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Deion Sanders is an HBCU Game-Changer

What a way HBCU week was brought in a few months ago with Deion Sanders’s hiring; a move that can change the landscape of college football. Jackson State University hired hall of fame cornerback “Prime Time” Deion Sanders, as its next head coach. We’ll delve into the significance of this hire in a bit but it’s safe to say this is some of the most exciting sports news of 2020.

By the way for those who may not know HBCU stands for Historically Black College or University. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tigers’ season didn’t start until Sunday, February 21st to be exact. As you can imagine, Coach Prime had his team tuned and ready for the extended season. Keep reading, you’ll see the results later.

Deion Sanders Could be a Game-Changer for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

A Significant Hire

HBCUs have never been short of talent. Some of the greatest players of all time are products of these schools, here are just a few names you may recognize. Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State), Richard Dent (Tennessee State), the late Steve McNair (Alcorn State), and the late Walter Payton (Jackson State). What they have been short on is exposure.

You probably don’t know many if any of the schools other than Grambling State University of the ’80s and ’90s coached by the late great Eddie Robinson. College football has always been dominated by the power five conferences; the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12, and SEC. Most notably some of the household names Ohio State, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, and Clemson.

Sanders should be able to start a new lineage of great players coming from HBCU programs. As the Hall of Famer leads the Tigers into this unprecedented season with all the focus on the FCS and probably his team, the pendulum of power in college football may start to swing. The success of Jackson State’s season will determine how far of a swing it could be. Will we see more high-profile hires like this? We’ll just have to wait and see how it plays out.

Ready for CFB Season 2

Last month, on a Monday night, was the culmination of act one of the 2020-2021 FBS season. Ending with the CFP National Championship with Alabama defeating Ohio State 52-24. In the words of Digital Underground, it was the “same song,” with the same teams in these playoffs. Now it’s time for act two of a bonus football spring season for the FCS. Who’s excited? I know I am!

The season kicked off its conference regular-season schedule on Friday, February 19th. Season play will go on through April 17th followed by a four-week, 16-team playoff ending with the FCS National Championship on May 15th. Now that we got the dates out the way, you should know our featured team, Jackson State Tigers defeated Edward Waters 53-0.

Can Deion Sanders Recruit Top-Ranked Players to HBCUs?

This spring football season can also be a game-changer for high school recruits. I believe Jackson State will be a hotbed for elite talent which could translate to more elite talent landing in the HBCU atmosphere. Some guys may not want the big campus or pressure of D-I institutions. If a smaller school can give you the same opportunities of a great education and NFL exposure why not go there.

Now it’s not likely that five and four-star recruits will automatically start going in that direction but it feasible that three-stars may strongly consider that option. This would definitely bolster the talent pool of those schools. Sanders’s success will definitely determine how that goes, remember that pendulum mentioned earlier, let’s see how far it will swing.

 

The Chicago Bears Season in Review and Ahead

It’s been a rough season for the Chicago Bears. Okay, that may be putting it mildly. On paper, the Bears started strong with a 5-1 record. The defense was leading the way for the Bears. Many had hoped either Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles would improve the offense to a serviceable level of competition. The victories were close, but that’s what good teams do, win the close games. That was what the optimistic sect of Bears fans told themselves.

Reviewing the Chicago Bears Season and Taking a Look Ahead

The Skid

Then the losing streak hit. Each week it felt like groundhog day, with little change to the frustrating cycle. The defense would do its best to hold their opponent within arm’s reach. The offense would go entire quarters, sometimes even games without much production. Injuries to the defense piled up and glaring issues were exposed.

Chuck Pagano built his defensive reputation in Indianapolis but his time in Halas Hall has seen immense regression. Chicago went from number one in the NFL in points allowed per game (17.7) to 14th (23.1). This is despite a big offseason acquisition in Robert Quinn who has just two sacks. At 5-7 and six straight losses, Matt Nagy was on the hot seat.

The Resurgence

One constant of the Nagy organization is, his team refuses to turn on each other. After Foles’ injury against the Vikings in Week 10,  Trubisky was thrust back into the starting lineup. The offense began ticking again. In their next three games, Trubisky led his team to an average of 36 points per game and won all three contests. This stretch paved the way to slip into the playoffs in the number seven seed and seems to have kept Nagy and company around for at least one more season.

