In this week’s edition of Around the Dorm, “Ref” Miguel Gonzalez asked our panel of three experts — Alberto Gregorio, William Guttman and Michael Battista — three questions: 1. How have the Vegas Golden Knights ascended to the top of the NHL Western Conference? 2. Can Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young lead his team to success this March? 3. Were the Pittsburgh Steelers unprepared for the Jacksonville Jaguars?
1. How have the Vegas Golden Knights ascended to the top of the NHL Western Conference?
Alberto: The Golden Knights are one of the best teams in the NHL because of their quickness. During the past five seasons, the NHL has been evolving into a speed game. Shorter players are now finding success when they would not have a decade ago when the players focused on heavy hits. During the expansion draft, the Knights modeled their team after small and fast players who can outskate just about anyone in the league. Players like centers William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault are having career years. Previously, they were not playing with players as fast as them. Now paired with players who can keep up, the Knights are pushing the pace of play. As a result, they have tremendous success playing rush and transition games. They outskate their opponents on the rush, which naturally opens up holes that the Knights can easily pass through. They skate quickly and move the puck even quicker. Other teams have a hard time playing at the speed the Knights do, and no one can keep up with the Knights’ pace.
William: Las Vegas has become an elite team in the conference with a surprisingly good lineup and impressive goaltending. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Fleury is still elite, and even with him out for a stretch, backup goalkeepers Oscar Dansk and Malcolm Subban have been stellar. With no big names on the team, it’s a stretch to say that no one expected much from the newest NHL franchise. In new roles as the team’s best trio, Marchessault, Karlsson and right winger Reilly Smith have been able to play to their fullest potentials, taking the league by storm. I don’t think anyone is still skeptical of this team’s ability to be successful in the NHL.
Michael: The Golden Knights are having the most success of any expansion franchise in North American sports history. To be honest, I almost hate trying to dissect this team because I simply enjoy watching them play. When looking at leading players in the NHL, besides goalkeeper Fleury’s leading the league in save percentage, not many Golden Knights are in top spots. This team works more as a unit than as a team with one big star. Every member is playing his part, whether it be as a third string goalie with Subban and Malcolm, or a young defender like Colin Miller. This team could be the first expansion team since the 1967-1968 St. Louis Blues to make the Stanley Cup Final in their first year, but I think they could actually win the entire thing in just four games.
Alberto gets 3 points for emphasizing the importance of speed. William gets 2 points for mentioning Dansk and Subban. Michael gets 1 point for being honest.
2. Can Oklahoma freshman guard Trae Young lead his team to success this March?
Alberto: Trae Young is phenomenally talented, but March Madness is a different kind of monster Young has not experienced before. Since he is only a freshman, he needs more time to grow before he can lead Oklahoma to a deep run come March.
William: The short answer: yes. The long answer: define success. Winning it all? No. Solid tournament run? No doubt. Trae Young is phenomenal. He is putting up Kevin Durant-like numbers and draws comparisons to Steph Curry. What do those two players suggest? Well to start, a few MVPs, not to mention many deep playoff runs and some championships. The numbers alone are enough to bet against even the best of teams and players, but you have to like what Young brings to the table. Expect his eye-popping numbers to get even better as he gains experience and leads his team through the big tournament.
Michael: He can, but I think we should be worrying about him leading his team to conference success first. The team has the eighth-hardest remaining strength of schedule and the Big 12 is stacked this year. The top four teams are all ranked in the top 10, and Oklahoma is in fourth place despite holding the highest national ranking. Young may be leading the team by averaging 30 points per game, but with tough Big 12 competition they may have to receive a bid into March Madness. As a lower seed, Oklahoma may be pitted against teams like No. 1 ranked Villanova or a team like Michigan State. Young and the rest of his team are going to need to show they haven’t peaked and keep pushing deep into the regular season if they want any hope of success come March.
Michael gets 2 points for talking about the Big 12. Alberto and William get 1 point for their ‘phenomenal’ answers.
3. Were the Pittsburgh Steelers unprepared for the Jacksonville Jaguars?
Alberto: The Pittsburgh Steelers definitely underestimated the Jacksonville Jaguars. From the very beginning of the game, the Steelers were not ready. In fact, the Jaguars scored a touchdown on the first drive of the game and took off from there. The Steelers were left surprised and played catch up the entire game. It took about halfway through the second quarter for the Steelers to answer the Jaguars’ hot start. By the time the Steelers scored a touchdown and got their first points, the Jaguars already had three touchdowns of their own. In the second half, the Steelers battled back to make it close, but by then, it was already too late.
William: The Jaguars are a very good team and the Steelers knew it. It’s hard to imagine any team underestimating their opponent in the playoffs, so I have to say no. Given that Jacksonville’s defense was the one thing that was expected to keep this game interesting, Pittsburgh showed that they clearly studied, putting up 42 points. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger picked apart the team for five touchdown passes and put them in their place. The terrible towels didn’t put any fear in Jaguars’ running back Leonard Fournette, however, and he quickly became an factor in this showdown. When two good teams clash, only one can win, but it doesn’t always mean the other wasn’t prepared, right?
Michael: Without a doubt. Every Yinzer in Pittsburgh, not just the players, had been looking toward the Patriots since they got whooped in last year’s conference championship. Steelers’ safety Mike Mitchell came out and said his Steelers could beat the Patriots in any location, from Hell to New England. It doesn’t seem crazy to think a team that nearly beat the defending Super Bowl champs in the regular season would overlook a Jacksonville side that managed 10 points against the Buffalo Bills. If star running back Le’Veon Bell felt like skipping the team walkthrough before the divisional round, I’m betting other players felt the same way. At the end of the game, the Steelers’ plain arrogance and underestimation of quarterback Blake Bortles and his slingshot arm led to their downfall.
William gets 3 points for emphasizing defense. Michael gets 2 points for mentioning Yinzers. Alberto gets 1 point for his play-by-play commentary.
William wins ATD 6-5-5
“It’s better to be lucky than good.”