PCI: Where Will QB Deshaun Watson End Up?
Providence College Investigates: The NFL
Hopefully, The New York Jets
By Ryan Carius ’21
Upon the completion of the Super Bowl, football fanatics have turned to trade rumors, the impending free agency period, and the NFL draft for sources of entertainment. On top of the list of trade rumors is Deshaun Watson, quarterback for the Houston Texans.
Although the Texans front office keeps downplaying rumors of a trade, Watson wants to depart after four years in Houston. Multiple NFL teams have expressed interest in trading for Watson, leaving fans on the edge of their seats wondering where the superstar will end up.
Any potential return for Watson in a trade will feature a tremendous haul of draft picks and possibly even players. In particular, the New York Jets are a very realistic buyer in the Watson sweepstakes. The Jets have an excess of draft picks, most notably the second overall draft pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. The Jets also hold the 23rd overall pick, a pick acquired from the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. These two picks will almost surely be included if the Jets have any hopes of acquiring the superstar quarterback.
Another factor working in the Jets’ favor is the possibility of a Sam Darnold trade. It seems very likely that the Jets will draft or trade for another quarterback and settle for a second-round draft pick in exchange for Darnold, the former third-overall pick in the 2018 draft. With an additional draft pick received for Darnold, Jets’ general manager Joe Douglas would gain another pick that could be flipped for Watson.
Jets fans would certainly find it reassuring to acquire Watson via trade instead of drafting either Zach Wilson from Brigham Young University or Justin Fields from Ohio State University. It is almost certain that Trevor Lawrence of Clemson University will be off the board with the first overall pick. Lawrence, without question, would have been the best quarterback to draft if New York had the first pick. Now, with the second pick, the Jets’ office is in a similar situation as they were when they took Darnold in 2018.
While it would be unfair to rule out the possibility of Wilson or Fields becoming stars in the NFL one day, if the Jets have the chance to obtain Watson, they should not hesitate. Another factor to add to the uncertainty of the rookie quarterbacks is the cancelation of the NFL combine. General managers will not have the ability to assess potential draft picks, instead relying on their college film.
The Jets cannot afford to miss out on acquiring a culture-changing quarterback like Watson. If the Texans call, the Jets need to pick up the phone and get the deal done.
Ignore the Noise: Houston
By Liam Tormey ’22
Sports Assistant Editor
The Houston Texans traded away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season to the Arizona Cardinals for running back David Johnson, as well as a second-round pick and a fourth-round pick. Long-time defensive cornerstone J.J. Watt recently asked to be released. Indeed, the Texans are in disarray, but they simply cannot afford to trade Deshaun Watson.
The franchise quarterback wants out of Houston and has said he does not want to play another snap for the organization. After he was not involved in the hiring of new general manager Nick Caserio, and after the Texans failed to hire Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy as head coach, Watson was frustrated.
Although a trade seems likely, there is strong reason to believe that Watson may still be part of the Texans organization when the season starts. After an interview with Caserio at the end of January,, Caserio stated, “We have zero interest in trading the player.”
Watson, who has a career 28-25 record with a 67.8 percent completion percentage, 104 touchdowns, 36 interceptions, and 269.2 yards per game, may not have much of a choice even if he wants out of Houston.
Over the course of recent years, it has become common for players within the NBA to ask for trades, putting their respective organizations in a difficult position. This phenomenon now blended over to the NFL, as is seen in the case of Watson and other star players recently like Jalen Ramsey and Antonio Brown.
However, it should not be this easy for players to demand a trade away from a team. Watson’s personal unhappiness should not require the Texans to trade him. He is still a part of the organization, and the Texans must do everything they can to keep such a talent.
In light of Houston’s salary cap situation, trading Deshaun Watson would most likely mean having to absorb $21.6 million in dead money over the course of the next several years, putting the Texans well over the cap limit. Of course, the Texans can restructure the rest of their roster, but trading Watson would put them at a major financial disadvantage.
Houston does have leverage over Watson. According to sports writer Adam Schefter, the Texans can fine Watson $95,877 for missing minicamp, $50,000 per day of training camp missed plus one week’s salary, and $620,000 for each preseason game missed. Finally, the Texans can collect the $21.6 million if Watson retires.
Yes, Deshaun Watson wants out of Houston, but no player is bigger than the organization itself. The Houston Texans need to make the right decision and not trade their superstar quarterback.
PCI: Picking the NBA All-Star Game Starters
The Eastern Conference
By Cam Smith ’21
While the status of the actual NBA All-Star Game hangs in the balance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the selection process must still go on. Five starters are chosen from each conference: two guards and three frontcourt players. From the East, the guards should be Bradley Beal and Jaylen Brown. Meanwhile, the frontcourt should feature Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Kevin Durant.
Even though Beal is the only player on this list who currently does not reside on a playoff team, his selection should be without question. Beal currently leads the NBA in scoring with a stunning 33.3 points per game. In his first 17 games, Beal scored at least 25 points in each one, passing Michael Jordan to set a new NBA record.
Brown, on the other hand, may be a more controversial selection, as some might prefer to choose either of the Brooklyn Nets star guards, Kyrie Irving or James Harden. While either would be a fair pick, Brown’s sensational season for the Boston Celtics is hard to ignore. The high-flying guard is currently averaging 26.4 points, an over six-point increase from last year. He has also mastered the mid-range shot, averaging an impressive 56.8 percent on mid-range jumpers.
