It’s another battle of the staff writers, sports fans. This week, we’re discussing the NCAA Wooden Award, Johan Santana’s less-than-good Spring training debut and the Flyers’ chances of claiming a Cup. Staff writers Steve Cohen, Bobby Olivier and Brandon Lee will throw in their two cents as the contestants while arts & entertainment editor James Queally serves as our all-powerful referee.
1) Michael Beasley and Tyler Hansbrough have emerged as the two favorites for this year’s NCAA Wooden Award, but is there anyone else? Who is your pick for this year’s top men’s Division I baller?
SC: I agree these are the two guys to watch this year, and Hansbrough is going to walk away with this one. It’s not because he is more talented, but the fact that he is older and is playing on a team with much more potential will come into play. Since both players are having monster years, the success of the team is going to be important. The fact that Beasley and Kansas State have lost five of their last six despite a double-double performance by Beasley in all of the losses shows me he does not have much support from his team, and that forces them to get the ball to him more often. Hansbrough’s Tar Heels have lost two games all year, but Hansbrough is still the shining star despite strong play from his supporting cast. Hansbrough is the obvious pick.
BO: Although Hansborough and Beasley are having impressive years, this question needs a little more love – Kevin Love, that is. This 6-10 University of California-Los Angeles freshman center is averaging 17.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game. He is one of the key contributors of a Bruins team that is currently No. 4 in the country. Also, someone whom you never hear about on ESPN is Charron Fisher, a guard for Niagara. He is leading the country with 27.8 points a game and is averaging 9.3 boards as well. But my serious pick for the Wooden Award this year is Hansborough due to the fact that he plays in the ultra-competitive ACC and gets banged up and bloodied every night. He’s averaging 23.4 points and 10.4 rebounds a game to lead the ACC and he is going to lead the Tar Heels to a National Championship this year.
BL: No other players mean more to their teams than Beasley and Hansborough. Beasley is a freshman and Hansborough is a junior. I would give the award to Beasley because he’s more important to Kansas State than Hansborough is to University of North Carolina. Hansborough has a stronger supporting cast and has a few big men for protection and a few blocks for solid interior defense. Beasley has a least put Kansas State on the map. He leads the team in blocks and is the only player averaging more than one block a game. He also has better per-game stats than Hansborough in every major category except steals and turnovers. Beasley can also hit the three, something Hansborough can’t do at all.
JQ: Brandon and Cohen make similar arguments about K-State and UNC’s respective supporting casts. However, Cohen points out that Beasley is benefiting from the complete lack of star power around him while Hansborough is shining on one of the best teams in the country, so 3 for Cohen and 2 for Brandon. Bobby, I’m glad you mentioned Kevin Love and Charron Fisher. I have been following UCLA closely this season and he is impressive down low, but you didn’t give me enough on your actual pick. 1.5 because I can’t bring myself to give you just 1.
2. Johan Santana was rocked by the Cardinals in his Spring training debut. Should this be a huge concern for the Amazins’ about their newly acquired ace’s health, or is it just the typical Spring training rust?
SC: This is nothing to worry about for the strikeout machine. It is almost expected for people start off shaky when they come to the Big Apple to play ball. Santana has easily proven over the last few seasons that he is one of the top pitchers in baseball. Why else would the Mets have given him his ridiculously large contract? I expect the Mets to be very pleased with their investment in Santana as he will easily step into the anchoring role of the Mets’ pitching rotation. Sorry Pedro.
BO: Although it makes me happy to see Santana get rocked, I do not think this is a cause for concern. Spring training is simply that – training. Santana, along with everyone else in MLB, is just trying to get ready for the season. This is just off-season rust. His elbow was also a bit sore from signing that giant contract the Mets bestowed upon his left arm. Santana will be just fine due to the fact that he is now pitching in the B League – I mean National League – where a pitcher faces weaker lineups and only has to give his all on seven out of nine batters. No one is expecting Santana to go 32-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and right now he is just working out the kinks. The Mets’ offense will give him plenty of run support and he will be just fine.
BL: Santana has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the game for the past few years. No way should the Mets be worried about his performance. For aces and proven veterans, Spring training is about getting ready for the long grind of the season and building arm strength. Trying to prove you belong is something for prospects, rookies and has-beens trying to look for some cash. Santana is only 28 and shows no signs of slowing down as he enters his prime. Since 2002, Santana’s highest ERA was last year’s horrific ERA of 3.33. If Mets fans are worried, they shouldn’t be. He’s being paid $137.5 million for a reason.
JQ: All very similar responses, essentially telling me to shut up. Bobby does the best job silencing me, so his sarcastic comments and wealth of facts earn him 3. Cohen and Brandon state the obvious – Spring training doesn’t mean much, and that’s good enough here, so 2 points each.
3) The Avalanche recently resigned former Flyers great Peter Forsberg. If he had instead signed again with Philadelphia, could Forsberg have made the team a legit Stanley Cup threat?
SC: The Flyers are in too tough of an Eastern Conference for Forsberg to have been able to make any sort of major impact. While Forsberg has had a long and successful career, he is nearing the end. Earlier this season, he had zero intention of returning to the NHL as he was waiting to see how his foot would heal after surgery. I think his addition to the Flyers’ roster would have been too little too late as he got back into the flow of playing in the NHL after his surgery.
BO: Forsberg is a seasoned veteran who could have helped the Flyers at the center position, but at this point Philadelphia is just skating in circles. The Flyers currently sit in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, fighting for their playoff lives. They are not a Stanley Cup threat with or without Forsberg. The Flyers are third in conference in team scoring but they have no one in the top 20 individual scoring. Without a go-to guy, the Flyers are going nowhere. Forsberg could have been that go-to guy but at 34 years old and past his prime, I would not count on it. The Flyers might have made the playoffs, but they would still have been eating Philly cheesesteaks and watching the Stanley Cup on TV. Forsberg could have brought the chips and salsa.
BL: The Flyers are relatively green at the center position with a few kids in their 20s and Jim Dowd at 39. Forsberg is 34 and still has a year or two left. He could have provided leadership to the position and would have been more serviceable than Dowd because he is younger. Forsberg has “been there and done that” enough and still has a sharp enough wrist shot to have made the Flyers solid contenders in the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Flyers simply don’t have enough power on the team to move them past the Penguins, Devils, Rangers or Bruins in the Atlantic Division. Other teams also have more playoff experience, so even if Forsberg had joined the roster, you could still have counted the Flyers out of the Stanley Cup finals.
JQ: Holy comeback Batman! Bobby scores 3 again with an excellent breakdown of why the Flyers wouldn’t win the Cup with or without Forsberg. Brandon gets 2 points for a similar argument that was too heavy on the typical argument of age and less on hockey knowhow. Cohen keeps it simple and he’s absolutely right, but just not enough to keep up with the other players – 1 point.
In an unprecedented 7.5-6-6 victory, Bobby gets this week’s title.