Nagy’s run as head coach hasn’t always been the smoothest but this has been the most successful era since Lovie Smith. Nagy is without a losing season in his first three years as head coach, reaching the playoffs twice. This accomplishment shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s been nearly a decade and a half since the monsters of the midway have seen the postseason that frequently. There is tangible frustration, and it’s warranted, but even when things seem hopeless some franchises find fortune.

The Strengths of This Team

The losses of Bobby Massie and James Daniels forced the offensive line to shuffle. Notre Dame alums Sam Mustipher and Alex Bars have stepped up huge. They are part of the reason why David Montgomery eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark and finished fifth in overall rush yards. Nagy has capitalized on this and re-focused the offense to match its strengths.

Few fans will disagree that Trubisky’s legs are one of his stronger attributes. The play calling now includes more moving pockets and RPO’s and less deep dropbacks and slow-developing plays. When the defense gets pressure on the quarterback, Eddie Jackson and Kyle Fuller have the freedom to jump routes and make plays. All-Pro special teamer Cordarrelle Patterson will need to make his presence felt if the Bears have any chance at winning on Sunday against the Saints.

It’s a New Season for the Chicago Bears

As the postseason gets underway this weekend the Chicago Bears do have a chance to make a run, no matter how unlikely it may seem. Teams with more systemic problems have united in the past and forged unlikely roads to success in the playoffs. The 2011 New York Giants are an example of a team that surprised analysts and fans alike. They made adjustments at just the right time leading to iconic playoff memories. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning led the G-Men who had an eerily similar season to this year’s NFC North contenders.

The Giants lost five of six games late in the season and fans were calling for Coughlin’s head. The team limped into the playoffs with a 9-7 and a negative point differential. The defense was pitiful in the regular season giving up over 25 points per game but in the playoffs, they averaged just 14 points against even though only one of the games was held at home. They ended their season with a Lombardi trophy upsetting the legendary duo of Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for the second time. As a fan, enjoy this Sunday, who knows when another game as meaningful as this will take place for the Chicago Bears.

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T For 3: The Return

The Return of T For 3

Tyler is back with ‘T For 3 –  The Return’ to get into several hot topics in the sports world! From the potential returns of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor, to Luka Doncic being on his MVP watchlist, and more!

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Thank Yu: Jed Hoyer Pulls Trigger on Darvish Trade

When you woke up this morning Chicago Cubs fans, how were you feeling with news of the Yu Darvish trade to the San Diego Padres? I am genuinely curious because I am excited. I have been reading a lot of different opinions on this subject matter in the last 24 hours. From the knowledge I was able to gather, not many people liked it.

Well, I am here to tell you why it was the exact move the Cubs needed to make. I am not here to change your mind. I am only here to give you a positive outlook on your current situation… as a Cub fan.

Hoyer Trades Yu Darvish to Padres

Had to Happen

Darvish was second in the National League in CY Young voting. He also posted a 2.01 earned run average and going 8-3 in a pandemic ridden season where the Cubs were swept from the playoffs for the second time in three years. Also, might I add how disappointing the end of the 2019 season was as well? The one where we entered September with a 5.5 game lead and lost the division within two weeks. Yeah, those were some rough times.

Nothing frustrates me more when a team is not playing to their potential and that is exactly what the Cubs have been doing over the last couple of seasons. As much fun as winning in the regular season is. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will ever be as special as that October in 2016. Call me greedy, but I want that again. Oh so desperately. I listen to playoff highlights in my car because of the goosebumps it brings back to me.

I live for moments such as Miguel Montero breaking open Game 1 of the League Championship Series with a game-breaking/essentially ending grand slam. That absolutely rocked Wrigley Field to its core. Those are the moments I want back again and the way the roster is currently constructed is just not going to do it anymore.

Trading Darvish is Good

Yes, I know you do not know any of the four 18-20-year-olds with little to no experience. That is ok, you will. Things like this take time and while the Dodgers, Padres, and Braves battle it out for the National League crown, we will continue to acquire talent. Because this time around, the rebuild will be much quicker. The Cubs already have major league talent ready to trade.