Moving to the frontcourt, one must select Embiid. The dominant center is putting up MVP numbers, averaging 29.1 points and 10.8 rebounds to start the season. He has also propelled the Philadelphia 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Right behind the 76ers is the Milwaukee Bucks, led by the astounding Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is putting up his usual impressive numbers, averaging 27.3 points and 11.2 rebounds. Although it took a little while for Antetokounmpo to adjust to the Bucks’ new offense, he has found his stride in recent weeks. A recent showing against the Indiana Pacers saw him notch his third triple-double on the season in the Bucks’ 20-point victory.
Finally, the last spot in the East’s starting lineup should go to Durant. Although Durant’s numbers are tremendous as usual, this was a difficult selection to make considering the season that Celtics’ star Jayson Tatum is having. In the end, it comes down to the numbers, as Durant holds about a two-point advantage in the points column while averaging about an assist more per game. Much should also be said about Durant’s remarkable return, as the star has picked up right where he left off despite missing all of last season due to a torn Achilles.
In a pandemic-ridden season, all five of the selected players have stood out as incredible performers. Beyond their potential selections to the All-Star team, each will continue to jockey with one another in a riveting battle for victory in the East.
By Cam Smith ’21
Over in the West, the selections are a little easier thanks to some remarkable numbers being put up by the Conference’s best. Indeed, in the West, the guards should be Stephen Curry and Damian Lillard. The towering trio in the frontcourt should be none other than Nikola Jokic, Lebron James, and Kawhi Leonard.
Curry came into the season trying to navigate a new-look Golden State Warriors roster that was thrown into turmoil after his superstar backcourt mate Klay Thompson tore his Achilles shortly before the start of the season. While the pieces around him have often struggled, Curry has thrown the team on his back. The prolific scorer has done what he does best: score. Curry is currently averaging 29.5 points per game, due in part to his impressive numbers from behind the three-point and free-throw lines. He also leads the league in total points with 709.
Curry’s proposed backcourt partner in the West, Lillard, has faced eerily similar circumstances. He, too, is currently operating without his star shooting guard, CJ McCollum, who fractured his left foot in January. And again, like Curry, Lillard has dragged the hobbled Portland Trail Blazers to the current six-seed in the West. He is putting up 29.1 points per game to go along with an impressive 7.3 assists per outing.
As for the frontcourt, it is impossible not to start with Denver Nuggets star center, Nikola Jokic. The Serbian superstar is the likely frontrunner for MVP, averaging a near triple-double with 27.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. He has had no shortage of remarkable outings. On Feb. 6, Jokic put up a casual 50 points, 12 assists, and eight rebounds in a loss to the Sacramento Kings. The next highest scorer on the Nuggets had 14.
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Lebron James, of course, is an inevitable selection. He holds the record for most consecutive games played with 16 All-Star appearances in a row, all 16 of them being starts. However, James is not simply making the team due to past performance. In his 18th season, the potential greatest player of all time is putting up 25.6 points per game, in addition to averaging eight rebounds and eight assists.
Finally, the last spot in the starting five goes to Kawhi Leonard. Perhaps the best two-way player in the league, Leonard has kept the Los Angeles Clippers near the top of the standings in the West, even as the team around him has battled injuries. He is averaging 26 points per game while also adding 1.8 steals per contest.
As in the East, each of these players will see much of one another in the future as they represent their teams in both the All-Star Game and in the NBA Western Conference playoffs.
PCI: Who Will Win Super Bowl LV?
Providence College Investigates
Kansas City Chiefs
By Joseph Quirk ’23
Simply put, who will win this season’s Super Bowl should not even be a question. As much as one has to respect Tom Brady and what he has been able to accomplish, this is Patrick Mahomes’s time. Indeed, Brady will be reaching a remarkable 10th Super Bowl, a feat that is hard to even fathom. It is made more impressive when you consider that this is his very first year on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But the debate should be about who is the best team: a debate that Kansas City wins.
Their advantage starts on special teams, a part of the game that is not glamorous, but is important, especially in the playoffs. Ryan Succop is the placekicker for the Bucs, and he is not terrible by any means. But compared to Chiefs’ kicker Harrison Butker, he is severely outmatched. Since entering the league, Butker has been among the league’s best kickers, and has experience kicking in the biggest moments. He has proven to be accurate and powerful, and his kickoff abilities should give the Bucs trouble.
Steve Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator for the Chiefs, gives the Chiefs another major advantage. Spagnuolo has experience dealing with Brady in the Super Bowl as he led the 2007 New York Giants defense which famously stopped Brady’s Patriots from having a perfect season. His defense now features high-energy and versatile weaponry with the likes of Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu leads a Chiefs’ secondary that is far stronger than their Buccaneers counterparts. This was proven in their last regular season matchup.
It bears mentioning that Tampa Bay has a much better front seven than the Chiefs: Vita Vea, linebacker Devin White, and Pro Bowler Jason-Pierre Paul form a formidable trio for Tampa. However, Kansas City’s tandem of Frank Clark and Chris Jones is also very disruptive and works well with the Chiefs’ stronger secondary.
