5 Things I Think, 12 February 2018
Brad’s 5 Things
Last week I debated what direction to take with my weekly soap box and decided to keep the sort of “weekend recap” feel of things. In homage to the MMQB spirit that inspired 5 Things way back in the early part of the football season, I promise to mix in at least a little NFL talk every Monday during the offseason. Make no mistake though; I’m excited to broaden the variety of sports that get some love in football’s absence. Let’s do this!
1- I think Frank Reich was an excellent hire
On Sunday the Indianapolis Colts announced that they had signed Frank Reich to a five year deal to be their new head coach. Indy needed a solid hire in the wake of the Josh McDaniels Saga and I think Reich has tremendous promise even though he has never been a head coach before. He was the OC for the Super Bowl winning Eagles this season, but the thing he is probably most known for is “The Comeback.” For those who don’t want to read the entire Wikipedia entry for one of history’s craziest NFL playoff games, I will give you the crib notes. In the first round of the playoffs back in the ’92-’93 season, Buffalo Bills backup Frank Reich made a start for injured QB Jim Kelly against the Houston Oilers. After falling behind 35-3 in the third quarter, Reich rallied the troops and forced overtime where Buffalo won 41-38, completing the largest comeback in NFL history. Alternatively, some readers may be interested to learn that “Frankreich” simply means “France” in the German language. These factoids aside, I thought Reich was a solid coordinator for the Chargers and the Eagles, and I commend the hire. I especially approve of the Colts insisting that Reich actually sign the contract before announcing it to the public.
2- I think UVA men’s basketball absolutely deserves its new #1 ranking
With top ranked Villanova losing to suddenly red-hot St. John’s last week, the Hoos were ideally positioned to take over the #1 ranking for the first time since December 1982 (Ralph Sampson’s senior season). UVA had already demolished Virginia Tech in Blacksburg earlier in the season, so all signs pointed to a Saturday night home win (with ESPN’s College Game Day in town, no less) that would lead to the Associated Press voting the Cavaliers to the top of the polls on Monday. Knowing all of this, I made a mental note to write about the tremendous season that Tony Bennett and his Wahoo squad are having, but I made sure not to say it out loud for fear of jinxing my adopted ACC team. Well apparently thinking about it was enough to put the whammy on them; they played their worst game of the year and lost to their in state rival in overtime. The good news is that it was just their second loss of the season and the voters finally rewarded them with the top spot. There will no doubt be detractors since UVA did indeed lose a home game to an unranked foe their last time out, but the numbers support the ranking. Virginia is #1 in RPI, #1 in KenPom, and, as of today, #1 in the AP Poll. Wahoo-Wa!!!
3- I think the Olympics never disappoint
Although we’re only a few days into the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games, there have already been several signature moments. Sure, I’ll admit that NBC’s lousy coverage is driving me crazy, I’m concerned about the US medal count, and the 14 hour time difference is more challenging than I expected, but Olympic competition is as good now as it’s ever been. By the time these games come to a close, my list may change greatly, but here are my top three American moments of the Games to this point:
Bronze: Coming into this competition, no American woman had ever landed a triple axel at the Olympics, but that is no longer the case. Arcadia, California’s Mirai Nagasu landed one in the figure skating team competition, helping the Americans to a bronze medal.
Silver: Similar to Nagasu’s triple axel, no American man had ever received a medal in the singles luge competition at the Olympics when the 2018 Games began. Enter 29 year old Chris Mazdzer from Saranac, New York. We’re not talking 1980’s “Miracle on Ice” here, but Mazdzer’s silver medal in the men’s luge is an enormous upset. The sheer jubilation at the end of this run by the fans as well as Mazdzer himself is chill-inducing.
Gold: As Americans we expect to dominate any event with the word “snowboarding” in the description, but the truth is that the rest of the world has closed the gap over the years. With the Canadians having the better of the men’s slopestyle event, the US had one last chance to avoid getting left off the podium and a 5’5, 115 pound 17-year-old named Red Gerard was up to the challenge. With a flawless final run he vaulted from last to first to capture the United States’ first PyeongChang gold on his final run.
4- I think the Cavs are feeling pretty good right about now
I wrote about the Cleveland Cavaliers twice last week; once when they went wild at the trade deadline and replaced most of their team and then again the following day when they played with some heart for what seemed like the first time in months. Both were interesting developments, but I honestly did not expect to write about LeBron and Co. again until May or June. Then they went to Boston on Sunday with four new players and eviscerated the top team in the Eastern Conference in America’s national TV showcase game. LeBron came within two rebounds of a third consecutive triple-double and didn’t have to handle the scoring burden, which is becoming a winning formula for the Cavs. The new players all logged some meaningful minutes and found various ways to contribute, but it’s the return of the swagger that should worry Eastern Conference rivals.
5- I think the Jazz wish the All-Star Break wasn’t so soon
Don’t look now, but the Utah Jazz have won nine straight games with seven of the victories coming on the road! Since the “Stifle Tower” Rudy Gobert returned from injury back in January, the Jazz have been among the hottest teams in the NBA and find themselves just 1.5 games behind the West’s final playoff spot. Ricky Rubio has played well, but his streakiness is somewhat emblematic of this inexperienced team. Despite the fact that most NBA teams have played about 70% of this regular season’s schedule, we are just now getting to the All-Star Break. The annual hiatus has expanded to a full week in recent years which is a welcome break for older teams, but can be a momentum killer for teams that rely more on youth. Utah’s only participant in All-Star weekend will be rookie phenom Donovan Mitchell who will compete in the Dunk Contest and play for Team USA against Team World in the Rising Stars Challenge game. I trust coach Quin Snyder to do what’s best for the team over the break and to keep them focused down the stretch run, but I just wish the All-Star Break had come at a more opportune time for my boys.