In the first Spring 2013 matchup for Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Chris Molicki, challenges correspondent Joe Caputo and staff writers Mike Herold and Chrissy Onorato to answer questions about who are the favorites to make it to the Stanley Cup, whether or not Manti Te’o was in on the fake girlfriend hoax, and which team is currently the nation’s best in college basketball.
1. The NHL season has finally begun. Who are your favorites in each conference to make it to the Stanley Cup?
JC: With a shortened season in the NHL, it may be wise to pick teams that are bringing back the majority of their players. New acquisitions may struggle with the lack of an offseason and preparation time as we saw in the NFL a year ago. My bet to win the Western Conference is the Los Angeles Kings. Despite being the No. 8 seed last season, the Kings bring back almost the exact same squad, including one of the best goalies in the league, Jonathan Quick. They tore through the playoffs last season, and were road beasts in the process, with their only loss coming in New Jersey in the Stanley Cup Finals. Hot team, same roster and virtually no offseason, the Kings will be the team to beat in the West. In the East, I think the Pittsburgh Penguins will bounce back this year. Although they did earn the No. 4 seed last season, they were a first round exit and were mightily let down by awful goaltending by Marc-Andre Fleury, who gave up almost two more goals per game in the series than he has averaged in his career. But that could be just a string of bad games. It is very encouraging that Pittsburgh was able to post a good record with Crosby banged up for most of the year last season, and will have him back in full force. Their tough division should make them battle tested as well.
MH: In the East, I view the New Jersey Devils as the type of team that doesn’t make a lot of noise in the regular season, won’t be on a lot of contender lists for most of the year, but will know how to turn it on come playoff time, like the Spurs in the NBA or the Giants in the NFL. They made it to the Cup last season, and I think they’ll do it again, probably coming from a lower seed. In the West, I’ll go with the San Jose Sharks as something of a wild card pick. They’re a team with a bunch of aging talent (and a strong defense), and the players might view this as something of a last chance to go the distance. They also haven’t had too much turnover (especially for a lockout year), so the chemistry should be there. I think veteran teams with chemistry do the best in shortened seasons (the Mavs in ‘11), so they’re my pick.
CO: For this long anticipated 2013 NHL season, I feel like it’s going to be one to remember. For the Eastern Conference, I have to pick the Philadelphia Flyers. With Claude Giroux as the new Flyer’s captain, the team will be under expert leadership and look promising for the playoffs. And with names like Danny Briere and Scott Hartnell, the Flyers look to be very strong. As for the Western Conference, I have to pick the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings have a lot of ex-Flyers, like Simon Gagne, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who were all crucial to Philadelphia when they were with them. Last year the Vancouver Canucks led the NHL in winning percentage, but I think the Flyers and the Kings will be at the top this season.
Joe gets 3 points for mentioning how good the Penguins were without Crosby. Mike gets 2 points for pointing out how a team with a good playoff track record has an advantage. Chrissy gets 1 point for talking about the leadership of Claude Giroux.
2. News broke that the deceased girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o never actually existed. More facts need to surface, so the jury is up in the air about whether or not Te’o is innocent or part of the scandal. Do you think he was duped or did he do this for publicity?
JC: After witnessing how much Manti Te’o was idolized throughout the season for being an all-star player and individual, it’s hard to imagine that he could have come up with a wild story like this one. However, the facts just do not seem to add up. I find it hard to believe that he was completely duped on this story. For one, if his side of the story was true, this would mean that he had never met his girlfriend, yet was devastated upon finding out about her death. Although all deaths are devastating, especially to young individuals, how much could he have actually cared for a woman that he had never met in his life? Secondly, evidence and Te’o’s story shows that he knew he had been duped well before we (the media) found out, saying that he found out about the hoax back in December. Why didn’t he come clean about the matter then? And finally, new stories are coming out now saying that Te’o was still talking about his deceased girlfriend with ESPN after he reportedly found out about the hoax in December, when he received a call from the same number and voice that he associated with her. I understand that Te’o and Notre Dame could have possibly just been trying to save him from massive humiliation, but keeping details secret about a story that made him so famous does not seem to make sense.