However, the real reason the Chiefs will win is because their offense is far superior to the Bucs. Although the Buccaneers have a very good duo in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans at receiver, other weapons like Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown are at the tail end of their careers. Meanwhile, the Chiefs feature a stronger and more mobile quarterback, a system that fits its players perfectly, a game-breaking tight end in Travis Kelce, and a trio of speedy wideouts led by Tyreek Hill.
One final point worth noting is Kansas City’s coaching advantage. While both coaches are experienced, Andy Reid proved last season that he may very well be the best coach in the league. All of these factors combined make it all but certain that the Chiefs will be crowned the champions of Super Bowl LV.
by Cam Smith ’21
All eyes will be on star quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady as the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV. However, it will be the performances of other players that will ultimately determine the outcome. Specifically, the play of the Tampa Bay defense and Tampa running back Leonard Fournette will propel the Buccaneers to their second Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
The two teams last met in Week 12, when the Chiefs knocked off the Bucs 27-24. Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill torched the Tampa defense to the tune of 269 yards and three touchdowns. Following that embarrassing showing, the Bucs worked hard during their Week 13 bye to address their issues with the deep ball.
Following the bye week, the Bucs have played 2-man coverage for 18.1% of all defensive possessions, compared to just 4.8% in weeks 1–12. This increase in 2-man coverage will provide a challenge to Hill, as it allows for the cornerbacks to play more aggressively while also protecting against the deep ball with two safeties over the top. So too does it target Mahomes’s potential weakness, as the Kansas City quarterback’s 53.6% completion rate against the 2-man was his lowest rate against any type of pass defense in 2020.
Tampa’s run defense, on the other hand, is one area that has refused to show any flaws all season. Coming into the Super Bowl, the Bucs have the league’s number one rush defense. In the Week 12 matchup, they limited the Kansas City backs to just 59 yards on 16 rushing attempts.
This trend will likely continue into the Super Bowl matchup, as the Chiefs suffered a brutal loss when left tackle Eric Fisher went down with an Achilles injury in the AFC Championship game. The Chiefs are also expected to be without right tackle Mitchell Schwartz, leaving two gaping holes in the line for the talented Tampa run defenders to take advantage of.
On the other side of the ball, Fournette has flourished since the start of the playoffs following an inconsistent regular season. Coming into the Super Bowl, the Tampa running back leads all players with 313 postseason yards from scrimmage. With a Chiefs defense potentially spread thin defending one of the best receiving corps in the game, Fournette should have plenty of room to continue his dominant run.
Indeed, with Tom Brady at the helm, the Bucs’ offense will remain effective, but it will be the Tampa Bay defense that brings home the trophy. Limiting big plays from perhaps the best offensive trio in the game in Mahomes, Hill, and tight end Travis Kelce will not be easy, but the surging Bucs defense might just have what it takes.
PCI: Tainted Titles
Should There Be an Asterisk on Recent Championships?
Yes, Too Much Missing
by Joseph Quirk ’23
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. The sporting world has faced many difficulties as well. After the initial COVID-19 shutdown in March temporarily paused the NHL and NBA seasons and postponed the start of the MLB season, all three sports resumed their seasons in the summer. The NHL and NBA resumed in “bubbles,” while the MLB severely cut down its schedule to only 60 games. These shortened seasons created longer periods of rest, prompted far less travel, and contained either none or a very small amount of fans. All of these reasons show why champions should have an asterisk next to their titles this year.
As an example, take the newly crowned MLB champs, the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had been continually struggling to get over the hump the last few years and finally did so this year. However, this may be in part due to the COVID rules the MLB had in place. The Dodgers managed to stay healthy through all 60 games, earning them a top seed in the playoffs. The lessening of games allowed the Dodgers to travel and play less, meaning that their oft-injured pitchers were more well-rested heading into the postseason.
Perhaps the MLB did make the season a little challenging by not giving any teams byes in the extended postseason, but the Dodgers were initially matched up with a Milwaukee Brewers team that had been struggling all year. The Dodgers then only had to beat the young and inexperienced San Diego Padres, an inconsistent Atlanta Braves team, and finally a Tampa Bay Rays team who paled in comparison talent wise. Also, the Dodgers had to travel far less during the postseason because of the MLB neutral sites that popped up later in the playoffs. They further benefited from the lack of fans. While the electrifying MLB postseason atmosphere can be exciting, it can also put pressure on players like Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who has been known to choke in past playoffs.
In the NBA and NHL bubbles, the rosters of playoff teams leagues clearly got extended rest. Players were given extra time to heal and even injured players expected to miss the playoffs were able to return. Then, both leagues had seeding games, which allowed teams already in lower seeding positions to quickly move up the standings to usurp teams with better records. And again, no travel and no home court advantage definitely took away from the atmosphere. This is not to say the NBA Finals champion, the Los Angeles Lakers, and NHL Stanley Cup-winners, the Tampa Bay Lightning, were not good teams. But, much like the Dodgers, the Lightning have struggled to get over the hump recently, and it is hard to imagine that the bubble did not help.
While the return of professional sports in the middle of a pandemic is a strong achievement, this year’s champions should have an asterisk next to their titles given the abnormalities of their respective seasons.
No, Too Many Sacrifices
by Scott Jarosz ’21
When sports came to a halt in March, both athletes and sports fans worldwide lost the ability to connect with their communities through the comradery of sports. However, when sports resumed this past summer, it was as if people were finally brought back together. Even though fans could not be in attendance, the return of sports brought back a familiar sense of comfort and unity. Athletes dedicated countless hours of training to prepare for the sudden resumption of their seasons and could not wait to get back on the courts and playing fields. Some athletes, such as basketball and soccer players, even had to live in a “bubble” for the duration of their seasons. Given the sacrifices athletes made to play with their teams, the championships won during the pandemic should not be marked with an asterisk.