Kris Bryant, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Kyle Hendricks, and other over-performing players. The Cubs will enter the season with some of their current roster intact. But if and when one of those guys gets off to a hot start, the Cubs will be evaluating and looking to shore up their farm system and reload for the future.

Enjoy This Season

You may still be in a state of confusion about what the Cubs are doing but it is truly time. the days of 2016 are gone and if I am to be hyper-critical right now the Cubs over the past three seasons have been major disappointments. We saw the cracks begin in 2017 when we somehow survived an NLDS against the Washington Nationals, and then got absolutely ran over by the Dodgers in the LCS.

The end of 2018 and 2019 was equally disappointing. It’s time to start getting some return for the remaining assets we have. This return could be beautiful due to the talent that remains on the roster. Hendricks can be a top-10 pitcher in the game. He’s shown his poise and control ever since coming to the big league level. Contreras is a top-five catcher in the game currently and there are a lot of teams that are looking to take their signal-caller to the next level.

You love the players from this team because odds are they brought you some of the happiest moments of your life as a sports fan. Sadly, we are Cubs fans and we just lived through the greatest era of Chicago Cubs baseball history. Just let that sink in. Now, depending on your perspective that could be seen as good or bad. I like to see it as a good thing, and I want to use the talent that we currently have to catapult this team to the future. The players on this team mean a lot not only to you but to me as well.

Memory Lane

I will never forget the instinct Javy Baez played with throughout those playoffs. I will never forget how all the pieces fell into place and the plan worked. It actually worked. Theo came in October of 2011, said he needs to gut the farm system and rebuild this team from the ground up. He came in, he did what he said he would do, and accomplished it.

So when the 2021 season rolls around, and you see these guys in a Cubs uniform, all I can say is enjoy it, remember how these players made you feel and the happiness they brought. The goal of trading these guys is to bring in more talent to accomplish the same goal as before.

Yu Will Thank Jed Later

Yes, I know you are sick of the “Yu” puns well. I can’t help it. If you were blindsided by this trade then I do not know how to help Yu (ok I am done). In a few seasons when the incredible Dodgers, Padres, and Braves maybe are taking a step back, the Cubs will have much better talent in the farm system to bring in to compete for another championship. You can call this run by the Cubs over this past decade a success or a failure. That is your decision. Zach Davies was the only major league-ready player coming back in the deal.

You can be mad at the lack of “talent” the Cubs got for Darvish, but remember. Darvish is a 35-year-old, injury-prone pitcher who before this season had only a few solid stretches for the Cubs. No one knows what you are going to get out of the super young talent. B if one of those guys develops and plays a nice role for us in the future then this trade is a success.

The Cubs need to shed salary and start getting ready for the future. Especially since there is no timetable set for when fans are going to be allowed back into the stadium. Let’s get the struggling over with so we can dominate later on. Today is a rough day for Cubs fans. It is the end of an era, and what a fun era it was.

Tough Times Ahead After Yu Darvish Trade

It is hard to accept, but it is ok. The Cubs are one of the top franchises in all of major league baseball. They’re also one of the few franchises with a top fanbase that will support the team through thick and thin. Wrigley is a special place to many Cubs fans who have made life-lasting memories there. Do not worry, there will be more memories to be made by a Cubs team that will excite just like in 2015.

Remember, when a team struggles they can acquire more talented players through the draft. I don’t know what’s going to happen. The only thing I want to see is how the Cubs can develop better pitching. If Jed can find the magic and unlock this liability the team has had this whole decade, then the future of the team is in great hands and we will be looking forward to hoisting more pennants in the future.

Tough times may lie ahead, but so do better times. So embrace the pain, embrace the future. We will reach the mountain top again.

Primetime Sports: A Humbling Experience

Eric Willuweit & Luke Stanczyk discuss the Chicago Bears humbling defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They also talk about how the NFL and NCAAF are handling the Covid-19 Pandemic (hint – it’s not going well). And the boys talk a little Northwestern football. Thanks for tuning in to Primetime Sports!

