The Season is Over? Not so Fast!!

The college football season ended on January 13th with LSU winning the championship. The NFL season ended on February 2nd with the Chiefs winning it all. I briefly want to re-visit my article from before the playoffs started and see just how poor my predictions were. Also, it would be normal for football fans to turn their attention to a different sport or focus on the Draft, free agency, and signing periods. That could be different this year! The XFL starts playing games tomorrow, wait, haven’t we had the XFL before? Let’s take a look at this version of the XFL to see if it has a chance to stick around.

My predictions for the NFL playoffs were not surprisingly ruined after the 2nd game when the Titans knocked off the mighty Patriots. The Titans then decided to go ahead and knock off the dominant Ravens. Their run ended after they ran out of gas against the Chiefs in the AFC Championship. In the NFC the Vikings beat the Saints in the first round but their season was ended the next week against the 49ers. The Packers beat the Seahawks and it set up the title game against the 49ers. That game was over by half as the 49ers were fantastic. We then had a Chiefs and 49ers matchup for all the marbles and the Chiefs were victorious in a highly entertaining game.

Normally, I would turn my attention to the stretch run of the NHL and NBA seasons but this year could be a little different. We have another new league trying to gain a share of football viewers. The XFL is making another run at grabbing our attention. Almost 20 years ago the XFL took their first shot and were somewhat successful for a couple of weeks. The marketing of the league was solid, but the play on the field was not. After one year the league folded and one would have assumed that would be the last we heard from the XFL. What will make this go around different?

The league has 8 teams representing the following cities: Seattle Dragons, DC Defenders, LA Wildcats, Houston Roughnecks, Tampa Bay Vipers, NY Guardians, St. Louis Battlehawks, and the Dallas Renegades. The season will consist of 10 regular season games with one against every team in the league and 2 against intra-divisional teams. There will be two rounds of playoffs to crown a champion.

There will be some marquee names in the league. A few of the coaches are Bob Stoops, June Jones, Kevin Gilbride, and Marc Trestman. Those are some pretty big names and I am not even discussing Jerry Glanville as a defensive coordinator. He will be fun to watch, hopefully cameras and microphones will be on him at all times. It seems the coaching has to be much better this time around. Will the play be any better? Some of the QB’s will be Cardale Jones, Aaron Murray, and Landry Jones. That talent has to be better than the first attempt.

I am not exactly sure I have the time to follow another league, but I will certainly give this league another chance. Ultimately, competition is fun to watch at any level as long as it real and honest. I think the best thing that can come of this league is that it sticks around and becomes a type of feeder system for the NFL. I love the idea of players continuing to follow their dream and if this league helps out with that I am all for it. What can it hurt if it is actually entertaining?

—Victor Mandalawi

The Chase for the Championship has Started!

A few weeks ago I wrote about the season coming to an end. I noted the teams that were in contention for playoff spots and the players that were in the hunt for MVP honors. I also mentioned that Michael Thomas could break the all-time single season record for receptions and he did. I mentioned that Christian McCaffery could have 2500 yards from scrimmage and he came up just short. One player I left out was Drew Brees, he was able to set two records in one game. However, the regular season has ended and the playoff positions have been filled. Let’s take a look at the participants and match-ups to see what team might come out on top.

In the NFC, the 49ers won the West and locked up the one seed which would give them home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a bye. The Packers were able to take the North and attain the two seed which gives them at least one home game and a bye. The Saints won the South and had an identical record as the 49ers and Packers, but based on tiebreakers they were given the three seed. This means they will play the six seed wildcard winner, the Vikings. The other division winner was the Eagles and they will play the other wildcard team, the fifth seed Seahawks. The matchups for next weekend are dependent on the results from this weekend. Although, I think the Saints and Seahawks should prevail. That would set up a 49ers/Seahawks game for a third time this year and the Saints would visit the frozen tundra in Green Bay. Picking a winner from that group is pretty tough, but I would think the 49ers having home field advantage is huge and should propel them to the Super Bowl.