Beginning with the NBA, the sacrifices that players had to make to continue the season were unlike anything that athletes had done before as players had to leave behind their friends and families. Once they entered the bubble on July 7, players, coaches, staff, and all other personnel could not leave the premises or see anyone outside of the bubble until their season was complete. Ultimately, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals four games to two over the Miami Heat. With the win, the Lakers tied with the Boston Celtics for the most-ever championships won with 17 total franchise titles.
Major League Baseball was also significantly impacted by COVID-19. Because of the sheer number of players and staff for each team, a bubble format was not realistic for the MLB. Instead, each team played their regular season home games at their own stadiums with no fans. The normal 162-game schedule for each team was reduced to 60 games, which were played in a tight window. In addition, numerous teams dealt with COVID-19 outbreaks, which led to the postponement of more than 40 games. With this in consideration, players were competing under high stress and on limited rest. Despite this, players and staff powered through and completed a successful season, which concluded with the Los Angeles Dodgers defeating the Tampa Bay Rays to win the 2020 World Series.
To put an asterisk next to the 2020 NBA champion, the 2020 MLB champion, or any other champion crowned during this time would undermine the efforts made by the players and personnel of these organizations. Each of these championships were earned through hard work and dedication and are arguably even more valuable than any previous championships. Although the circumstances may have been different this year, players and personnel alike deserve to have their championships recognized as legitimate.
Playing Through a Pandemic
Leagues Successfully Navigate COVID Crisis
The NBA in Orlando
by Joseph Quirk ’23
Back in March, the NBA suspended its season following increasing concerns over the onset of COVID-19, along with the first player to test positive, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert. The NBA, more than 75% through their 2019-2020 campaign, needed to then find a way to finish its season properly and safely. They did so by investing millions of dollars into creating a fun and entertaining, and most importantly secure, “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
The bubble started with 22 teams, all either within striking distance of a playoff spot or already in one. The format was simple: each team would play eight seeding games in order to officially name those who would move onto the playoffs, which gave the outside teams a chance at the eighth seed. The Phoenix Suns, an afterthought heading into the bubble, went 8-0 in the seeding games as star shooting guard Devin Booker played some of the best basketball of his career. However, they would just barely miss out on the eighth seed to the Portland Trail Blazers, who used the bubble to revive a tumultuous season filled with underachievement. With a squad of Hassan Whiteside, Jusuf Nurkić, C.J. McCollum and, of course, bubble MVP Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers were able to capture the Western Conference’s eighth seed thanks to a victory over Ja Morant’s Memphis Grizzlies in the play-in game.
The playoffs brought a batch of equally exciting games. Two young, up-and-coming teams in the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz went to seven games in a historic first round series. Denver would defeat the Jazz and move on to face the Los Angeles Clippers, a title contender led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Nuggets mounted a furious comeback to beat the Clippers in seven games before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. In the East, things unfolded as expected until the Milwaukee Bucks, led by back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, were knocked off by Jimmy Butler and a scrappy Miami Heat team. Butler and the Heat went on to beat the Boston Celtics and advance to the Finals where they would fall to the Lakers.
It always seemed inevitable that the Lakers would win the Finals. Not only were they one of the most talented teams in the world, featuring generational stars such as Lebron James and Anthony Davis, but they also had strong veteran players such as center Dwight Howard and point guard Rajon Rondo. The title significantly helps the legacy of James, who now has four NBA titles and four Finals MVPs on his resume. Important to note is that the Lakers were also playing in honor of franchise icon Kobe Bryant, who tragically passed away in a helicopter accident earlier this year.
Indeed, the fact that anyone was crowned a champion at all in this year of turmoil is something that the NBA should be proud of.
The NHL in Canada
by Ryan Carius ’21
On Sept. 28, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut out the Dallas Stars 2-0, ending a six-game series in an unprecedented yet entertaining Stanley Cup matchup. Tampa Bay’s victory completed a two-month playoff bubble, which began on Aug. 1 and included 24 out of the 31 National Hockey League franchises. The Lightning skipped the qualifying rounds and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Tampa Bay avenged last year’s shocking defeat against the Columbus Blue Jackets, dominated the Boston Bruins, and then skated past the New York Islanders on the way to their second Stanley Cup Finals appearance in five years.
The Dallas Stars fought relentlessly, especially goaltender Anton Khudobin, but the Tampa Bay offense proved too much of a challenge for the young Dallas defenders. Tampa Bay centerman Brayden Point netted 14 goals and assisted on 19 other goals, a monumental performance for the young and rising star. However, it was Victor Hedman who took home the hardware awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Hedman became the first defenseman to win the Conn Smyth trophy since Duncan Keith in 2015, when the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning. In just 25 games, the 6-foot-6-inch skater recorded 10 goals and 22 points, setting franchise records for both total goals and points by a Tampa Bay defender.