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PrimeTime Sports November 30th 2020 PrimeTime Sports

Hosts Eric Willuweit & Luke Stanczyk discuss the Chicago Bears humbling defeat to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football. They also talk about how the NFL and NCAAFB are handling the Covid-19 Pandemic(hint – it's not going well). And the boys talk a little Northwestern football. Thanks for tuning in.

Primetime Sports. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss.

Primetime Sports. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

2020-21 NBA Profile: Patrick Williams

Hello basketball fans, are you ready for Patrick Williams? The NBA season is due to tip off in less than 20 days. Just a few short days ago the NBA draft was completed and the top of the draft went as projected but then at number four things start to get haywire as no one is really sure what the Bulls are going to do (for once). I also plan on dropping a video breaking down this young man as well so let’s stop wasting time and jump into it.

Patrick Williams 2020-21 NBA Profile

The Bulls Get Their Man

Patrick Williams was the Chicago Bulls guy with the fourth-overall pick in the draft. This year’s pick is the highest pick the Bulls have had since they drafted a young man by the name of Derrick Rose all the way back in 2008. This year is also the first time the Bulls were drafting without either Jerry Krause or John Paxson making the big decision. Question for the reader? Do you know who the last player the Bulls drafted with their top pick before Kraus took over in the mid-80s?

Now let’s talk about Williams. There were definitely some other big named prospects on the board that may have helped your heart rest at ease. The Bulls could have nabbed big man Obi Toppin, Deni Avdija. If you are fond listener of the Around the Clockers podcast you will frequently hear this writer adamently push for Avdija. That tune has changed to all in on this young man. Now before you fall in love, let’s set reasonable expectations. Because the only way you become dissappointed is by setting ridiculous expectations.

What Not to Expect

When people see the number Four pick they tend to add a bunch of unnecessary expectations around them like they need to be the team’s superstar or need to immediately impact the team. Well, I do not expect Patrick Williams to impact this team at least on the offensive end. He is a 19-year-old that is still learning about his body and how it works. He truly has not scratched the surface of his physical gifts yet. I expect Williams to make an impact defensively because no one on this Bulls team plays a lick of defense.

Williams can immediately step in and start guarding the best wings and forwards this league has to offer. Not many people come into the league at 6-foot-8 and 225 lbs. That is an NBA-ready body. Williams has all of the physical tools to become an immediate impact defender on this team. When I watched his college tape, he reminded me of those Bulls teams from earlier this decade. You know, when we actually hustled and played defense? You miss those days? Because I do.

Williams also comes in with the potential to develop his offensive game as well. Even though he was the 6th man on his college team he shot 32 percent from the three-point range and averaged 1 Block and 1 Steal a game. Now I know the three-point percentage is not where we want it to be but if you take a look at his free throw percentage that is a much more telling sign of learning to be able to shoot. Remember both Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz shot over 40 percent from deep in college but both of them shot in the mid 60 percentile from the free throw.

Williams is a passive style of player. He wants to help you win at all costs, which was his case at Florida State. Williams was passive towards his senior-led teammates at Florida State even his draft counterpart Devin Vassell a sophomore who went to San Antonio. Now remember those expectations I set, I understand there are some alarming red flags, but most prospects not named LeBron James have some form of a flaw, but let’s dive right into all of the positives about this young player.

The Positives:

Like I stated before, he is 6-foot-8 and 225 lbs. That is something you do not teach. You also cannot teach his very good team defensive instincts and on-ball defensive ability. He can switch and guard pretty much any position with his explosive athleticism. What I also forgot to mention was that he has a 7-foot wingspan allowing him to blow up passing lanes and quick reflex blocks with ease, which the Bulls so desperately need. Another thing I really enjoy about him is that he is ready to work. Do you remember the humble kid from Chicago that went number One overall and stole the hearts of many Bulls fans? Well, Williams carries himself with that exact same demeanor. He is humble, quiet and all he wants to do is play basketball and get better every day.

