Week: February 24 to March 2, 2016
Sure, Steph Curry hit 33 of 54 three pointers last week, but John Axford picked 17 of the 24 Oscar winners correctly, and numbers never lie.
Jaws began dropping last Thursday when Steph Curry melted the Orlando Magic with 51 points, eight dimes, and seven boards, but the awe continued to pour out of basketball enthusiasts as the Chef threw a dagger into the hearts of the Oklahoma City Thunder with a moonshot three-pointer at the end of overtime to thwart an otherwise impressive performance from OKC. The wheels fell off at the end of regulation for the Thunder when Kevin Durant was trapped in the corner off an inbound pass, resulting in a turnover that would eventually send Andre Iguodala to the line for the game-tying free throws; Iggy hitting two free throws is, in itself, a victory. The head coach of Oklahoma City, Billy Donovan, came under fire when he neglected to call a timeout to save the double-teamed Durant. However, taking away anything from the brilliance of Steph Curry would be unfair. Curry’s shot became so acclaimed so quickly that the shot was recreated in NBA 2K16 and retweeted like hell.
However, while Curry’s unconscious shooting was unquestionably the highlight of the past seven days, Wednesday night saw the then-number one ranked Villanova fall to Xavier in a classic Big East match-up. Six Xavier players posted double figure scoring nights, led by guards Edmond Sumner and J.P. Maruca who both had 19, and delivered Villanova their fourth loss of the year and only their second in conference. Unfortunately for Xavier, whose destiny of snagging a number one seed during Selection Sunday on March 13 was in their own hands, the Musketeers dropped a crucial game against Seton Hall just four days later. After going down 19 by halftime, Xavier could not claw their way back, opening the door for surging squads like Michigan State, who stomped Penn State on Sunday, and Virginia, who ousted North Carolina in a marque ACC match-up this weekend, to snag a one-seed away from Xavier, ‘Nova, or Oklahoma, who dropped a Big 12 game against Shaka Smart’s Longhorns on Saturday. The other end of the bracket seems sufficiently dicey, as Pitt knocked off 15th ranked Duke on Sunday, giving them a much needed win against a ranked opponent to solidify the Panthers resume. Gonzaga held on for a win against BYU on Sunday to push their conference record to an oddly pedestrian 15-3. Regardless, the committee will have work to do and some student athlete’s hearts to break on Selection Sunday.
Speaking of Sunday, the NFL season is over, but that means the off-season is just beginning. As many budding athletes begin making the transition towards being a professional with the NFL Combine, many veterans are already getting paid. The deadline for franchise tags was yesterday, March 1, and players of all shapes and sizes made a little extra coinage. The Redskins used their tag on quarterback Kirk Cousins while the Broncos opted to use their tag on linebacker Von Miller over the gunslinger Brock Osweiler. Osweiler will soon become a free agent fresh off his role as a backup in the Super Bowl. The New York Jets decided to place the franchise tag on defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, as expected by team officials. Wilkerson registered 12 sacks, ranking him tied for sixth in the NFL, and two forced fumbles last season. Meanwhile, the Bears tied down number one wide receiver Alshon Jeffery for another year by giving him the tag. Jeffery posted only 807 yards receiving during an injury-ridden season in which the wide-out played only nine games. The Ravens chose to tag kicker Justin Tucker after cashing in 33 field goals, tied for second in the league, on 40 attempts last season. Tucker was not the only special teams player to make some extra cash this week; Raiders’ punter Marquette King inked a long-term contract that will pay him $16.5 million over five years. Punters are people, too.
We have signed punter @MarquetteKing to a long-term contract extension.
— OAKLAND RAIDERS (@RAIDERS) February 29, 2016
But wait, there are even more NFL signings! The Eagles decided to drop $36 million on quarterback Sam Bradford over the next two seasons which seems like a lot considering he only threw for 3,725 yards and 19 touchdowns coupled with 14 interceptions. $26 million of the deal is guaranteed, but it seems likely that Philadelphia will try to renegotiate with Bradford after this season. If the Eagles wanted Bradford for a one-year deal and he wouldn’t sign, why not give him the tag? The level for quarterbacks is a hair under $20 million, so if the Eagles organization and Bradford’s agent have different plans after this season, then Philly is out $6 million for being overconfident in their abilities to negotiate. Leave it to the Eagles to pull an odd-ball move like this.
In the latest news, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally righted the ship against the Pacers, grabbing a four-point victory under a dominant LeBron performance consisting of 33 points, five rebounds, and four assists. The chemistry may still be in the air, though, as after the Cavs lost two straight and dropped three of their last four prior to Monday’s bout in Indiana, Stephen A. Smith reported that Kyrie Irving “wants out” of Cleveland. Irving deflected the comments, saying that it’s “all about winning a championship for [the Cavaliers],” but many analysts, including ESPN’s Ryen Russillo, are confused over how any player, including Kyrie, could possibly be unhappy.
Unhappy the Yankees may be, though, after hearing their closer, Aroldis Chapman, received a 30 game suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence policy. Chapman had 33 saves for the Reds last season and signed a $11.3 million contract this offseason in New York. The pitcher, well known for regularly getting clocked at over 100 mph on his pitches, opted not to appeal the case.
The rest of baseball began their spring training, but nothing noteworthy happens there (sorry, not sorry). However, the night of the Academy Awards, something exciting happened in the Athletics organization when newly acquired pitcher John Axford correctly selected 17 of the 24 Oscar awards given out. However, this was a down year for Axford, as he correctly selected 14 of 15 correctly in 2013 and aced a perfect 18 picks in 2014. If the A’s get the same production on the mound as they do from his movie prowess, the organization will be Leo DiCaprio levels of happy.
Axford’s 70.8% Oscar selection rate certainly trumps Sam Bradford’s 65.0% completion rate from last season, but it fails to trump Curry’s 75% (12-16) from three-point range in Saturday’s win in Oklahoma City. Regardless, each story made their way into news feeds in the past seven days and drew out plenty of rhapsodic reactions.
By: Oscar Rzodkiewicz