Besides the championship, the most important outcome of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs was the success of the NHL bubble that occurred in two cities. The NHL became the first of the four major North American sport leagues to complete a postseason in the COVID-19 pandemic. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the two Canadian cities, Toronto, Ontario and Edmonton, Alberta, created an environment that ensured the safety of the players and staff. All personnel involved in daily bubble activity were divided into categories based on their roles and the people to whom they were exposed.
The NHL conducted 33,174 tests with zero positive cases among category one and category two personnel. Players, medical officials, and team and league staff members made up these first two categories. However, there were a few positive tests among category three and four personnel, which included individuals who had little exposure to the players but still participated in the bubble as hotel staff, cooks, and security officers.
The NHL and the NHL Player’s Association implemented Jan. 1, 2021 as the start of the next season. Bettman is optimistic for a “full regular season, and to have fans in the building, but there are a lot of things that have to transpire, many of which if not most of which are beyond our control before we can finalize our plans.” However, if the NHL needs to return to a bubble, Bettman can follow the success of this season to provide fans with entertaining and competitive hockey.
PCI: Who Will Win the World Series?
The Atlanta Braves
by Leo Hainline ’23
In a season that seemed destined to fail, Major League Baseball (MLB) thankfully got its act together and is now at the final stretch of the postseason. The National League Championship Series (NLCS) is set between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Atlanta Braves. The American League Championship Series (ALCS) will feature the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays. While the Dodgers are favored to win and have won all five of their playoff games, they run into an equally hot team in the Braves, who will knock off LA and go on to win the World Series.
The MLB playoffs, while having some occasional upsets, have not produced any shocking results. The Braves upsetting the Dodgers in the NLCS will be the series that rocks the league. The team is peaking at the right time. While their pitching was subpar at times throughout the regular season, their rotation has found its rhythm in October, producing four shutouts in their five postseason games played. In 49 innings this postseason, the Braves have shut out their opponents in 46 of them.
Atlanta has more than enough power offensively to outscore anyone. From the top to the bottom of the order, the Braves possess guys opposing pitchers should fear. Ronald Acuña, Jr., Freddie Freeman, Adam Duvall, and Marcell Ozuna can all knock one out of the park at any given at-bat, and their supporting cast features almost no offensive liabilities.
The overall composition of the Braves squad is perfect for a postseason run. In Freeman they have a veteran leader who has been with the team for over a decade . They have an ace in Max Fried who can single-handedly win a game. The rest of the rotation is full of young pitchers who are gaining confidence at the perfect time. And the lineup is composed of players who embrace the spotlight while adding character and a winning culture to the dugout. This team will not back down against the Dodgers, nor will they back down from whatever team they face in the World Series.
The Braves have the advantage of having yet to play the Dodgers this season. Los Angeles only lost one series all year and will come into the NLCS with confidence. But Atlanta will give them a challenge they have yet to see this year, which could very well throw LA off their game. While the NLCS and ALCS, as well as the World Series, are all best-of-seven series that theoretically would work in the favor of the “better team,” the Braves winning a game or two off the bat could get the Dodgers discouraged. Indeed, Atlanta has the roster to beat Los Angeles and then go on to win the World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers
by Joe Quirk ’23
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered this season feeling like they had an easy path to the 2020 World Series. After losing in the National League Division Series last season to the Washington Nationals, the Dodgers were left with a sour taste in their mouths. It was a tough loss to take after losing the previous two World Series. Somehow, manager Dave Roberts could not find a way to turn an already elite club into world champions. But, with the help of president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, L.A. was able to improve their roster further.
This past offseason, the Dodgers traded Alex Verdugo, a talented, young outfielder, to the Red Sox for Mookie Betts, a former MVP and one of the best outfielders in baseball. Betts joined an outfield that contains recent high-profile signing A.J. Pollock and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger. That is not even mentioning the rest of the lineup, which features Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Enrique Hernandez, and Max Muncy. The Dodgers are a team that can hit both for power and for batting average in addition to their strong defensive play in the field.
While it may seem like most of the Dodgers’ talent is on the offensive side, this is not the case. The Dodgers possess a strong rotation featuring Walker Buehler, a budding young star with playoff experience, and Clayton Kershaw, one of the best pitchers to ever play. Rookie Dustin May is also pitching very well, as he posted a 3-1 regular season record with a 2.57 earned run average. The bullpen also contains the likes of Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol and Kenley Jansen, one of the stronger closers in the league. While it is not the best bullpen in baseball, it is certainly capable of getting the job done. Combine that with some elite starters and arguably one of the best lineups in baseball, the Dodgers seem destined for the championship.
There is some cause for concern with Kershaw, however. The legendary pitcher was scratched from his game two start against the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday with back spasms. Getting him back and healthy will be key for Los Angeles moving forward.
This experienced playoff club has easily made it through the first two rounds of this extended playoffs, and now look to knock off the up-and-coming Braves in the NLCS. After that, all that stands between Los Angeles and the championship is the Houston Astros, who lack in the pitching department, or the inexperienced Tampa Bay Rays, who have a lineup that pales in comparison to the Dodgers.
PCI: WHO WAS THE BEST PLAYER IN THE NBA BUBBLE?
by Joseph Quirk ’23
The NBA bubble is a unique circumstance which the league has never seen before. With a high demand for the return of sports, it also provided a big stage for a lot of players to break out and establish themselves as dominant forces. No one took advantage of this opportunity more than Devin Booker.