The thing with Williams is before you sell all of your stock on him because you never heard of him. Let him grow. I think his floor is just below a Luol Deng type of player and his ceiling is that of a Kawhi Leonard. By the way, Leonard is the greatest development story this league has ever seen. Frustration over picking a guy you have never heard of is understandable. But the rumor was the Spurs wanted to draft him. Do we remember what happened last time they got their hands on a dynamic two-way forward? Alright then.

What Not To Like

The unknown can always be construed as a negative thought because it could be good or bad, but let’s look elsewhere. Most of the general public are not enjoying this pick because of the numbers. He barely averaged Nine points per game coming off of the bench. He was fourth on the team in points and is one of the only few players that average more turnovers than assist during the season.

Another negative thing that people take into account is his aggression as a player. I have heard the term he is “too nice” on the court. Now that would be a problem if he was the future of this team. And future means the leading scorer and the reason the Bulls win a title. If that is a concern of yours then your expectations are too high. This was the first pick by the new regime and it will set the tone for the decade to come.

Williams Outlook Going Forward

This is a good pick. The Bulls are desperate for a wing defender; something Williams can make his name in right away. We will have to wait and see about his offense. This all comes down to expectations. When the Bulls are competing for titles, Williams will be a very good role player for us. Like a Trevor Ariza on the ’09 Lakers or Harrison Barnes on those Warriors teams. He will be an excellent role player for us and if he can develop even more than that, it’s just icing on the cake.

Premier League Promotion Preview: West Bromwich Albion

The second automatic promotion from the mires of the Championship to the hallowed throngs of the Premier League is the “Baggies” of West Bromwich Albion. West Brom is no stranger to the Premier League and top-level competitions. They’ve spent over 80 seasons in England’s top promotion; winning a title in 1920 along with 5 FA cup wins. They’ll look to keep their spot in the premiership and regain some accolades of previous squads.

West Bromwich Albion Promotion Preview

The History of West Bromwich 

West Brom’s legacy and the origin story of English football are intertwined. The Baggies were one of the first 12 professional soccer teams in the world. In 1878 they debuted in the Football League. The club has enjoyed tremendous successes, but in more recent history they’ve struggled just to stay in the premiership. Their last trophy was a FA title but that was in 1968 over 50 years ago. This is the fourth promotion for West Brom in the 21st century with their most successful season being only good enough for an eighth-place finish when they were led by Romelu Lukaku. A dynamite talent to be sure, but the club only managed to hold onto his contract for one lone season.

The Squad Today

The team in navy and white is a diverse collection of rising talent, overlooked contributors, and even a possible future Premier League superstar. Their squad consists of key players such as the forward tandem of Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu, Goalkeeper Sam Johnstone, and Midfielder Matheus Pereira.

Austin and Robson-Kanu  

The dynamic duo of Charlie Austin and Hal Robson-Kanu is a tag team that could potentially give defenses some real trouble as both players of the Premier League. Some hardcore and longtime fans of British soccer might remember Austin from his QPR days. Queens Park Rangers finished dead last in the league but Austin recorded an impressive 18 goals in the 2014-2015 campaign. Previous to joining West Brom the Englishman played four seasons for Southampton where he scored 16 goals but struggled to get in the lineup, never starting more than 11 matches as the striker in any year. 

Robson-Kanu has also been up with two different clubs: Reading and his current club West Brom. The Welshman scored 7 goals for Reading in 2012-2013 but after their 19th place finish and a relegation Reading still hasn’t recovered from. it would be another 4 years before he appeared on the pitch for West Brom and returned to the Premier League in 2016. Now 31 Robson-Kanu hopes he and Austin have enough firepower to inspire their squad to a possible top finish. In the Championship both players netted 10 times each, leading the team. 

Sam Johnstone

For any team to be consistent and more importantly, consistently good there may be no more important role than the goalkeeper. Sam Johnstone has been a solid brick wall in the Championship. In six seasons of experience split between Yeovil Town, Doncaster, Preston North End, Aston Villa, and of course West Brom, Johnstone has saved over 500 shots and had a clean sheet in nearly a third of all competitions. 

