Sports Schmooze: The Current State of National Sports
The most notable sporting event to take place since our last issue was the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament or March Madness. Throughout February, the top teams in the sport shifted rankings with no consistent team remaining on top. The conference tournaments helped to clear up the picture of the bracket. Entering the NCAA tournament, Gonzaga, Kansas, Baylor, and Arizona were, for the most part, the clear cut teams for the one seeds. This came after Auburn and Kentucky both were unable to make their conference championships, partly due to an extremely hot Tennessee team. After having begun the season hovering around 25th in the nation, the Tennessee Volunteers ended the season on a 15-2 run, including winning the SEC Tournament, and were considered grossly underseeded as a three seed. Arguably the polar opposite of Tennessee was Auburn. They began the season absurdly hot and at one point reached the number one ranking in the nation. They closed the season extremely cold including a SEC Tournament quarterfinal loss to Texas A&M. Both of those teams ultimately lost in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament. The two largest surprises of the tournament were largely considered to be Gonzaga losing in the Sweet 16 to Arkansas and Saint Peters making it to the Elite Eight. Saint Peters was the first 15 seed or lower to make it past the Round of 32, armed with wins over Kentucky and Purdue prior to losing to an extremely hot North Carolina team. North Carolina met Duke in the Final Four, setting up one of the most anticipated Final Four matchups of all time. North Carolina defeated Duke for the second time in four weeks and put an end to the historic career of Coach K. They then met Kansas in the championship with Kansas pulling out a close win to become the national champions. Shortly after the season ended it was announced that Oscar Tsiebwe, the reigning NPOY, would be returning for another season at Kentucky, along with a variety of other notable players moving and remaining at their universities. At this moment, there is no clear-cut #1 team entering next year (although we predict Duke) and the offseason will continue to feature players making important decisions.
The other two major sports that must be touched on are the MLB and the NBA. Since the MLB has only been running for less than a month at publication date, it is not necessarily worth time to talk about the current standings. It is, however, important to touch on the MLB having come to a collective-bargaining agreement in the intervening time since our last publication. In something we predicted to take much longer, the MLB was able to come to an agreement between the ownership committee and the players’ union which would allow for the season to continue. The players then quickly got to work and the season started up only a mere few weeks after it was previously scheduled. The NBA, however, has been running for its full season and is now in the playoffs. Currently, the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and presumably the Philadelphia 76ers have advanced to the second round of the playoffs in what is an extremely competitive Eastern Conference. Jayson Tatum was able to dominate in a sweep of the talented Brooklyn Nets while the other favorites handled their opponents in five games. The Western Conference, on the other hand, is much more up-in-the-air. The Phoenix Suns were odds-on favorites until Devin Booker went down with an injury in the second game of their series against the New Orleans Pelicans. The Warriors have now proven themselves to be the conference favorite after an extremely strong first round in which Jordan Poole became a household name. The Dallas Mavericks and Utah Jazz are 3-2 respectively, battling for the rights to be run over by the Suns. The Grizzlies and Timberwolves are also currently 3-2 in their series which has featured a large protest over the actions of the Timberwolves owner on his mass-production farm. If teams were to hold firm, the current favorite for the Finals matchup would be Celtics versus Warriors (although we believe it will be a Suns-Bucks rematch). The MVP race in the NBA is currently between Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, two centers, who have both had a large effect on their teams’ success. The NBA still has almost two months remaining while the MLB has until late October.
Jayson Tatum after sinking a three versus the Brooklyn Nets
Although those are arguably the largest sports developments since publication, there is also a scattering of notable and important events in other sports as well. Here is a run down of those moments and events. Recently, Scottie Scheffler won The Masters, a famous golf tournament, in a competition which featured Tiger Woods’ rebound from a gruesome injury. The NHL is entering their playoffs in the coming days. Although they are not the conference champions, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the hottest teams in hockey (and our pick for champion), led by Auston Matthews who averages almost a goal a match. They are looking to win a playoff series for the first time since 2004. A variety of college football spring games have occurred as well which has presented a variety of new faces in new places. With new transfer rules, players are still moving from location to location until the May 2nd deadline, to be eligible for this coming fall. Alabama looks, yet again, to be the preseason National Championship favorite but Ohio State returns an offense which should lead the nation. The Tennessee Volunteers Baseball team has also taken control of college baseball with a 38-3 record, sitting at the number one ranking in the nation for multiple weeks. The NFL offseason has, arguably, experienced the largest talent shift of all time with a variety of large names moving from location to location. Additionally, many pro-bowlers have changed cities, most notably, Russell Wilson, Davante Adams, and Tyreek Hill, all finding themselves in new colors. Oh, and Tom Brady isn’t retired.
These past few months have featured a variety of large sporting events and entertaining moments which will only continue. We hope you enjoy our quick summary of the large world of sports, and please reach out if this is a recurring theme you would like to see in every issue!