Around the Dorm 12/7: College Football Playoffs, MLS Cup and Philadelphia 76ers

In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, “Ref” Miguel Gonzalez asks our panel of three experts — Matt Ajaj, Connor Smith and Otto Gomez — three questions: Should the Ohio State Buckeyes be in the College Football Playoffs? Who will win the MLS cup? Do you believe that the Philadelphia 76ers patience and development strategy is working?

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1. Should the Ohio State Buckeyes be in the College Football Playoffs despite not competing in their conference championship?

Matt: Yes — not a question in my mind. The Buckeyes have beaten some of the best teams in the country, including Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Michigan. Their only loss was a fluky, 21-24 nail-biter versus Pennsylvania State University, which just won the Big 10 Conference Championship. The “They didn’t even make the conference championship” sentiment for leaving Ohio State out of the College Football Playoff is redundant and flawed logic. Ohio State did not make their conference championship because they had that one fluke loss. A narrow defeat on the home turf of a division rival that is currently ranked fifth in the country should not be the Buckeyes downfall. Leaving the second-best team out of the playoffs for such a reason would lead to nothing short of a college football crisis.

Connor: No. 2 Ohio State’s place in the College Football Playoffs was legitimized with a solid 11-1 record against college football’s toughest schedule compared to Penn State’s 15th. Who cares about some arbitrary title that no one will remember once the real games are played? Penn State had a good season and pulled off a great upset on Ohio State, but that doesn’t erase the fact that Michigan thrashed them 49-10. Ohio State was a better team that beat better opponents, and the rankings validate that. If we’re going to judge one game over an entire season of work, then let’s just put Pittsburgh in the playoffs and call it a day.

AP Photo
AP Photo
penn-state-ap
AP Photo

Otto: Absolutely, without a doubt. They have been among the top four teams in the country all year and, more importantly, they have been the best team in the Big 10, even though they didn’t win the conference championship. For one, they only have one loss, something Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin cannot say. After that, Ohio State only lost to Penn State by three points on a blocked field goal attempt and Penn State fell to Michigan by a lofty 39-point margin. Ohio State has a more explosive quarterback and offense, leading the Big 10 in points scored. They have been in the top five all year and without a doubt should have been in the conference championship if not for the division rules. Last resort, their point differential in the entire year was a resounding 342 points.

Everyone gets 3 points for their detailed analysis on Penn State and Ohio State.

2. Who will win the MLS cup? The Seattle Sounders or the Toronto FC?

Matt: Toronto FC has the home field advantage with an impressive 11-3-6 home record. I would already cite them as the favorites. Then I looked at the Seattle Sounders road record, 5-10-4. With these two facts in tow, the probability formula heavily favors FC. However, if I’m being brutally honest, I know nothing about MLS. I quite literally cannot name a single player in MLS. I keep hearing that MLS is on the rise amongst American youth, but I fail to see it hitting the mainstream when American soccer lacks the legacy of baseball and the excitement of football, basketball and hockey. The sport — or at least the league — needs something to help it stand out from the crowd. Until then, the average American will continue to draw their attention to whatever dazzles the eye or tickles the nostalgia bone. I hope that MLS can eventually capture some sort of interest across the country, and perhaps I will one day be able to answer the question “Who will win the MLS cup?”

Connor: The Seattle Sounders overcame a lot to make it to the MLS cup finals. They beat top seeds like FC Dallas in the western conference and asserted strong defensive efforts. That said, Jozy Altidore is an absolute monster, and I doubt the Sounders can hold back Toronto FC’s explosive offense. Toronto scored 17 goals in just three playoff matchups. If they can drop five goals on New York FC in one leg, I think they can beat out the Sounders in a high-scoring shoot-out.   

AP Photo
AP Photo

Otto: I think Toronto FC will win for a couple of reasons. I always have a hard time thinking the underdog is going to win, but in this case, the Sounders are a resounding underdog. Their goal differential during the regular season was only one compared to 12 by Toronto. I also think soccer can often become a game of superstars, especially in the playoffs. Toronto’s roster includes two former United States National Team heavyweights, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore as well as last year’s MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco. These guys know the stage and the pressure and will be very successful in the Cup match on Saturday, Dec. 10. While the Sounders house big name players, they have barely squeaked through the playoffs. Aside from their 3-0 victory against FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference semifinals, the rest of their four games have been decided by one goal. I think Toronto will come out on top, 2-0.

Otto gets 3 points for mentioning Bradley and Altidore. Connor gets 2 points because Toronto FC does have an explosive offense. Matthew gets 1 point for writing off-topic.

3. Do you believe that the Philadelphia 76ers patience and development strategy is working?

Matt: The 76ers are 4-16, which is good for last place in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia’s season records of the past three seasons, in chronological order, are 19-63, 18-64 and 10-72. We have been told to “Trust the process,” which requires tanking seasons in order to acquire better draft picks. In many instances, this strategy of suffering in the present in order to create a better future actually works quite well. Take a doctor, for example. Throughout their 20s, the life of an aspiring doctor is miserable. However, upon acquiring a medical degree, they will presumably be set for life. Sounds great, but easier said than done. However, in sports, this mentality does not work. Losing here and there can serve as a reality check and inspiration to improve. But continuous losing while expressing no desire to change or progress is downright cancerous to a team. Once you become numb to losing, you become fine with losing and lose the will to win. That’s exactly what’s happening to the 76ers — no matter how much they stack their roster, the organization has become apathetic to losing. So the desire to win — and thus their likelihood to win — has been quashed.

Connor: The NBA is in a weird position. If you don’t have two or three superstars, you have no chance against the likes of LeBron James or the Golden State Warriors. Given the 76ers position as a loser, the promise Joel Embiid has shown, and the recovery of Ben Simmons, the Sixers are in a position to grow. Compare that to a team that still tries to piece together winning rosters, like the Knicks, and you start to see the process having some merit. The Knicks are bad. They’ve been bad, and they will be bad for the foreseeable future. At least the Sixers have something to look forward to, though. If it falls apart… oh well. They weren’t going to win anything anyway.

AP Photo
AP Photo

Otto: Without a doubt, Joel Embiid is the real thing — no one can deny that. Ben Simmons is going to be incredible. They have already shown great glimpses into what their possible future. Most importantly, they have shown that they are going to have to make roster moves to get more assets, trading Nerlens Noel and possibly even Joel Okafor in the near future. When Simmons comes back, they will have a true floor general and will be able to score in transition as well as being able to feed Embiid in the post. The Process, however, is not over. With this season not panning out well, they will have a top-five lottery pick once again. They will also most likely get the Lakers first round pick because it is only protected for the first three picks as well Sacramento’s 2019 first pick. That latter is incredibly dangerous because if the Kings deal Cousins, they will be in tanking mode for a while.

Otto gets 3 points for his optimistic response. Connor gets 2 points because the Knicks are really bad. Matthew gets 1 point because doctors and basketball are different.

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