1. What do you think about the hire of P.J. Fleck as Head Coach of the Golden Gophers football team?
Kras: I myself am going to need to see a successful product on the field before I grab an oar. I am intrigued by the hire of Fleck and I certainly hope he is as advertised. He brings a lot of hype with him and should inject a new and needed energy into a program that desperately needs it. From a football standpoint, the Gophers were 9-4 with a nice bowl win, with 10 players suspended this past season. Not bad, all things considered. Fleck will be interesting to watch as he tried to rebuild this program with his guys but there is some talented kids here that can help him grow especially on the D side of the ball.
JJ Benz: I was all about hiring a big name coach so when I heard that Les Miles was in town and they decided to go with Fleck, I wasn’t happy. However, after doing a little research and hearing him in a press conference, I believe it was the right hire. The reasoning for preferring the big name coach was to entice recruits but I get the feeling that Fleck is in touch with the Millenials in a way that Miles just doesn’t have.
2. With the Gophers basketball team’s recent road victories against quality BIG 10 opponents, are you convinced they will make the NCAA tournament?
Kras: I dare say I am convinced that they will make the Big Dance this year. The way they are looking they might even have a chance win a game or 2 when they get there. It is only January but so far, they have lived up to any potential hype that they had coming into the season. Amir Coffey has been as advertised and Reggie Lynch has been a pleasant surprise with his ability to make things happen on O when he is on the floor. This team is much more improved than the team we saw last season and which speaks highly of the freshmen talent that they have recruited, but also Richard Pitino’s ability to get these kids to buy into what he is trying to do. The Gophers will get another shot at Michigan State this week, this time on the road.
Nate Leer: I am convinced! The Gophers have many of the elements that successful college teams need – veteran PG, size up front, athletic wings, shooters and overall depth. My greatest concern is that the team is relatively young. If PG Nate Mason suffers an injury or really struggles with his shot, they do not have quality depth at that position to help out. However, if Mason holds up and continues to knock down late free throws, this team looks like a shoo-in for the NCAAs.
3. Should Wild fans be excited about the play of their draft picks in the World Junior Hockey Championship (WJHC)?
JJ Bens: Yes, most definitely. Kirill Kaprizov, the Russian F who is probably the farthest away from joining the team, lead the tournament in goals. He might be ready to play now. He is currently playing in the very competitive Russian K league and may decide to stay in Russia for the next 2 years, unfortunately. Joel Eriksson Ek was 3rd in goals and Jordan Greenway and Luke Kunin played well while winning the gold for team USA.
Nate Leer: I think this has to be considered a good sign for the Wild. They will need to keep developing young talent as they play out the string on a couple bad not-quite-$100-million contracts. Eriksson Ek seems to be the name that most hard core fans are hopeful will be a high-end player. I also think this Kaprizov kid could surprise if he is even 75% of the player some of his predecessors as WJHC Best Forward. He is a quick, O-minded forward who could provide some offense for the team around 2020 when he will be 23 years old.
1. What NFL team where you most impressed with on Wild Card Weekend?
Kras: To me the team that impressed was the Green Bay Packers. QB Aaron Rodgers lit up what I thought was an underrated Giants D. WR Jordy Nelson left the game with a rib injury but that seemed to not matter much. Rodgers and WR Randall Cobb picked right up where Nelson left off and gouged the Giants for 3 TDs. Obviously losing Jordy Nelson for any length of time is not good but the Packers are looking good right now. With WRs Cobb, DeVante Adams, and Ty Montgomery all having success as of late, there seems to be no need to rush him back. The Packers O is back on track and that will be a problem for the Dallas Cowboys. Although the Cowboy’s D has been good this year, Rodgers is playing at another level right now.
JJ Bens: I wasn’t too impressed by much besides the play of the Steelers. Everyone knows that they might be the most talented team at the 3 main skill positions on O. The defensive scheme has been the same for years but they haven’t had the talent to execute in recent years. I think this gives the Steelers the edge against the Chiefs but I am not sold the D can hold up to the likes of Brady and the Hoody.
2. Does the addition of Kyle Korver to the Cleveland Cavaliers make them the favorite to win another Finals Championship?
Kras: It certainly doesn’t hurt their chances. I think Korver will fit nicely on the Cavs and will bring an always welcome 3-point presence. With Lebron James, and Kyrie Irving seeing plenty of the opposing D, Korver should get his share of open shots throughout the course of a given game. Looking ahead to a potential Finals rematch, the addition of Korver’s O and 3-point shooting could be the needed difference to get past the pesky Warriors, again.
Nate Leer: I don’t think the addition of Korver significantly changes the NBA landscape. If you felt the Cavs were the team to beat, he helps that argument. However, if you felt the Warriors were the favorites, Korver doesn’t seem like a guy that should alter that opinion. Come the playoffs, the Cavs expect to have G JR Smith back. He fills a very similar role to Korver as a knock-down shooter. While having both would be ideal – the Cavs could have one of them on the floor at all times and maybe find ways to play both at the same time – their overlapping skill sets reduces Korver’s impact, especially during the playoffs.
3. Was the one-game suspension of Duke G Grayson Allen enough, or do you believe it should have been longer for us latest tripping incident?
Kras: No, I think he should have been out for a bit longer than that. Seeing how this is also the 3rd infraction for Grayson, I think somebody other than Coach K should have set the penalty. The NCAA should have set the suspension for Baby G and his tripping antics. It will be an interesting story to follow going forward. I can’t imagine Grayson stopping this trend at this point so when it happens again it will be intriguing to see how that is handled. If Grayson can grow up a bit and change his attitude, I think he can be a good player but he has a lot to prove from a maturity standpoint.
Nate Leer: I do think the one game suspension was enough. This strikes me as an immature act committed by a young adult. Allen has gotten away with clearly kicking opponents twice in the past. If anything, he should have been suspended for the 2nd occurrence and maybe this last one would not have happened at all. Let’s hope the kid learns and matures from his latest issue. I trust no one’s judgment more than Coach K so his decision works for me.
What do you think of the Clemson National Title win over Alabama?
Kras: I thought it was a fairly entertaining game overall given how the first half was a bit boring, but that was in part to very good D by Alabama. Deshaun Watson was beat up throughout this game but managed to keep the Tigers close and eventually lead a game winning drive down the field. It was a tough loss for ‘Bama when Bo Scarbourgh left the game in the 3rd quarter and that might have been the difference. ‘Bama was not able to sustain many drives and burn clock after that. Overall, it was a good game and a good finish for Watson who probably wanted to beat Alabama as much as anyone given how his season ended last year.
JJ Bens: I would say it was a 4 point victory for the Tigers just like I predicted!
Nate Leer: I was happy to see Clemson win. Nothing against ‘Bama but it is nice to see another program achieve the ultimate goal. For Clemson coaches and players, it must have been sweet redemption to win the Natty after losing to the Tide last year in the title game. Plus, I am a big fan of Clemson QB Deshaun Watson as well as WR Mike Williams. Williams could be a top pick in the NFL draft but I wonder if teams will sleep on Watson much like they did on Dak Prescott.