College Basketball 2016-2017 Season Preview

By Jack Shapiro ’19

College basketball has officially tipped off with many teams looking for a strong and winning season. Many new players will add lots of talent to the veteran teams that look to compete in this year’s tournament.

Last year, Villanova ended the season as the NCAA National Champions with North Carolina as the runner up while Syracuse and Oklahoma made it to the final four.

The Duke Blue Devils are favorites in the ACC conference. Duke has many young athletes that are stepping onto the court this season including Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, who are in the top three of ESPN’s 100 rating. The Blue Devils also have junior guard Grayson Allen who is the projected conference and player of the year according to Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is leading the team with five NCAA Championships and 13 ACC Championships. The Blue Devils appear to be the team to beat in the ACC.

Along with Duke, the Kansas Jayhawks are also expected to have big success this year. As the projected Big 12 Champions, the Jayhawks have a strong backcourt with newcomer Josh Jackson, who is the number two ranked, recruit looking to have a breakout season. Senior guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham along with sophomore forward Carlton Bragg will be accounting for most of the Jayhawks scoring this year. Head coach Bill Self is looking to lead the Jayhawks to his thirteenth straight Big 12 regular season championships, as well as another number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Calipari are looking forward to an impressive season. According to ESPN’s 100 rating, the Wildcats signed  five of the nation’s top 25 high school players. Along with Kentucky’s commits, they will have four freshman and two sophomores on their roster. On Kentucky’s roster, the Wildcats have four freshman and two sophomore on this year’s roster. As stated by, Sports Illustrated, Kentucky’s guard Malik Monk is projected to be both the SEC’s player of the year and Newcomer of the Year. Last season, Kentucky defeated Texas A&M in the SEC Championship but lost to Indiana in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.

In the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats look to be top of their conference this year. The Ducks are coming off an amazing and surprising season as the former Pac-12 Champions and runner ups of the west division in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Last year Arizona fell in the Pac-12 Championship semifinals to Utah. Arizona lost to Wichita State in the first round of last year’s March Madness.

This year the Ducks look to stay on top. With a veteran group of players and a new freshman point guard, Oregon looks as if they have a bright future. Dillon Brooks, the Ducks top players is coming off a summer of rest due to a foot injury.

Arizona is looking to bounce back after an off-season. Although the Wildcats lost three of their starters, coach Sean Miller made up for that by signing two top 25 high school players Kobi Simmons a guard and Rawle Alkins at forward. Arizona’s future looks bright but they face tough competition with in-conference games against the UCLA Bruins and the aforementioned Ducks.

The Big Ten will have a battle for first place as the Wisconsin Badgers are highly ranked this year with the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ who are all veterans from last year’s team. Although the Badgers were upset early in the Big Ten Tournament, they still advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s March Madness. This season Wisconsin will have lots of competition between Purdue and Indiana.

The Purdue Boilermakers may give Wisconsin a run for their money. Although coach Matt Painter was unable to sign a top 50 recruit, the team has a large veteran class including juniors P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards who will be recording most of Purdue’s minutes. Last season the Boilermakers were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Little Rock.

Indiana is also making a strong case to win this year’s Big Ten conference. After losing star point guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers will have to find a new point guard. Coach Tom Crean will be in good hands with a strong offensive squad including James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson at the guard position and Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby in the post. Indiana finished last year’s NCAA Tournament strong after upsetting Kentucky and going on to the Sweet Sixteen.

This year there are many strong teams that will competing against one another. Both Kentucky and Duke look as the leading teams in basketball with many others trailing behind them. Teams including Indiana and UCLA are sure to cause some emotion down the road.

Who will move on? The 2016 College Football Playoffs

By Jack Beck ’18

The final full weekend of the regular season has provided the college football word with a dramatic finish and an interesting situation for the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. With only a few conference championship games left to be played this upcoming weekend, all eyes are pointed towards the Committee and which four teams will ultimately be selected to go to the third annual College Football Playoff.

The current playoff standings are as follows: Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Colorado, Oklahoma and the top ten is finished off by Oklahoma State. Below I will go through my predictions for the final College Football Rankings and who will be moving on to the College Football Playoffs.

Alabama (12-0) has been ranked first in the playoff standings all year and nothing should change if they can beat 15th ranked Florida in the SEC championship. Lead by true freshman, Jalen Hurts, Alabama looks to continue their 19 game win streak that has occurred over the past two years. With a win, Alabama will be a lock for the first seed in the 2016 College Football Playoff.

Clemson (11-1) will play 23rd ranked Virginia Tech for the ACC Championship. With Quarterback and Heisman front-runner Deshaun Watson leading the tigers along with many other first round prospects, Clemson is ready to move onto bigger and better things. If Clemson can win this game, which they are heavily favored to do, they will be a lock for the playoffs in my mind should be ranked the second seed. However, there is a chance that with a win they will drop to third rank, but this just depends on the other games.

The final two seeds have sparked discussion and arguments among committee members, sports analysts and passionate fans. Some believe that winning a major conference championship should guarantee a spot in the playoffs, while others think that championship or no championship, if you have the best record against the best teams you should have a spot in the playoffs.

With my third seed, I am going with the Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2). Although they do have two losses this year, I believe that with a win this weekend versus Wisconsin and securing the Big Ten Championship, they deserve to be in this playoff. They are playing their best football right now and arguably the best football in the country. However, if they lose to Wisconsin, then there is a very slim chance they will be considered.

