In this week’s matchup of Around the Dorm, the “Ref,” Chris Molicki, challenges staff writer Mike Herold, news assistant Julie Kayzerman and staff writer Andrew Grossman to answer questions about the Eagles’ decision to keep Michael Vick, who the top sleepers are in college basketball, and which team is the favorite to come out of the NHL’s Atlantic Division.
1. The Philadelphia Eagles just restructured Michael Vick’s contract to a one-year deal, penciling him in as their starter next season in new head coach Chip Kelly’s offense. Do you think this was a good decision by the Eagles? And how will Philly fare this season with Vick under the helm?
MH: They replaced his old deal, which was signed in 2011 and was meant to last for six seasons. Considering that deal was for $100 million, and this one is only for $10 million, they definitely made the right financial decision, and therefore made the right call overall. If Vick doesn’t work out, they can just let him go as a free agent next year, and all will be well. And I think that’s what will eventually happen, due to two primary reasons: Vick isn’t the right fit for Chip Kelly’s offense and Philly is going to eat that team alive this year. Kelly’s offense uses a lot of designed runs, an area where Vick struggles somewhat, gaining just 1.7 yards per carry on them (compared to his impressive 6.7 yards per carry on scrambles, his greatest strength), so he’s not the perfect fit. And since the Eagles won’t make the playoffs this season, the fans of Philly (cowed last season by the woeful awfulness of their supposed Super Bowl favorites) are going to explode, which will make everything seem even worse than it is. I’m guessing they finish the season 7-9.
JK: The decision to sign Michael Vick was not a good one for the Philadelphia Eagles because nothing will change to reignite the team. Vick is always suffering from huge injuries and is surrounded by a lackluster team that doesn’t have a good offense. Vick has been trying to force pocket passes and instead has ended up throwing several interceptions and therefore will not improve the overall play of the Eagles.
AG: The signing of Michael Vick is a high risk, high-reward situation. We all know what he is capable of, but after having 13 touchdowns to 15 turnovers last season, Philly fans should begin to worry. Through four seasons playing for the Eagles, Vick has yet to start all 16 games. With durability and turnovers being a consistent issue, Chip Kelly must have a trick up his sleeve if he believes he can return Vick back to his top form. Now 32, he is not getting any younger, which means the smart decision would be to start the young Nick Foles. In seven games with the Eagles, Foles completed over 60 percent of his passes for nearly 1,700 yards. He also got much better as the season progressed. Although more people would like to see Vick start, Foles is the Eagles’ future. The sooner Kelly and the rest of the organization realize that, the better.
Mike gets 3 points for discussing Kelly’s offense and Vick’s struggles with designed runs. Andrew gets 2 points for saying how Vick is really past his prime. Julie gets 1 point for pointing out that there isn’t great talent on the team surrounding Vick.
2. College basketball has been absolutely insane so far, with upsets happening left and right to top teams. Forget about the favorites, who are your two sleepers to make a deep run in March Madness?
MH: With all the crazy ups and downs, I think to pick a sleeper you need to drop out of the top 25 ranked schools. That being said, my first Cinderella is going to be the St. Mary’s Gaels, who currently sit somewhere just below that mark. I’m going with them for two reasons, one fact-based and the other superstition-backed. The factual one is simple — they have a great offense, hitting 48.9 percent of their shots and 39.2 percent of their threes, and putting up 77 points per game. The superstitious reasoning is that at least one religious school always makes a run, and they look like the top candidate this season. My second pick would be the Missouri Tigers, mostly because the coaches think they are the best non-top 25 team (coaches tend to know what they’re talking about here) and because they’ve got an inside game grabbing 42 boards per contest, which certainly helps in tournament play.