In the AFC, the Ravens were dominant and ended up winning the North, the one seed, and a bye. The Chiefs won 6 in a row to finish the season and that propelled them to winning the West and a two seed. Surprisingly, the Patriots fell to the third seed even though they won the East for the 11th straight year. They will have a minimum of one home game against the six seeded, wildcard winner Titans. The four seed is the winner of the South, the Texans. They will play the other wildcard participant, the fifth seeded Bills. It is nice to see the Bills back in the playoffs but I think they will get bounced early. I can’t go against the Patriots in the first round and that would set up a Patriots/Chiefs game while the Ravens would play the Texans. As mentioned before, it is hard to go against the Patriots because they always end up on top, but I think this is the year they get knocked out and do not make the Super Bowl. I think the AFC participant will be the Ravens.

If my predictions come true, we will have a 49ers/Ravens Super Bowl. I think that would be a fantastic matchup that features two very physical and talented teams. Could the 49ers slow down the Ravens dynamic running game? Could the Ravens shut down the 49ers TE, George Kittle, and make another player beat them? I am very much looking forward to the games being played and in roughly 4 weeks we will have the 53rd playing of the Super Bowl!

—Victor Mandalawi

In the Home Stretch!

At the beginning of the NFL season I wrote an article about the upcoming season and it can be found here. As you can see by some of my predictions that the season has to be played and not just predicted. Let’s take a look at some of the teams fighting for playoff contention. I also wanted to examine some of the breakout players and players competing in the MVP race.

In the NFC East the division will come down to the last week. The Cowboys lead the division, but the Eagles are right behind them. It is unlikely that either team will have a shot at the Wildcard this year. In the NFC North the Vikings and Packers are at the top and even the team the does not win the division will have a decent shot at a Wildcard position. The Bears are 6-6 and would have to win out to have a shot and it would still be unlikely. The NFC South has already been won by the Saints. Every other team in the division currently has a losing record. The NFC West has two powerhouses with the Seahawks and 49ers. One of those teams will win the division and the other will most likely take the wildcard. The Rams lag 3 games behind the Seahawks for a playoff position. So much for my prediction of Bears vs. Rams for the NFC title game!

There is no surprise that the Patriots lead the AFC East, but it is somewhat surprising that the Bills are currently 9-3 and playing very good football. The AFC North is being led by the Ravens with the Steelers and Browns playing mediocre football. The AFC South is another mediocre division currently being led by Houston but it would not surprise me to see the Colts or the Titans sneak in and take the division. In the AFC West, the Chiefs are currently holding a one game lead over the Raiders. I predicted the Patriots playing the Chiefs in the title game and that mat happen, however, the Ravens are playing very good football right now and will be hard to beat. Here is a nice article explaining the playoff scenarios and how each team stacks up.

The NFL MVP race and breakout players can be discussed in the same paragraph because the main one is in both categories! You might have predicted Lamar Jackson breaking out and having a nice year, but would you have said he would be dominating the competition? Lamar has accomplished some great feats already this year and he was even given a great honor on Madden football! Lamar is leading the race over players like Russell Wilson, McCaffrey, and Michael Thomas. When the season is over we will see some numbers from these players that we may not have seen before. Thomas could have the most receptions of all-time and McCaffrey could end up with 2,500 all purpose yards! Here is a great article highlighting the MVP race.

Every year predictions are made and some are correct and some are way off. This year is no different as a few teams have faded like the Bears and Rams, while a few teams have surprised like the Bills and Packers. There is still a quarter of the season to play so we could still have a shakeup in the standings. All it takes is a major injury and teams can fall apart. I also think the MVP race has time to change, but it is a two horse race between Lamar and Russell Wilson. I know that the next month will be fun to watch as the season finishes up and the playoffs get set!

—Victor Mandalawi

The 2019-2020 NBA Season has started!

Every year around Halloween I start to get NBA fever. It does not make make sense because the season has already started. You would think I would have gotten excited during the preseason, but I think it is because baseball has ended and the excitement of football starting is beginning to wear off. I have only missed a handful of games, so I can pay attention to the remaining 75 plus games. How will this season play out? I wanted to take a look at all of the player movement that happened over the off-season. I also want to point out the favorites for the playoffs and ultimately the favorites to win it all.