MH: I think Te’o was duped, and here’s why: There was no positive outcome from this for him. He already had the whole sympathy angle and amazing story of battling through tough times thing going from his dying grandmother, which was the only possible benefit a fake dead girlfriend could have. Why risk your reputation and draft stock pulling a hoax that will only get you slightly more of what you’re already going to get? I think Te’o was duped in the same way that little girls are duped by creepy pedos online, only he didn’t have Chris Hansen to protect him. The only strange part is that the star of the Notre Dame Football team didn’t have a real girlfriend. Plus, if he was duped, you open the door for wild conspiracy theories, like Nick Saban setting up the whole thing to distract the Irish right before the title game, which would mean Saban had predicted that Notre Dame would be undefeated in the regular season, and is an evil psychic. That’s a much better story than Te’o being in on it, and makes as much sense.
CO: Pertaining to the Manti Te’o scandal, I personally would like to think he had nothing to do with this controversy. After watching him speak in various interviews, I don’t know how some people could say he was behind it. His facial expressions and tears were clearly signs that he was duped. I know that celebrities are just like ordinary people, willing to do anything to get into the public light and get their names on television. However, faking someone’s death and going through an elaborate scheme, such as the one Te’o was charged with, does not seem like something a college football player would need to do to get attention. Still, it is a strange situation all around and more information needs to come out pertaining to the death of Lennay Kekua. I personally think the media has played up this controversy like they always do and things have gotten way out of proportion. More facts need to come out before reporting is done, sparing Te’o and anyone else involved future condemnation.
Joe gets 3 points for pointing out how Te’o apparently still talked about his deceased girlfriend after finding out it was a hoax. Chrissy gets 2 points for talking about how Te’o’s emotions have seemed rather genuine. Mike gets 1 point for saying that Te’o didn’t need this publicity because he already had it after his grandmother died.
3. We’re getting closer and closer to March as college basketball is heating up. With no more undefeated teams, out of all of the one-loss teams, who do you think is the best in the nation?
JC: My Louisville Cardinals were the only team last season that I did not find any red sharpie over after the NCAA Tournament, and it would be very difficult to turn away from them now. I love teams with experience, and hate freshmen. Seeing how well Louisville played last year (probably gave Kentucky their best game) and how experienced they now are, it is going to be hard to pick against them. This team has experienced both ends of the spectrum. Virtually the same team that was ousted by No. 13 seed Morehead State two years ago, and virtually the same team that made a Final Four run last year. They know what it takes to get there and they have the talent it takes as well. Russ Smith gets my vote for National Player of the Year this year. The guy is an absolute stud, both offensively and defensively, and can score in a hurry. He’s always a threat for a fast break bucket and can outrun anyone. Put him together with one of the best point guards in the nation in Peyton Siva, and one of the best shot-blocker/rebounders in Gorgui Dieng, and you have the recipe for any National Champion in recent memory. The only slight worry I have with the Cards is their three-point shooting, but look out for Luke Hancock. After a slow start to the season, he seems to be catching fire of late, he was huge in their victory over Missouri and could provide an excellent spark off the bench for the remainder of the season.
MH: I’m going to be boring this time and pick Duke. Now, I’m not a Dukey by any stretch, but right now they look to me like the best team. They had one lousy game against N. C. State, but overall they’ve put together a very impressive season, including an important win over Louisville. They play more as a defensive team than an offensive one, typically holding their opposition to under 70 points a game (only two teams have cracked 75). The main reason I like them is because they have, almost indisputably, the best coach in college basketball right now, and at the collegiate level, the coach is a much more important factor than in the NBA. As long as Coach K is at the helm down in Durham, I think Duke is the best.
CO: With March Madness quickly approaching, it is a really tough call to say now who has the best chance to win the championship. Though no one has an undefeated record anymore, there are still many teams with only one loss. I would have to pick Louisville (15-1) as the best in the nation right now. They are ranked first in the both polls. Though they do not have the best record (other schools have a 16-1 record), they have been playing consistently and the team works well together. Players Kevin Ware, Peyton Siva and Russ Smith have led the team to their top position in the Big East Conference. Louisville has some tough games coming up going into March, but if they keep playing the way they have all season, I think they could make it to the end. Their two games with Syracuse are going to be crucial in the coming weeks.
Joe gets 3 points for saying that Louisville has all the pieces to make a national championship run. Mike gets 2 points for pointing out that Duke has Coach K and a great defense. Chrissy gets 1 point for talking about Louisville being at the top and staying there.
Joe wins Around the Dorm, 9-5-4.