We’re heading into the stretch run for the end of this semester. For our first Around the Dorm after Spring Break, we predict the winner of March Madness, Lions spring sports and the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft. The contestants this week are Signal sports editor Brandon Lee, Signal nation & world editor James Queally and correspondent Adam Mamawala. Signal sports assistant Justin Jez takes his usual place as ref.
1) Forget all your March Madness brackets and concerning yourself with all 64 teams. Who is your pick to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship? Why?
BL: Ohio State will win the tournament. Greg Oden is Greg Oden, while Mike Conley Jr. is fifth in the nation in assists. Ohio State is a very young team but it proved itself by winning the Big 12 Conference. Oden will deliver in the clutch and dominate the low post on both sides of the ball. He denies penetrators and slashers, leaving the opposing team with jump shooting. Defense wins championships. I don’t care what type of basketball it is, but a team can only rely so much on jump shooting.
JQ: I hate going with No. 1 seeds, but after the way they handled themselves in the Big 10 tournament, I can’t find any reason to bet against the Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas is playing in a relatively weak West region, where the No. 2 and 4 seeds (UCLA and Southern Illinois) are unlikely to get any further. Continuing with the “bracketology,” Kansas will likely play Florida in the Final Four, a team it beat on the road earlier in the season. Florida is ranked No. 1 overall in the tournament, meaning Kansas has more than proved its worth against the nation’s best. The Jayhawks are led by sharp-shooting forward Julian Wright (12.2 ppg), one of the nation’s best clutch players in Mario Chalmers and veteran coach Bill Self. Kansas will reach the NCAA Finals where it’ll narrowly defeat either Ohio State or Georgetown.
AM: I am going to take Kansas over Georgetown in the finals. Kansas is the most complete team in the tournament. Behind leader Brandon Rush, it has four players averaging double-digits in scoring. Ohio is a great team, but I don’t think the young Oden, who is prone to foul trouble, can carry the whole team. Likewise, freshman Kevin Durant cannot put the team on his back. Unless you are Michael Jordan, one-man shows don’t work. Florida is lacking certain intangibles in comparison to last year. In the later rounds, it will not be able to duplicate its run from last year.
JJ: Close call, but seeing as how I have Kansas atop my bracket, I have to give the edge to Queally and Mamawala. Queally gets 3 points. I agree with your identification of the weaker region Kansas is playing through. Mamawala picks up 2 points. Although I like Kansas, I do not agree that freshman studs cannot carry a team. Just look at Carmelo Anthony. Brandon, pretty good analysis, but you played it safe with the consensus favorite – 1 point.
2) There are a host of the College’s spring sports teams looking to take both the NJAC and Division III National titles this year. Which team has the best shot at taking home a national championship this year?
BL: The baseball team has the best chance at winning both championships this year. They have two All-Americans, a record-setting pitching rotation (which is still intact from last year) and senior catcher Gerard Haran. Haran can arguably rake with the best in the nation (that includes Division I players). The only shaky position on this team is the outfield. However, the new-look outfield will receive tons of help from the College’s pitching staff. Many of the other Lions teams do not have the strong upperclassmen returning like the baseball team. The runner-up would go to the lacrosse team, even though it lost Lauren Dougher and Bridget Bigley. Head coach Sharon Pfluger and junior midfielder Karen Doane will make it another successful postseason.
JQ: After getting off to a red-hot start, it would appear that the baseball team has the best chance to bring the college a Division III National Title this year. The team won six straight to start the year before Macalester College stopped them on March 15. Over that six-game streak, the College outscored its opponents by nearly 50 runs. Keep in mind, the Lions are also returning a pitching staff that set the school record for the lowest ERA in school history a year ago. The Lions also retained two All-Americans in first baseman Blake Bullis and Haran. Haran, who is the all-time leader in home runs here at the College, will lead a powerful lineup that will provide run support for the Lions’ equally dangerous pitching rotation. The Lions have shown what this one-two punch can do, beating Keystone College 16-3 and Denison University 17-4 earlier in the month. The Lions will run through the NJAC and make a serious run at a national title this year.