If you like turnover on your favorite teams roster, the NBA should be your favorite league. Every year, especially lately, teams revamp their rosters and some of them can change their fortunes dramatically with just a couple of moves. Sometimes, just a draft can alter the course of your future but very rarely can it turn you into a contender the very next year by itself. Usually, free agency along with a draft is what it takes or sometimes just free agency. What players and teams created the biggest buzz this off-season? The Celtics lost Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, but reloaded with Kemba Walker and a solid draft. This may end up being addition by subtraction? The Nets added Kyrie, Durant, and Deandre Jordan but wont contend until Durant comes back next season after his achilles injury. The Warriors added Russell and some role players, but they lost Durant, Cousins, Livingston, Iguodala, and a few role players. That was a huge roster turnover for the Warriors. Houston basically swapped Chris Paul for Westbrook while both Los Angeles teams made huge changes. The Clippers were able to sign Kawhi Leonard and trade for Paul George while losing only role players. The Lakers were able to add Anthony Davis and Cousins, who later was injured for the year and plenty of role players. They had to give up on alot of young talent and draft picks to get Davis. However, this is the type of deal that will keep the Lakers relevant for years to come.

According to the annual GM survey, the Clipper, Bucks, and Lakers are the favorites to win it all. The GM’s think the Sixers and Celtics will push the Bucks in the Eastern Conference. Denver, Utah, and Houston will give the Clippers and Lakers a push in the Western Conference. Did you notice the Warriors were not mentioned? They lost so much talent as well as losing an injured Klay Thompson for the year and now they will be losing Steph Curry with a broken hand that it will be too much to overcome. They might not even and probably won’t make the playoffs this year! Many of the same faces will contend for MVP like Giannis, Harden, Anthony Davis, and LeBron.

The NBA is great for many reasons, some are mentioned above. However, it is hard for teams to compete unless they have elite talent. Since that is the case, it is fairly easy to make predictions about contenders and pretenders. If you find yourself longing for the old days of the NBA, check out this great article. My favorite was seeing backboards getting demolished. As a kid, it was a pretty awesome site! No matter how the season plays out, it will be entertaining for numerous reasons and I know I will be watching!

—Victor Mandalawi

MLB Playoffs are underway!

Tuesday officially marked the beginning of the MLB Playoffs with a wildcard play-in game. It is a great time of year for a number of reasons. Football fans are excited because the season has started and is progressing along. Basketball and Hockey fans are excited because their respective seasons are starting in the very near future. Outdoor enthusiasts are enjoying the shift in seasons and the fall foliage. The most exciting part of this time of year for me is the playoffs! At times the drama can be excruciating, but that is what makes the games great. I briefly wrote about the start of the season here, how do my non-committal predictions look? Let’s take a look at the participants and make some predictions for the World Series!

As mentioned previously, the NL wildcard play in game was played on Tuesday. It was a low scoring affair until the bottom of the 8th inning when the Nationals scored three runs to end the Brewers hopes of continuing on. The Brewers finished the season on a historic run to make the play in game, but it was not meant to be in the end. With the Nationals advancing to the play the Dodgers, that leaves the Cardinals to play the Braves in the other divisional series matchup. As you can see in this article, the Dodgers are the favorites to advance to the World Series. You can not rule anything out because all it takes is a player or pitcher to get red hot for a stretch and that can change an entire series, but it is hard to pick against the Dodgers.

On Wednesday the Rays beat the A’s in the AL wildcard play in game. The game was not overly exciting or full of drama, but the Rays did hit 4 homers on the way to the victory. They will not move on to face the Astros, while the A’s are headed home. The Rays will clearly have their hands full with the Astros as they are the heavy favorite to win it all. The Astros have 3 outstanding starting pitchers that are veterans and most likely will not get rattled in a big game situation. In the other Al division series, the Yankees will be playing the Twins. Both of these teams are capable of scoring plenty of runs, especially via the longball. I do not think either team has great starting pitching, but the Yankees should prevail based on the strength of their bullpen. Getting past the Astros will be very difficult for the Yankees as the Astros have the best staff and lineup in the game.

Take a look at this article, it offers predictions from experts. It is hard to argue with the prediction of the Astros vs. the Dodgers in the World Series. I personally think the Astros will win, but the Dodgers are due to win one soon! Some would wonder how it could be entertaining since these teams are such heavy favorites, but I would argue that the games have to be played and anything could happen. Maybe even the beloved Yankees will sneak in and win one!

—Victor Mandalawi

The NFL Regular Season is Finally Here!

In less than one week the NFL will start their 100th season. The Bears and Packers, probably the most historic rivalry in football, will open the season on Thursday, Sept 5th. Normally the NFL opens their season with the defending champion, but not this year. The rivalry means to much to the league and it will be the 199th game played between the teams. Once you get past that game, opening weekend will be full of great matchups like the Redskins and Eagles plus the Patriots and Steelers. I wanted to take a look at the teams vying for Super Bowl contention and if we could see a few surprise teams this year.

