This week’s takes on March Madness, NFL cellar-dwellers, and the underrated.
Q1: What’s your one bold prediction for the NCAA basketball tournament?
Brendan: The Virginia Cavaliers will be this year’s champions. There are two reasons for this prediction, one that involves rational reasoning and another that is less conventional. The former is that in three of the last five years, the overall number one seed, which the Cavaliers are, has been able to advance to the Final Four. In fact, the Cavaliers’ conference, the Atlantic Coastal, has sent a team to each of the last three Final Fours, so odds are they will be this year's representative. The second reason is that Virginia uses a starting lineup devoid of freshmen and players garnering interest from professional scouts, which can hinder focus. Thus, this team should be all in for cutting down the nets in San Antonio.
Grayson: Michigan is going all the way. Their toughest game would be against the UNC Tar Heels on March 22, and unless they come up against an Xavier team that is playing better than they ever have before, Michigan has a survivable path to the final four. They’re also a team that’s been underestimated because of their coming out of the Big Ten conference, which may play to their advantage. If nothing else, after 18 years without a title, that conference is due, and Michigan is the team to do it.
Q2: Which NFL team will have more wins next year: The Cleveland Browns or the Seattle Seahawks?
Brendan: From a pure confidence standpoint, Seattle’s reputation as a credible organization is why it is likely they will win more than the beleaguered Browns next season. However, both teams are currently trending in opposite directions, which makes the question all the more enticing. Seattle has lost receivers in Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson to free agency, as well as former playmakers Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett, whereas the Browns have acquired talent at the skilled positions on offence and in the secondary of their defence. Further, the Browns have the luxury of lottery picks in the upcoming draft so they could surpass the Seahawks on the level of talent this off-season.
Grayson: Cleveland. Their offseason moves and their potentially huge draft this year have already brought them well up from where they stood at the end of the season. Having lost a number of games late, or in overtime, by just a few points last season, the additions and the consistency that they’ll bring with them will put them ahead of a Seahawks team that seems to be breaking itself down in preparation for the rebuilding stages that we didn’t think would come until after Russell Wilson moved on.
Q3: Who is the most underrated athlete at the moment?
Brendan: Evgeni Malkin. He is a three-time Stanley Champion who, as of this writing, is second in points (89) and third in goals (40) playing for a team seeking their third straight championship. Nevertheless, he continues to remain an afterthought even on his own team because of the attention gathered by his teammate Sidney Crosby. For the record, both of them have played in the same number of All-stars games, so even if Malkin continues to play the role of Scottie Pippen on the ice, the limited recognition is questionable.
Grayson: Jonas Valanciunas. With the Raptors being one of the best teams in the NBA this season, and in a position to make an extended run into the playoffs, DeRozan and Lowry are getting a huge amount of attention. Valanciunas, though, still seems to be seen as a developing player, despite averaging almost a double-double this season. He’s a big man who can shoot and who is a more consistent scorer and rebounder than nearly anyone else on the Toronto roster.