In the 2015 NBA draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Booker, a freshman at the University of Kentucky, with the No. 13 overall pick. This selection has turned out to be one of the smartest decisions in the history of the Phoenix Suns. Over his career, the 23-year-old shooting guard has averaged 22.5 points and 4.7 assists per game, while shooting 44.8 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from three. Booker also scored 70 points in a game against the Boston Celtics, making it the 11th game in NBA history where a single player scored 70 points or more in one game. He is one of only six players to do so and the most recent since the late Kobe Bryant.
At the end of an abysmal 2018 season, Booker famously stated, “I’m done with not making the playoffs.” Unfortunately, Phoenix missed the playoffs in 2019 and 2020 as well. However, this season felt different. Booker had a career year, with averages of 26.6 points, 6.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game on shooting percentages of 48.9 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from three. Booker had one of his more efficient seasons as well, mainly because he could play off the ball more with the addition of point guard Ricky Rubio. He also had advanced floor-spacers in Kelly Oubre, Jr. and rookie Cameron Johnson, and strong bigs in Deandre Ayton and Dario Saric.
Indeed, the Suns were winning games and in striking distance of a playoff spot. When the bubble teams were announced, the Suns made the cut and made the best of their opportunity. Booker averaged 31 points, six assists, and five rebounds on efficient shooting splits while earning an All-Bubble First Team nod. He would lead the Suns to the only 8-0 record in the bubble. The stretch included wins over talented playoff teams like the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, and Indiana Pacers.
All in all, Booker has put in a superhuman effort, elevating both his individual game and his team’s overall performance. The only reason the Suns missed the playoffs was because the Portland Trail Blazers, the team just ahead of them, won a game on a last second missed buzzer-beater.
Certainly, an argument can be made for other players to be named bubble MVP such as T.J. Warren and Damien Lillard, but Booker took the Suns to a new, unexpected level. He showed up when it mattered and beat some of the NBA’s best teams, which is why he should have earned MVP.
by Leo Hainline ’22
The conclusion of the NBA regular season saw some breakout performances from players such as Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, and Michael Porter Jr. The playoffs have also brought some iconic performances, including Luka Doncic’s game-winner against the Los Angeles Clippers and Donovan Mitchell’s 57-point game against the Denver Nuggets. Any of these players are worthy of being considered the bubble’s best player, but the NBA got it right when they gave the award to the Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard at the end of the regular season.
Even though the Trail Blazers were eliminated from the playoffs in the first round, Lillard’s performances reigned supreme and were the best in the bubble. In Orlando, Lillard averaged 33 points, eight assists, and 4.8 rebounds. Most importantly, he was able to lead his team into the eighth seed after entering the bubble 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot.
After missing two key free throws against the Clippers in their fifth game, Lillard not only stepped up his game, but became the best player in the league. Needing to win out to have any chance at making the 8/9 seed play-in game, the Oakland native dropped 51 and 61 points in his next two contests. Lillard channeled one of his many nicknames, “Logo Lillard,” as his shooting became automatic from everywhere on the court.
He came up clutch against the Dallas Mavericks in his 61-point game, hitting an insane high-bouncing three-pointer to bring Portland level in the closing moments and then seized the victory with crucial plays on both ends of the court. He followed with scoring 42 points, leading Portland to a crucial come-from-behind one-point win against the Brooklyn Nets to seal their place in the Western Conference play-in game. Lillard then had 31 points and 10 assists against the Memphis Grizzlies to secure Portland’s spot in the playoffs.
Lillard’s most iconic moment came in Game one of the opening round against the top-seeded Lakers. With the game going back and forth all game long, it became “Dame Time” for the last seven minutes of the fourth quarter. Lillard started knocking down contested threes from way downtown. The game began to shift in Portland’s favor when Lillard buried a deep three to tie the game at 87 with five and a half minutes to go. After that happened, Lillard was locked in, and the Blazers never looked back, taking the first game 127-119 over the top-seeded Lakers.
Although the Blazers lost their next four games and got knocked out of the playoffs, Lillard’s performances were incredibly memorable. No individual player on any team made more of an impact than Lillard for the Blazers in the bubble.
PCI:Should There Be College Football This Fall?
Yes, It Will Be Safe!
by Jack Belanger ’21
After colleges across the country canceled the end of their winter and spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many senior athletes missed out on what would have been their final season of collegiate competitive sports. Basketball players who were on their way to play in March Madness lost their last chance to win a national title; spring athletes lost the chance to celebrate their final home game. It was difficult for many athletes to face the cancellation of their season after putting in countless hours of work. The NCAA should not put the same burden on football players and allow them to play this fall.
College football is the most profitable sport at many universities and many schools need the revenue in order to pay for athletic scholarships. Even though stadiums would not be able to sell out their seating to fans, schools could still make money from broadcasting their games and fulfilling their TV deals. The pandemic has already tightened athletic department budgets across the country and many schools have had to cut sports that do not generate any revenue. By having football games this fall, universities would be able to help fund other sports that may have had their season canceled and support other athletes.
While there may be safety concerns about having players travel and face teams from other schools, teams have been testing their players on a consistent basis and the NCAA has laid out a plan for teams to follow in order to proceed with the season. If the athletes are truly committed to playing out their final collegiate season, then they would have to follow the rules laid out for them to avoid any unnecessary risks that could ruin the season. By participating in regular practices and games, players would create a bubble for themselves since they would essentially be interacting with the same people on a daily basis.