Starting in the NFC, there are a few teams that are expected to stay on top while a few teams could have a turnaround and surprise people. In the NFC East, the Eagles should prevail. I do not think the Giants and Redskins have enough talent to compete with them. However, if enough breaks go their way the Cowboys could end up on top of the division. The NFC West should belong to the Rams. They are loaded with talent and could have even more drive this year after losing in the Super Bowl last year. I do not believe the 49ers, Seahawks, or Cardinals have near enough talent to knock the Rams out of the top spot in the division. The NFC North figures to be a slugfest. It could end up being the most competitive division in the league. Plenty of people believe the Bears will win again while plenty believe the Vikings will turn it around and rise to the top. I am not an expert, but I believe we will be watching the Bears and Rams battling to be the NFC participant in the Super Bowl.

In the AFC there will be many of the same powers at the top, but many are predicting some surprising change as well. We will start in the AFC North with the Browns being the “hot” pick of most people. They have plenty of talent and name recognition now, but do they have the toughness to knock off the Steelers and Ravens? That will be fun to watch! In the AFC East you can not go against the Patriots. They have won the division 10 straight times! Until Brady and Belicheck are gone you have to figure the division runs through them. The AFC West should be easily handled by the Chiefs, but the Chargers could make a run. The Raiders also figure to be better as do the the Broncos with the addition of Flacco. I believe we will be looking at a Patriots vs. Chiefs title game with the Chiefs making it to the Super Bowl.

In many season the playoffs are mostly decided by the last week except for 1-2 spots. Hopefully there will be more spots on the line this year. It really turns up the excitement. Week 17 has quite a few match ups that could end up deciding the division and playoff spots. The Bears play the Vikings, the Chiefs play the Chargers, Pittsburgh is at Baltimore, and the Saints play the Panthers. All 8 of these teams could end up in the playoffs or out. It would be great to see all of these teams playing at full strength to decide the playoff match ups. To be honest, I am just excited that the season is starting. I can not wait to watch Thursday’s game and many more throughout the year, especially the Chiefs vs. Rams in the Super Bowl.

—Victor Mandalawi

2019 Baseball HOF

Every year around mid to late July you can set your sights on Cooperstown, NY. As you can see here, I wrote about the Hall of Fame last year as well. Hall of Fame Weekend is always fun to watch, especially if one of the inductees was one of your favorite players. This year will be no different as there are 6 more inductees. The players are great DH’s Harold Baines and Edgar Martinez. There are also two great starting pitchers being inducted in Mike Mussina and Roy Halladay. Finally, two great closers being inducted are Lee Smith and Mariano Rivera. I wanted to take a brief look at their careers and what players have a shot at being inducted next year.

Let’s start with Baines and Martinez, Harold Baines was a somewhat controversial selection. He was voted in by a committee, not the writer’s association. He played in over 20 seasons which is amazing. However, he played the field mainly during his first 7 seasons and was primarily a DH for the rest of his career. Baines was a 6 time all-star and compiled some amazing career numbers. When you look at his overall numbers they are impressive as he had over 2800 hits, almost 400 homers, over 1600 RBI’s, and 1300 runs scored. Those numbers sure are impressive and if his selection is controversial to the writers, clearly someone felt he was worthy. Edgar Martinez played his entire career for the Mariners. Few people would argue that he is Hall of Fame worthy as he had a marvelous career. He produced over 2200 hits, over 500 doubles, over 300 homers, over 1200 rbi’s, and over 1200 runs. When comparing his numbers to Harold Baines’s, Baines was superior. However, Martinez had a better batting average, better on base percentage, and better slugging percentage.

Let’s move on to the two starters, Mussina and Halladay. Mike Mussina played for the Orioles and the Yankees during his career. He is not necessarily a controversial decision but it should have been a no-brainer. Mussina won 270 games in his career, while spending his entire career in the toughest division in baseball. Mussina also has the 13th best war among pitchers since WWII, that statistic alone should have been enough to get him in immediately. Roy Halladay is the other starter on the list. Unfortunately, Halladay died in a plane crash a couple of years ago. He does not have the massive numbers that many other pitchers have compiled, but he has the right numbers. He was an 8 time all-star, 2 time Cy Young winner while being runner up twice. He also threw a no-hitter in a playoff game.