AM: Even though men’s tennis does not compete in the NJAC, I think it has the best chance at taking home a national championship. Last year was a year they thought they could put it all together. It ended up being a season plagued by injuries, especially to key player Roger Mosteller. The Lions have a deep lineup, better than any other Division III team I’ve seen. It’s going to be tough for people to compete with them. Michael Klimchak is also playing out of his mind right now, sporting a 12-1 combined record in singles and doubles. The addition of freshman Jeremy Eckardt should give them the extra firepower they need to make a push for the title. The only thing they lack is the addition of Adam Mamawala (who is not even No. 1 in club tennis) who feels as if he can contribute to the varsity team. Contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org.
JJ: 3 points go to Brandon and 2 points for Queally. You guys presented pretty similar arguments, but Queally gave more stats and Brandon gave me that coveted inside info. 1 point to Mamawala. For extolling the underrated men’s tennis team, I give you credit. However, your shameless self-promotion and the fact that baseball trumps tennis cost you this round.
3) Pretend you are Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. With a glaring hole at quarterback, which promising young player do you take with the No. 1 pick: JaMarcus Russell or Brady Quinn?
BL: Although Russell is a physical freak, I’d take Quinn. You can be the most athletic person in the world but not make it in the NFL. Russell showed up to the Combine out-of-shape and overweight, while Quinn benched 225 pounds 24 times. That’s pretty good for a 232-pound quarterback. Russell still needs to work on his decision making The stuff he did in college just won’t cut it in the pros. Michael Vick still needs to work on his decision making; that’s why his team didn’t make it to the playoffs this past season. Quinn is smart and was tutored by Charlie Weiss, who also helped Tom Brady go from sixth-round pick to future Hall of Famer. Quinn reminds me of Matt Leinart: a smart, accurate passer that makes good decisions. You don’t need a howitzer for an arm in the NFL; you need to make good decisions.
JQ: I think Quinn is the obvious choice for the Raiders. Quinn led Notre Dame to a 10-2 regular season before a collapse in the Sugar Bowl against LSU, and his numbers are very impressive in their own right. Quinn had a 148 passer rating in his senior year, along with 37 touchdowns and over 3,000 passing yards in the final two years of his Notre Dame career. I believe the fact that Quinn played at Notre Dame, one of the most storied football schools in NCAA history, will help him adjust to the NFL spotlight much quicker than Russell will. Quinn is going to be living under a microscope in Oakland, where he’ll be trying to lead a franchise that used to strike fear in the hearts of NFL teams back from an abysmal 2-14 season. Tack on that Russell was described as looking “soft” at the NFL Combine, where he didn’t even throw a football. Russell will become a formidable quarterback in the NFL, but Quinn has the aura of a leader about him, and that is what Oakland truly needs right now.
AM: I have to go with Russell. He is more proven in big games then Quinn. Case in point: Russell’s 350 yards of total offense and 3 TD’s in his Sugar Bowl performance against Notre Dame in a huge 41-14 win. With the ability to avoid the rush and throw an accurate deep ball, Russell is the better all-around quarterback. When comparing the two, Russell is more of a franchise type player whom you could build a team around. Quinn would fit in well with an established team, but not one like the Raiders. Russell is more like Vick and Donovan McNabb, players who came into bad situations and became the focal point of the team.
JJ: Brandon takes this round – 3 points. I was for Russell and your case that Quinn has the right tools made me reconsider. Mamawala gets 2 points this round. I do think that Russell has the Vince Young- like quality. Queally, you made a case for Quinn and mentioned the 41-14 whipping Russell gave Quinn in the Sugar Bowl. Plus I don’t think just playing for Notre Dame gives Quinn an edge – 1 point.
With a score of 7-6-5, Brandon wins this week’s title.