Playing out the season is just as important for underclassmen as it is for seniors. For the players who are eligible for the next NFL draft, playing games is really the only way for them to get noticed by NFL teams and have a chance to continue their careers at the next level. Without a season, NFL teams could only judge players based on their performances from last season and the draft combine, neither of which can solely represent a player’s abilities accurately.
There are multiple parties who would benefit from having a college football season for a variety of reasons. Not only do players want to compete in the sport they put so much work into, especially the seniors who may be playing their final season, but the athletics directors want to bring in any revenue they can to make up for the lost profits from the cancellation of March Madness and spring sports. Yes, there may be some risk involved, but with the proper rules put in place, college football teams should be able to play out their seasons safely.
No, It Is Irresponsible.
by Liam Tormey ’22
In times such as these, it seems almost insensitive to believe the upcoming college football season should occur. The threat of COVID-19 is real, both to college campuses and the surrounding communities. College football should not happen this year for the safety of all.
To begin, one should look at the fact that many other college sports will not be competing for the remainder of the calendar year. Universities are going to be missing out on the likes of soccer, volleyball, cross country, and field hockey this semester. To give football the chance to play while other sports will not be given that same chance seems rather unfair.
Many of the other canceled sports are hoping to play in the spring semester, which begs the question: why are some schools in such a rush to be playing football at this moment? Athletic directors will say that postponing this football season to the spring, just a couple of months before next season’s restart, will not work. That may be true, but we find ourselves in a time when no one should be taking massive risks that can put people in danger, no matter how inconvenient it is.
College football, with a few exceptions, is currently set to be played across the country in one way or another this fall. The two major exceptions to this trend are the Big Ten and the Pac-12 conferences. Despite holding some of the most well-known college football teams in the country, these conferences have decided to suspend their seasons. Although they have received backlash, it is the right decision. The country has come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic, and any further setbacks should be avoided at all costs. The sheer number of players on a given football team should be reason enough for no college football this year.
A lot has been sacrificed to maintain some semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy. Some universities have already shifted to online learning. owever, these same schools want to be playing football soon. This is not only selfish, but a clear money grab. Essential workers have worked so hard to keep this country afloat. Can we really say that young college football players are essential workers right now? Maybe they could be considered as such for the universities where these players are generating millions of dollars, but not for a country that needs everyone to continue to make smart and safe choices.
PCI: Who Will Win the Big East Tournament?
Seton Hall University
by Leo Hainline ’22
The Big East Tournament is just around the corner, and the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team is looking to become champions for the first time since 2014. And with their recent form, the Friars have shown they are more than capable of making a deep run. It would be quite an accomplishment as the Big East is notably deep this year, full of talented programs from top to bottom. One of these teams is Seton Hall University, a foe that will unfortunately end up winning the tournament over the Friars.
Indeed, Seton Hall appears to have the regular-season championship and no. 1 seed locked up as they sit at 13-3 in Big East play. However, they do play two tough games this week first against Villanova University and then away at Creighton University. Both of these teams currently sit at 11-5 in the conference and will likely be the two and three seeds, respectively.
If Providence finishes its season with wins in their games vs. Xavier University and DePaul University, they will be at worse the four seed. Xavier, Marquette University, and Butler University are all strong programs that are currently sitting in the projected NCAA tournament field. Georgetown University, St. John’s University, and DePaul, could potentially pull off an upset in an early-round (St. John’s has the energy and home-court advantage to cause a high seed some trouble), but they do not pose much of a threat to win it all.
Seton Hall, though, has arguably the most complete team in the Big East. They have a senior leader in Myles Powell who can get a bucket in the biggest moments and is a player who loves playing in New York City. 7’2’’ Romaro Gill is a tough matchup for anyone. Quincy McKnight, Myles Cale, Sandro Mamukelashvili, and Jared Rhoden can all knock down shots and fill out the roster nicely. Here and there, Powell has had poor performances, but it is hard to see him having any letdowns at Madison Square Garden. Seton Hall is also having a historically great year for the program – the last time they won the Big East regular season was in 1992-93 under coach PJ Carlesimo. That year, they won the Big East Tournament and won at Villanova for the first time in 25 years.
If the Pirates finish their regular season with momentum from wins over Villanova and Creighton, I think that there is no doubt they have the best shot at winning the Big East Tournament.
by Meaghan Cahill ’20
The 2020 Big East Tournament is fast approaching and, at the moment, it is completely up for grabs. Seton Hall University is arguably the favorite to win the whole tournament, but the Providence College Men’s Basketball Team is currently in a position that could very much challenge that. I predict that they will be victorious in the tournament.
The main reason why PC has a shot at winning the entire tournament is because, compared to the other teams, their momentum has finally kicked in and it is strong enough to carry them throughout the tournament. Coming off of one of the best months of basketball play, PC has won four-straight games, with three of those wins coming against top-ranked teams. According to ESPN, PC is one of only five teams ever to knock off five top 25 teams in a month.
The most recent was their upset win against Big East rival Villanova University, who is ranked third in the Big East, just behind Seton Hall and Creighton University, and 14th in the country. This 58-54 win secured the Friars a first round bye in the tournament. In addition, with the exception of Xavier University, PC has beaten every team in the Big East.