Johnstone was one win away from promotion in 2018 amidst his best season ever. Playing for Aston Villa he had a staggering amount of clean sheets, 20 in total. He was in top form heading into the final against Fulham. He only conceded one goal but it would be the difference in the game despite Villa playing with a man advantage for close to 25 minutes to close the game. His move to Albionon Johnstone was a large part of what helped secure automatic promotion for the club. He started every game for West Brom for the past two years. 

Matheus Pereira

There is an ingredient that has been absent from West Brom for a very long time: a superstar. If the club has any aspirations to finish in the top half Matheus Pereira needs to become that for his squad. He has been praised by many as having the passing ability of Mesut Ozil while also possessing the rare dribbling ability comparable to that of his countrymen Neymar. 

The hype is not misplaced, or overdramatized. Matheus Pereira is the real deal. Do yourself a favor, watch a highlight compilation of this young Brazilian. His vision and instincts are enough to leave even the most seasoned fan in shock. If there is an opening for a pass or even a momentary hesitation by a good defender Pereira will exploit it. At 24 and under contract for the next four years after recently signing an extension the future looks very bright indeed for West Brom Albion.

The Bubble-Offs Have Finally Begun

Hoops fans we’ve been waiting for these upcoming moments for the last five months! The 2020 NBA Playoffs or what I’m coining the Bubble-offs. You all see what was done there? The road to this year’s championship will be like no other. It’s possible a team that had no business being in the tournament comes away with the trophy. Tell you one thing, if the bubble-offs are anything like the eight-game restart we’re in for some of the most exciting games you’ll ever want to see.

The Bubble-Offs are Here

It all kicked off this past Saturday when the NBA had its first-ever play-in game to get that last coveted 16th spot for the playoff birth. The Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trailblazers didn’t disappoint either with rookie phenom Ja Morant and bubble MVP Damian Lillard going toe to toe. Now let’s take a look at some teams that could burst the bubble of the two top-seeded and finals favorites Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks.

Time for the Bubble-Offs

Locked In

If you had the Monday blues the NBA had you covered with a full slate of games beginning with the Denver Nuggets taking on the Utah Jazz. Unfortunately, Utah was without starting point guard Mike Conley Jr., who left the bubble for the birth of his child.  The other games on the docket were the Brooklyn Nets facing the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers taking on the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Clippers seeing the Dallas Mavericks.

The top seeds are locked in, Bucks who take on the Orlando Magic and Lakers battling the Trailblazers, but there’s this thing called upsets or we can call them “bubble-sets.”   See what I did there again?  There’s usually one or two every playoff season and this year is no different.  The rest of the field shapes out like so, the Indiana Pacers versus the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder against the Houston Rockets.

Potential Bubble Busters

The first potential bubble buster is Dame Dolla and the Trailblazers. Upsetting the Lakers would be reminiscent of the ‘07 playoffs when Golden State defeated Dallas. They match up well but King James won’t be stopped, in year 17, averaging 25 PPG, and a league-leading 10 assists a contest. Also, they have to contend with Anthony Davis‘ 26 PPG. After those two stars, there’s a significant drop off in firepower especially with no Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo.

Portland has its own dynamic duo. Lillard is averaging 30 PPG, 8.0 APG, and is fifth in PER. Then you have CJ McCollum (22 PPG) who can light it up when he gets hot. Don’t forget, they also have an ‘03 draft alum in Carmelo Anthony; or should we say Slim Melo. Since the restart, he’s averaging 17.5 points a contest. The supporting cast appears to have the edge as well with Jusuf Nurkić averaging a double-double since coming back, Hassan Whiteside league leader in blocks at 2.9 and the bubble emergence of Gary Trent Jr.

The second team possibly popping bubbles is the defending champion Toronto Raptors. Though 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard left for sunny L.A. and nobody has to deal with Drake on the sidelines. Even as the second seed in the East, the Raptors are not getting their respect. They basically have the same team with a superb coach in former Coach of the Year Nick Nurse. Veterans Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka steady the team, Pascal Siakam continues to develop into a star. Lastly, we can’t leave out Fred VanVleet, who just came off a 30- point, 11-assist Game 1 performance. It’s highly likely the Raptors will clash with the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals again. Don’t be surprised if it’s deja vu.