JK: With several upsets this season, I think that Illinois and Syracuse can make a good run in March Madness this year. Illinois’s D.J. Richardson has been scoring several points and the team has clearly been coming together nicely as they have been on a three-game winning streak, including an upset over the No. 1-ranked Indiana. In addition, now No. 21-seeded Notre Dame has proven to be a contender after fighting their way through five tiring overtimes in an exciting game against then No. 11-seeded Louisville. The ending minute and overtime minutes of games in any sport are the minutes where true team chemistry, conditioning and hard work come into play to prove who is worthy of victory and Notre Dame has been proving to do just that.
AG: My two sleeper teams may have started out as favorites earlier in the season, but due to recent slumps, the analysts are beginning to question their abilities. The No. 14 Kansas Jayhawks and the No. 23 Oregon Ducks both have the potential to make deep runs in March Madness if they can get back to their mid-season form. First with the Jayhawks, they had a great run last year before falling short to Kentucky in the Championship game. With three of their five starters back from last season, they have the experience and are poised to make another deep run. As for Oregon, they too were playing well until their three-game skid. Prior to that streak, they beat out top-ranked teams including Arizona and UCLA. If they can find their rhythm again, they know they can contest with any school in the Pac-12 and in the nation.
Julie gets 3 points for discussing the recent success of Illinois and Notre Dame against top teams. Mike gets 2 points for pointing out Missouri’s ability on the boards. Andrew gets 1 point because Kansas and Oregon really aren’t sleeper teams.
3. Despite losing Zach Parise, the Devils are cruising in the Atlantic Division. However, the Penguins are right there with them, the Rangers and Flyers are starting to come on, and even the Islanders are relevant. Who is your favorite to come out on top in arguably the best division in hockey?
MH: I picked the Devils to make it all the way to the Stanley Cup a few weeks ago, and now I look like a bit of a genius. I’m sticking with them now in part because I picked them then, and because they’re currently winning. Also adding to my decision is their recent reacquisition of Alexei Ponikarovsky (don’t you just love trying to spell/pronounce professional hockey players’ names?), who was one of the key contributors to their playoff run last season. Plus, the other players appear happy to have him back, which can only be a good thing for team chemistry, and he’s happy to be back as well, which is also a positive sign. Further adding to my argument is that this team is much like the Spurs in the NBA — they’ve been here before, so they won’t panic, and they came so close last year, so they have quite a bit of motivation. And, you know, they ARE Jersey’s last true pro team, so anyone who doesn’t pick them is un-New-Jerseyan.
JK: The New York Rangers may be falling just short of the Devils and the Penguins. However, their continuous improvement in team chemistry prompts me to favor them as the team to come out on top. The Rangers have acquired several young and talented players that have stepped up on the ice. With the leadership of Captain Ryan Callahan, the heart and soul of the team, New York becomes inspired on the ice, resulting in hard-fought battles and constant pressure from young forwards like Carl Hagelin. On the defensive side, Marc Staal, Michael Del Zotto, Ryan McDonough and Dan Girardi provide solid blocking and positioning skills to back up arguably the best current goalie in the NHL, Henrik Lundqvist, in order to lead the Rangers to victory.
AG: The Pittsburgh Penguins are not only the best team in the Atlantic Division, but they also have a legitimate chance to hoist the Stanley Cup by the season’s end. With Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz all ranked in the top 10 in points scored, this Penguins offense has been nearly unstoppable. On the defensive side of the puck, Marc-Andre Fleury has also been incredible with seven wins thus far as goalie. Behind Fleury is Tomas Vokoun who is a legitimate back-up goalie in his own right. This combination can help to keep Fluery fresh heading into the playoffs. While the Devils’ surge is certainly impressive, they do not have the personnel to hold off a healthy Penguins team in the later part of the season. My only concern is Crosby’s tendency to get hurt. If he and the rest of his team can stay healthy, then the Devil’s would be fighting an uphill battle. Other than injuries plaguing Pittsburgh, it is the Penguins’ division to lose.
Andrew gets 3 points for mentioning all of the talent of the Penguins. Mike gets 2 points for saying how the Devils are a team that knows how to win. Julie gets 1 point for discussing the all-around solid players on the Rangers.
Mike wins Around the Dorm, 7-6-5.