I want to finish with the closers. Lee Smith played for eight teams, but most remember him as a Chicago Cub. Lee Smith retired as the all-time leader in saves. You could argue that he helped shape the modern closer role. I wanted to close with the best closer of all-time, Mariano Rivera. I could give a million different stats to justify his enshrinement. I will only give a couple, they are staggering. Rivera has the lowest career era of any pitcher in the last 100 years. He managed to turn it up in the playoffs and had a career .70 earned run average. Quite simply, Mariano was awesome!

There will be another vote in a few months and next year at this time we could be discussing a new group of enshrinees. Players like Jeter, Konerko, Cliff Lee, and Alfonso Soriano will be on the ballot for the first time. You could also finally see names like Shilling, Clemens, and Bonds get inducted. No matter who gets voted in they will undoubtedly be deserving. Every year there is an argument about who got in and who did not, but in my opinion if the majority votes for you that is clearly enough. I know I enjoyed watching all of these players over the years, even if they help beat the Yankees.

—Victor Mandalawi

Wild and Crazy Draft!!!

Every basketball season teams “tank” so they will have a better chance at getting a higher draft choice. In the NBA if you do not qualify for the playoffs you are in the draft lottery. If a team has the lowest number of wins they will have the highest chance at winning the lottery. However, this year a true long shot won the lottery. The New Orleans Pelicans jumped numerous spots to claim the first pick. Memphis and the Lakers also jumped numerous spots to claim the second pick and fourth pick. All of those slots should have went to teams with a lesser record, but it did not happen. The NBA recently made some changes to the lottery so teams that “tank” are not necessarily rewarded and it seems to have worked. Regardless of the order, the draft is a great time for teams. They have a shot at drafting a blue-chip player, finding the diamond in the rough, or using the picks as currency to acquire established talent from other teams. I wanted to take a look at the selections from this year’s draft and possibly forecast the future.

New Orleans had the first pick and it was not a surprise that they selected Zion Williamson from Duke. Zion is being viewed as more than just a talented player. He has a certain appeal to the masses that make him a huge name before he has played a minute in the NBA. I do not think he will end up being one of the greatest players of all-time, but that will not matter. He brings hope to the team and fan base. At the very least, the Pelicans will be able sell tickets and merchandise during the rebuild.

As expected, the Grizzlies drafted JA Morant with the second pick. He exploded onto the scene this season and dominated his competition. The New York Knicks selected RJ Barrett with third overall pick. I am sure they had their sites set on Zion as he alone could have changed the course of the franchise. However, he might have been enough to lure a couple of marquee free agents to the team. The Lakers had the 4th pick and selected De’Andre Hunter. He will not play for the Lakers because the pick was traded, more on that later. The top five was rounded out with the Cavs selecting Darius Garland from Vanderbilt. He only played a handful of games this year because of injury, but scouts believe his potential is immense.

Another part of the draft is trying to follow the trades. I would argue that the NBA draft has more picks being traded than any other sport. I would also say these trades are more significant than other leagues. A few examples from this year are as follows, the Lakers received the 4th pick, instead of using that pick to pair a young player with LeBron they used it as a trade chip to acquire Anthony Davis from New Orleans. New Orleans received the 4th pick this year, a first rounder next year, and a few players in the deal. They turned around and dealt the 4th pick for more picks this year and next. The Pelicans have been able to arm themselves with plenty of chances at acquiring young talent. That is just one team making those waves, you do not see that happen in the other leagues.

The NBA Draft is always a great time for fans. If your team was not very good and did not make a run in the playoffs, it can signify hope for the future. Hope could be in the form of the best college players or it can also be found in the form of established veteran players like Anthony Davis. It can be harder to follow the NBA than in previous generations based on the movement of free agents, but some would argue that is what appeals to many now. I think it builds excitement during the off season and it bridges the gap to the start of the next season.

—Victor Mandalawi

Can we determine the contenders this early?

The MLB season is well underway with most teams having played about 1/3 of their schedule which is about 55 games. A couple of months ago I wrote about the season starting. The article covered expert team predictions, expert player predictions, and my own personal predictions. Obviously teams have plenty of time to either start playing better or playing poorer, but 1/3 of the way into the season gives us a good preview of where it may end up. We can also look at the early leaders for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year.