Alongside their momentum, Luwane Pipkins ’20GS has finally found some consistency. Playing what is without a doubt his best play this season pointwise, Pipkins has finished the last four games with 27, 24, 16, and 13 points, respectively. He also shot 71 percent against Georgetown University, 64 percent against Marquette University, and 54 percent against Villanova. Averaging about 20 points per game, the burst in Pipkins play has, without a doubt, transformed a formally dismal season and has given the team life and chance to secure a NCAA tournament bid.
With Pipkins leading the way, other Friars such as Alpha Diallo ’20 and Maliek White ’20 are playing exceptionally well and other teams will have a hard time shutting them down defensively. Diallo scored a remarkable 35 points against no. 1 ranked Seton Hall and White scored 15 points against Villanova.
In addition to players such as Pipkins finding his stride, the Friars’ defense has been a key component to the success that the team is finding. As head coach Ed Cooley said after the team’s upset against Villanova, “We hang our hat on defense.”
The tenacity that the Friars are displaying after their dismal 6-6 start to the season, along with the fact that key players such as Pipkins, Diallo, and White are finding a way to make their presence known on the court and their recent stellar defensive play are all reasons as to why they have the best shot to claiming this year’s Big East title.PCO
PCI: Should Students be Allowed to Storm the Court After Upsets?
Yes, They Should Be Allowed To
by Gavin Woods ’22
In light of the recent Providence College Men’s Basketball Team victory over Seton Hall University on Feb. 15, many are questioning whether or not student spectators should continue to storm the court. However, I do not think that this instance should be representative of the policy. Storming the court after a big win is a staple of the college basketball experience and should be continued.
Part of what makes the Dunkin’ Donuts Center such a difficult arena for opponents to face is because the PC crowd is so vocal. The best way to measure a crowd’s effect on the game is to look at how it affects the home team’s performance. Head coach Ed Cooley commented, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about how great our crowd was tonight. Our crowd helped us win this game, no question about it. I don’t know what they fed them in here tonight.”
It was exactly this intense excitement that the student section showed for their Friars that made them want to celebrate this conference win. Coach Cooley offered his perspective on the premature court storming: “I know it got out of hand at the end when they thought the game was over. Hopefully we won’t get fined for that. But if we do… I’ll pay for it. It’s worth it if we’re winning.”
When Alpha Diallo ’20 was asked how the sold-out crowd at home made him feel, he replied, “It was a great moment. The storming the court is always fun, especially for the young guys. It was a great atmosphere and we fed off of it for sure.”
Banning the act of court storming would discourage the crowd’s participation. Big wins do not happen often and when they do, students should have the opportunity to celebrate with their fellow classmates. The student body should be free to celebrate with the team however they see fit, so long as it does not interfere with the game as it did this past Saturday.
Storming the court is a longstanding college tradition that has, in some cases, been deemed an essential part of the college experience. To deny students the opportunity to do so takes away the ability for students to make memories of a situation they may never find themselves in again. To put a limit on their celebration is to essentially remove students from the game, which already confines them to mere spectators. Lastly, to reiterate what Diallo said, storming the court not only energizes the fans, but also the players because they feed off the excitement in the stadium and it can be a motivating factor for the team going forward.
Therefore, storming the court, when done correctly, should be allowed because both the fans and players love it. It is a great sports tradition that brings players and fans together.
No, It’s Too Dangerous
by Eileen Flynn ’20
With unexpected outcomes comes unexpected celebrations, and for college basketball an upset at home usually calls for the students to storm the court at the final buzzer.
What might seem like harmless excitement at first can actually turn into mayhem on the court. In addition, large fines can be placed on the institution itself. Some might argue to “let the kids play,” but there have been incidents in the past that should convince any school or league to ban fans from storming the court, with no exceptions.
Student fan sections during the game are expected to get rowdy. Indeed, they are responsible for cheering their team on when it is on a roll, as well as in charge of picking their team up when they need some momentum. Chants, signs, and themed outfits are all encouraged and express the crowd’s commitment to their school’s team. Rushing the court, however, creates a dangerous situation for students and players that can be completely avoidable.
One of the worst cases was in 2004, when a promising high school basketball player, Joe Kay, helped his team beat their rival school with a game-winning dunk. The high school students, who had watched college court storms all their lives, were ready to celebrate the same way. Unfortunately, Kay was a victim of the chaos, being thrown to the ground before suffering a stroke which would later paralyze him on his right side.
The Southeastern Conference and the Big East have started to implement fines for teams that continue to storm the court even after being advised not to do so. However, this does not seem to stop students. A University of South Carolina announcer warned the Gamecock fans prior to their upset victory against University of Kentucky that if the students were to storm the court, the school would be fined up to $50,000. The students charged the court anyways, leaving their school to pay the large fine.
Providence College students are all too familiar with rushing the court after their basketball team comes up with an unexpected win. This season, the team was 0.2 seconds away from beating Seton Hall University, who was sitting first in the Big East and ranked tenth nationally. With an unexpected foul, the students started rushing the court even though the game had not yet ended. Embarrassing the team and the school, the students took their time walking off the court. Providence College was issued a $5,000 fine for the unnecessary fiasco.
How do you distinguish which victory deserves a court storming? Many PC students decided the game was not worthy of storming the court and stayed in their seats at the end of the game, which was a good thing.
Storming the court is not going to get any safer, it embarrasses the school, and in the end, is just not worth it.