Grab Your Front Row Virtual Seat

This year’s playoffs will definitely have a different feel. All the games are at one site, there’s no home-court advantage or crowds. Player reactions are different as the stars adjust to not being able to feed off the fans. Role players must step up without pressure from the fans. These are all factors that will bring more excitement to this year’s games.

Premier League Promotion Preview: Leeds United

It’s been close to two decades since Leeds United collapsed and was relegated from the Premier League. The club and fan-base are desperate to shake off the image most soccer fans have when thinking about the Leeds squad that was relegated in the 2003/2004 season.

Leeds United Premier League Promotion

The Collapse:

At the start of the 2,000’s, the club was having fantastic form from year-to-year. Leeds finished in the top five of the EPL every season starting in 1997 spanning through the 2001-2002 campaign. In that time the club also enjoyed semi-final appearances in both the Europa League and Champions League. The excitement was at a premium and the chairman Peter Ridsdale wanted to take advantage of it. 

With income for the club and an all-time high, Ridsdale took out enormous loans that he was unable to repay promptly and subsequently sent the team spiraling into debt that harmed more than just United’s bottom line. The squad lost a great deal of its luster very quickly due to key players being shipped off just to try to salvage a sinking ship. What was once a formidable and historic club became the laughing stock in all of England after being demoted just one year after an appearance in the Europa League. A 19th-place finish in the 2003-2004 Premier League season would be the final nail in the coffin in what one of the most stunning collapses in the sporting world. So much so there is even a phrase used called “doing a Leeds” that means financially mishandling a soccer team so poorly it causes ruin. 

The Road Back:

Leeds’ freefall wouldn’t stop just because they were sent to the Championship. In 2006, the club was one win away from re-entering England’s top tier of competition, however, the club was still in dire straits financially. The loss to Watford and failing to get into the Premier League were painful moments, but they paled in comparison to what was still in store. The following season Leeds would finish 24th league competition and be relegated again. This time the drop would land them in League One, due in large part to the 10 point deduction from filing for administration; similar to bankruptcy in the US.

With the cupboards completely bare for Leeds after years of turmoil, they had finally, if not mercifully reached their lowest point. Momentum for the club began to change in 2010 when they narrowly escaped League One with a second-place finish. The big highlight for the club was a young striker named Jermaine Beckford who had scored 75 goals in all competitions for the club in just three short years. The team also had a signature win, beating the behemoth Manchester United one-nil in their FA Cup showdown. Despite this feat, it would be another decade before they clinched a Premier League birth. This past season, Leeds has had a near immaculate run to end the elongated season finishing first in the championship with 93 points a full 10 clear of the nearest challenger. The squad won the last six matches and will hope to capitalize on that momentum with a short turn around before the beginning of the 2020-2021 campaign. 

The New Squad:

The new faces of Leeds are for the most part not wide-eyed youngsters with unlimited potential. Instead, the club is composed of scrappy and experienced veterans with much still to prove to England. If Leeds wants to succeed and stay in the top division, it will have overcome what haunts the club to this day: money. Leeds United is no longer insolvent but their budget is much smaller than the average team, and with holes still to fill it will be interesting to see if the club can do more with less. 

What Leeds has in abundance is experience. The center midfielder, Pablo Hernandez is a former Spanish national team member. He has spent time with top clubs previously and has had great successes over his long professional career. His compatriot Francisco Casilla made goalkeeping appearances for legendary La Liga club Real Madrid. The top goalscorer for Leeds has returned, at least for the time being. Patrick Bamford, while not currently seen as an elite striker contributed greatly to Leeds’ success scoring 16 goals for the club. The 25-year-old Englishman has already played for four different Premier League squads despite just now entering the prime of his career. The captain and starting center back Liam Cooper is the glue that holds together this squad. The Scottish national has been a member of Leeds since 2014. 

Management will have to be creative in the transfer window to address the needs at scoring and a possible replacement for Casilla. The top defense in the championship will have to carry this squad through the early portions of this season and hope a youngster or a transfer steps up to help Bamford carry the load in the form of goals. For the sake of Leeds’ image, this may be the most important season in their history.