And with the fourth and final seed, I am going with another conference champion with the Washington Huskies (11-1). With a win this weekend against 8 ranked Colorado will have a 4-1 record against top 25 ranked teams, and their one loss came against one of the hottest teams in the country, USC. Washington Quarterback, Jake Browning, is looking to continue his dominance of the College Football world, and further his argument for the Heisman. Similar to Penn State, if Washington loses to Colorado in the Pac-12 Championship, then they will most likely not make the playoffs.

There are other teams who some people say might deserve the playoffs more than any of these four teams. Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State, the other members of the Top Ten are all being considered for the playoffs.

Ohio State not being in the playoff will cause a big discussion and argument in the sports world. After a win versus Michigan, many people think Ohio State has the resumé to be the playoffs, but don’t forget that they did lose to Penn State 6 weeks ago and was not able to play in the Big Ten Championship.

Although having a great second season with Harbaugh, Michigan just didn’t get enough wins to make the playoffs. They needed to either beat Ohio State this past week, or have beaten Iowa, who they lost to 3 weeks ago.

Colorado (10-2) has a good record and has lost to two ranked teams, which makes them look good to the committee. However, they just haven’t had enough good wins to prove themselves to be a playoff team.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are very similar in talent and record, however the Big 12 does not have championship game which has proven to hurt the top teams in their conference.

This year is different than the past few years of the College Football Playoff. There truly are eight teams that are championship caliber teams, which makes this decision even harder for the committee. I, along with all of the other college football fans, hope to see the four best teams rightly chosen for the 2016-2017 College Football Playoffs.

Why It’s Time to Believe, Not Give Up, on the UConn Huskies

By Jackson Daignault ’18

University of Connecticut men’s basketball fans expect nothing but greatness.

From a team coming off an improbable 2014 March Madness run, and then an improbable American Athletic Conference championship, this team and their fans have nothing but high expectations.

Coming into this season, Huskie fans had championship hopes for their team, being ranked 18th in the country, but devastating injuries to VCU transfer Terry Larrier and four star recruits Alterique Gilbert and Mamadou Diarra have dampened these expectations.

Their opening record of 2-4 was the worst 6 game record for the Huskies since 1971, according to ESPN. The Huskies opened up with rough losses to unranked Wagner and Northeastern, as well as a scare against Division II Chaminade.

Since these close games, the Huskies have also escaped a close one against Boston University, putting their record at 3-4.

The Huskies had one of their better recruiting classes ever, with four players being ranked in ESPN’s top 100, and afterwards naming themselves “Top 5.”

Although the team was young, the Huskies still believed they had a shot to win with senior leaders Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis.

Despite this Huskies poor initial start to the season, it is far too early to give up on them.

Kevin Ollie is only in his fourth year of coaching at UConn, with one national championship under his belt. Ollie has yet to finish out a recruiting class, which is very important to the success of UConn. Although the Huskies have struggled out the gates this year, it is important for UConn fans to realize the brilliance of their current head coach. Ollie has coached UConn legends Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright, among others. Ollie has consistently gotten the most out of his players, which is evident in his use of Deandre Daniels during the Huskies 2014 Tournament run, where Daniels averaged only 13.2 points per game during the regular season, but excelled in the NCAA tournament where he averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

If Ollie is able to replicate his success with Daniels with the rest of the 2016 Huskies squad, it will be a strong point of optimism for their season hopes.

On top of Kevin Ollie’s brilliance, this current Huskie team has plenty of other reasons for optimism. One of these is the strong recruiting class, which has been deemed as one of the best in UConn history.

Although the injury of Gilbert hurts the potential success of “Top 5” there are plenty of other strong candidates in this 2016 recruiting class. One of those players is Vance Jackson, who has played great to open his college basketball career.

Jackson has averaged 7.7 points per game in only 19.5 minutes a game. Although these numbers seem unimpressive for the four star recruit, he has thrived in games against Loyola Marymount, where he led the team with 14 points on 50% shooting, and against Chaminade, with 16 points on 55% shooting.

Jackson was not originally expected to contribute this year, but injuries to Gilbert and Larrier opened up time for him to succeed.

This window for Jackson is crucial to the Huskies success. Jackson is only a freshman and has had success in his limited playtime. It is very important for Kevin Ollie and the Huskies coaching staff to continue to develop him into an elite scorer and perimeter defender. If they can continue to coach him to his full potential, the Huskies could seriously turn around their season.

The most important factor in the Huskies season is the potential stardom of Jalen Adams. Many fans may know Adams from his full court shot against Cincinnati in the AAC tournament to send it to a fourth overtime in 2015.

Adams, only a sophomore, has absolutely torn it up this season, averaging 19.8 points per game, including a 34 point performance in a loss to Oklahoma State in the Maui Invitational. Adams was named to the All-Tournament team at the Maui Invitational, leading all players in points and assists.

It is very important for Adams to keep up his dominant play for the Huskies to turn their season around. Captain Rodney Purvis has shot 38% from the field, a disappointment for a UConn team who is relying heavily on its senior leader.

Adams has taken over that leadership role from Purvis, and will continue to do so in order to turn the Huskies season around.

If Adams can continue to shoot 54% from the field and keep his turnovers down, there is no reason the Huskies cannot  be competitive this season, and ultimately turn their otherwise woeful season around.

Although there are definitely causes for concern with this young Huskie team, all hope is not lost. This season was supposed to be a building year for Kevin Ollie’s program, developing his young players and integrating them into his system. Although so far this season has been a disappointment, there is also plenty of reason for optimism, and ultimately the Huskies should be able to turn it around.

No matter the circumstances, never count the Huskies out. If they haven’t taught you so already.