I, along with the experts predicted the AL would be a race between the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Indians. I gave the Twins and Rays a shot to compete and that is a good thing. The Twins have come out firing on all cylinders and have the best record in the league. Are they for real? It looks to be that way based on the strength of their offense. They lead the league in home runs. They also have a nice pitching staff led by Odorizzi and Berrios. The Rays are hanging with the Yankees and are only a half game out of the lead in the East. If the season ended today the playoffs would feature the Astros, Twins, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. Plenty can change in the next 100-110 games so teams like the Indians and A’s have time to right the ship.

The National League is shaping up exactly as was figured early in the year. The Phillies and Braves are leading in the East, with the Cubs and Brewers leading the Central, and the Dodgers hold a comfortable lead in the West. Can anything change? I believe the Central is bunched up heavily and almost any team has a shot to come out on top. I also believe the Rockies and Padres have a shot to get hot and catch the Dodgers.

In my earlier article I mentioned that picking a winner of the Cy Young, MVP, and ROY would be very difficult. Now that the season is 1/3 complete I will make a few predictions. There are plenty of players that have had a great start to the season, but will they be able to sustain it? Here are a few names that should end up in the hunt for the MVP in the AL. I think Rosario, Bregman, Bogaerts, and of course Mike Trout have a shot. In the NL the favorites will be: Bellinger, Arenado, Yelich, and Rizzo. I think the Cy Young contenders in the AL are Verlander, Morton, Snell, and Odorizzi. The NL contenders will be Ryu, Scherzer, Greinke, and Strasburg. The ROY in the AL may come down to Chavis, Lowe, and possibly Vlad Jr. if he can get on a hot streak. In the NL the frontrunners are Alonso from the Mets and Paddack from the Padres.

It may be a little early to predict the actual winners of the divisions and player awards. Baseball has so many games that it is not too late for almost any team to make a run. Having 110 games left leaves plenty of time. In the NFL, being 1/3 of the way through the schedule means you have 10-11 games left and it may be too late. You also have to take the trade deadline into account. A team can get a dominant pitcher and that could drastically change the course of the season. Picking the winners could be anybody’s guess, but watching the season play out is what makes the sport so fun to follow.

—Victor Mandalawi

Playoffs are Underway!

The NBA regular season ended on April 10th. The playoffs began a few days later on the 13th. The regular season is always full of ups and downs for every team. Obviously, there are plenty of teams that are rebuilding and had no shot but one team that did not make the playoffs was the Lakers. Why is this significant? This is his first time since 2005 that LeBron’s team is not in the playoffs. Has it hurt the tv ratings? Of course it has, they are down 14%. Even though LeBron is not in the playoffs the show must go on. I wanted to take a look at the first round match ups that have completed and the current second round series. I also want to take a look at what teams are actual contenders. Can anyone knock off the defending champs?

In the Eastern Conference, the number one seed Bucks took on the Pistons and swept the series. The two seed Raptors played the Magic and lost the opening game but got back on track and won the next 4 to advance. The three seed Sixers took on the Nets and won in 5 games. The final first round series in the East was the Pacers vs. the Celtics. The Celtics did not live up to expectations in the regular season but they showed up and swept the Pacers. In the Western Conference, the Warriors had a little trouble with the Clippers winning in six games. The Nuggets beat the Spurs in a seven game series. The Trailblazers knocked out the Thunder in 5 games. In the final series the Rockets beat the Jazz in 5 games setting the stage for a rematch with the Warriors.

Usually the second round brings much better competition. Only 8 teams remain and all 8 are quality teams. In the West, the Warriors have their hands full with the Rockets, but they are up 2-0 in the series, yet it is far from over. Hopefully the series outshines all of the complaining the players have done about the referees. The other series features the Trailblazers and Nuggets. The series is tied at 1 game a piece. Both of these teams are very good and will be able to showcase their skills in primetime. The Eastern Conference features the Bucks and Celtics with the series tied at 1 game a piece. The other series is a match-up of the Sixers and Raptors. The Sixers hold the slight lead at two games to one.

Picking a winner out of the remaining teams is very difficult. I actually believe that all 8 teams could make a run and contend for the championship. However, betting against the defending champs is always a bad idea in my book. Until the Warriors are beaten, I can’t pick against them. Good luck to all of the fans that have a team still in the fight. Watching meaningful playoff games sure beats sitting around waiting for the Zion Sweepstakes!

—Victor Mandalawi