 points per game or more can end up dangerous in the tournament and I feel as if Kansas has the best shot to win their bracket.

Under-seeded Team: #9 NC State

NC State defeated #2 Arizona, #2 Duke, #10 North Carolina, #19 Clemson, #25 FSU and landed a 9 seed. In one of the toughest, if not the toughest conferences in college basketball, NC State beat three of the top four teams. They got a NINE seed. NC State’s pedigree is tremendous, lead by Omer Yurtseven who could very well terrorize teams who can’t hang with a big like him, measuring in at a LARGE 7’0″ 245 pounds. The Wolfpack get Seton Hall in the round of 64, which should turn out to be a tremendous matchup.

Over-seeded Team: #6 TCU

TCU’s 2-7 record against ranked teams doesn’t make them worth a 6 seed, frankly, I’m surprised they even got a top 8 seed at that. TCU’s schedule was front loaded with gimme-wins, making them look better than the mediocrity they actually are. 9-9 conference record in a pretty top-heavy conference doesn’t do their case much justice, and I feel as if they’ll be on upset watch as soon as they get going.

Upset Alert: #2 Duke

I could’ve put TCU again, but that would’ve simply been too easy. Duke has unranked losses, including losses to Virginia Tech, NC State, Boston College, and St. John’s, and Duke’s had some first round losses recently, losing to Mercer in 2014 and Lehigh in 2012. Duke lost in the second round to a mediocre South Carolina team last year, so we’ll put Duke on upset alert and see if they can stumble past Iona.

Cinderella: #12 New Mexico State

28-5 New Mexico State can make some noise, lead by their stars Zach Lofton and Jemerrio Jones. Lofton’s one of the premier scorers in the tournament and as a senior will be looking to make magic, using his experience to the best of his ability. Jemerrio Jones ranked second in the country rebounding the ball and that’s as a 6’5, 200 pound forward. This team can make moves and beat Clemson and maybe put together a Cinderella season.

Best Player: Marvin Bagley, Duke

Marvin Bagley’s one of the top players in the country right now, so he’ll definitely fall in line as one of the premier players in the tournament and the best in the Midwest. Bagley’s projected to go top 3 in the NBA Draft and for good reason. With 21.1 points per game, 11.5 rebounds per game, and a .605 FG%, he’s likely going to be one of the main reasons Duke gets far if they do get past upset watch against teams like Iona, Oklahoma, and URI. Bagley’s a star.

Best Coach: Mike Krzyzewski, Duke

Coach K is a great coach, one of the best ever to do it, so he gets the nod as best coach. Bill Self was a close second, but Coach K’s ability to coach anyone and constantly have competitive teams even when other major programs fall off is tremendous.

Expert Pick: Kansas

Kansas is capable of winning the entire tournament. Simple as that. This tam is extremely efficient scoring, spreads the ball around, and is extremely well coached. If anyone’s got odds to win this bracket, it’s Kansas.

 

Giants Turn Spineless, Bench Eli Manning

Geno Smith is a career 12-18 QB with a completion percentage under 58% and more interceptions than touchdowns. This is the man that will be leading the New York football Giants, one of the most storied franchises in ALL OF SPORTS, in a football game. Now, you may ask… “Is Eli Manning hurt? Did Eli Manning retire?”

The answer to that question is no. Cold, hard no. Eli Manning has essentially been benched, although the media is calling it a “mutual decision” of sorts. If you watched Eli Manning’s press conference after this announcement, well, it’s not mutual. There is nothing MUTUAL about it. Eli Manning wants to play. Eli Manning wants to win. Eli Manning wants to be Eli Manning on Sunday afternoon like he has 200 times before.

eli

So, what happened? Well, I’ll tell you. The Giants management is spineless. The Giants coaching staff is spineless. Ben McAdoo is spineless. The lack of respect for a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback who has given over a decade of his life grinding it out for the G-Men is astonishing. Not only is Eli Manning a franchise quarterback, he’s been the face of a team with some of the largest media scrutiny in sports for over a decade and done it gracefully, proud to be the one who takes the blame for the 100 losses he’s been a part of in the regular season.

In reality, has Eli Manning been the problem? Most people would tell you he’s the only constant the Giants have had over the last decade+. After Tom Coughlin was fired, the most recognizable member of the Giants was Eli. The sad truth is this has been one of Eli’s better seasons for the circumstances. Eli’s interception percentage is far lower than his career rate and will go down as his lowest in his career in a season. His 1.8% is lower than Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Derek Carr, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, and Joe Flacco.

Essentially, Ben McAdoo is scapegoating Eli Manning as the “reason for failure”, which is not only ridiculous but just plain foolish. Linda Cohn said it best when she tweeted “deer in headlights coach” because in reality, McAdoo can’t admit he’s the problem. Instead, his decision and the ownership’s inability to stand up and end the madness left a man who’s made 210 starts in a row near tears in a press conference directly after the announcement was made.

Listen to Mike Francesa talk about the situation. Usually, his takes are too hot for words. This time… purely money.

Where do the Giants go from here? Let me tell you… if this is Eli Manning’s final start as the Giants franchise quarterback, his legacy will not be tarnished a single bit. In reality, at 36, he’s probably considering retirement. As Giants fans, we all pictured Eli Manning going out on top as a Superbowl champion for the third time. We all figured this was the year that Eli would go out, throwing to Marshall, Beckham Jr., Shepard, Engram, and the gang, leading them to the promised land. Sadly, that’s not an option and probably will never be an option again.

John Mara is ruining his legacy every minute he allows Ben McAdoo to run the show. John Mara is ruining his legacy every minute he allows Jerry Reese to run the show. John Mara is ruining his legacy every minute he’s not being a part of the every day operations, leaving it to two incompetent, moronic men who have brought a Superbowl contender with a legendary quarterback and stripped them down to a competitor for the first overall pick.

Then, there is Eli Manning, being as gracious and loyal as he has been his entire career since day number one. Thank you for what you’ve done for the Giants Eli, and if it’s over, what a ride it’s been.