2021 Midwest Region Breakdown

The Bloodbath Region

Ayo Dosunmu vs. Cade Cunningham Sweet 16 matchup? Hold your horses Oklahoma St. fans, there is a log jam in the first round of this region. There are so many games to look at in the Midwest, but let’s look at two games with particular spoiler potential. Loyola-Chicago (8) vs. Georgia Tech (9) and then, let’s go with some Cinderella dreams with Liberty (13) vs. Oklahoma St. (4). 

Deeper Dive into Loyola-Chicago (8) vs. Georgia Tech (9):

Sister Jean is happy to be dancing again, but the ACC tournament champion Yellow Jackets are magma hot at the end of their season. Tech has won 8 straight, including topping a talented Florida St. team to win the ACC tournament. Led by two Seniors, Forward Moses Wright, and Guard Jose Alvarado. Isolations from their backcourt and above average 3pt shooting make them a dangerous matchup. Alvarado himself averaging 4.5 3PA a game and hitting them at a 39% clip, while playing with energy on the defensive side of the floor. The average height on this team is 6-4. So, they like to run and gun, and the stats show with 75.5 PPG to 70.0 Opponent PPG. The Yellow Jackets will need to be red hot to top possibly the best 8 seed in the nation.

Loyola-Chicago also won their conference tournament, but they are looking to find the magic slipper they had in 2017-2018 when they danced their way into the Final Four. They play a tough pack-line defense, that gives up an astounding 55.5 PPG, making them the best in the Nation. That stat will meet some skepticism as it is inflated by their weak conference, but do not incorrectly assume this team can’t defend. Plus, this is a matchup nightmare for Tech, as the Ramblers love to dump the ball inside to their Senior big man Cameron Krutwig. Krutwig leads the team in PPG with 15. If Loyola-Chicago wants to win they need the same production from Krutwig. This should be a great game, and I am going with the Loyola-Chicago here because of that superior defense and their ability to get points in the frontcourt against this undersized Georgia Tech team. Hopefully for Sister Jean, Loyola will keep dancing.

Oklahoma St. (4) vs. Liberty (13):

The popular 13 seed over 4 seed is strong in this one. The Liberty Flames have the recipe for a team that can bust brackets. The Flames could not be more appropriately named. As they are one of the best 3-point shooting teams in the country. 4 out of the 5 starters on the Flames shoot at least 37% from downtown. If these shooters can get hot the Cowboys will be in deep trouble. The Flames match their deep 3-point shooters, with stifling defense. They only allow 59.6 PPG and are cruising as of late winning their last 12 straight. Calling this game an easy Cowboys win would be a mistake.

On the other side, this is a talented Oklahoma St. team, boasting the player with the potential to takeover this tournament. Cade Cunningham might be the most valuable player to any singular team this March. His 20.2 PPG on 45% FG% leads the team. This an Oklahoma St. team that will hope to get their backcourt going early and often to stave off the hot shooting from the Flames. I am leaning towards the Flames here, but this can truly come down to the last possession. Oklahoma St. could run out of options if the Flames play their tight defense and shoot the rock like they have all season.

Other Interesting Matchups:

Syracuse (11) vs. San Diego St. (6)- Always be wary of the sneaky Syracuse 2-3 zone in March. Without the capable players, San Diego St. could be in for a tough matchup.

Clemson (7) vs. Rutgers (10)- Rutgers has some solid players in the backcourt with Ron Harper Jr., and Jakob Young. Plus, some solid wins in the Big 10 this year. This is a tough game to call because of both teams’ inconsistencies throughout the season. I think Rutgers has a more talented roster and Clemson must be reeling a bit after a loss to a bad Miami team in the ACC tournament.

Thursday Night Football Preview Eagles (1-2) @ Packers (3-0)

By: Jake Goldman

Image via wearegreenbay.com

Packers Offense: The 2019 Packers look completely revamped. This is not your normal Aaron Rodgers led Packers though. The Packers are only 24th in the league in points per game. Rodgers is throwing for 197 yards per game and the rushing attack is a mediocre 89.3 yards per game. This version of the Packers offense is struggling to explode, but that does not mean they do not have the capabilities to do so. Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Jimmy Graham are more than decent options for Rodgers. One would expect the Packers offense will get going eventually and soon.

Eagles Defense: On the other side of this game, the 2019 Eagles defense has been up and down. Another year, another year of struggle for the Eagles defensive backfield. They are ranked 29th in the league in total yards allowed, making the match-up against Rodgers that much more scary. The Eagles continue to stuff the run well, but with that being said it is more so due to lack of need to rush against the Eagles. The defensive backs have been left out to dry by a bad pass rush that has seen a total of 2 sacks this season. Going into Lambeau against Rodgers seems like a bad combo for this Eagles defense.

Packers Defense: The 2019 Packers defense has been the star of the show for their team. The Packers invested in a bunch of stout defensive free agents across the board and it has paid dividends. They rank 2nd in points allowed this season. They have only allowed 1 passing touchdown thus far this season. This defense headlined by Adrian Amos, seems to be a force to be reckoned within the NFC. Second year player Jaire Alexander has stepped into the role of a lock-down corner in this league. The additions of Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith have fortified the defensive front. If there is one weakness of this defense it is in the run defense. The Packers have given up 3 rushing touchdowns and 4.9 yards per carry thru 3 weeks.

Eagles Offense: In week 1, the Eagles looked like a legit offense in the NFC. After injuries to top targets though, the team has struggled to move the ball consistently. The stats for the Eagles are not bad. They rank 9th in total points. The problem for the Eagles this year has been execution and consistency. The Eagles rank 20th in turnovers with 5 of them in 3 games. Though this has not been Carson Wentz’s mistakes, the playmakers around him have lost 3 fumbles this year. The Eagles lack of execution may be due to the injuries they sustained to WRs Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson. Alshon Jeffery is expected to be in action for Thursday, but Desean Jackson will not be available. For the Eagles sake, they would hope the addition of Jeffery will help their execution holding onto the football and keeping the chains moving.

Prediction: The Eagles are a desperate team, and desperate teams fair well generally. Especially when the opposition is nursing a (3-0) head start. Rodgers will play well, but the Packers defense has faced questionable competition so far. I expect Thursday night to be a high scoring affair.

Packers 34 – Eagles 37

Why the Ramsey Situation is Puzzling

By: Jake Goldman

Image via Getty Images

Declining to negotiate with Ramsey and forcing him to play on the 5th year of his rookie scale contract was the beginning of the end for the Jaguars. In 2016, the Jaguars began to build the defense they have today when they drafted Ramsey 5th overall. Taking anyone 5th overall, let alone a Cornerback, is a huge investment that cannot be overlooked. Now, the Jaguars will never be able to recoup on that investment, why wouldn’t you lock up one of the best corners in the game? The move just screams bad management and emotional overreaction when dealing with a 24 year old guy.

*Taken from ProFootballReference

Let’s set aside the contract situation, and talk in terms of play. Over the last four years, few have been as stout as Ramsey on the outside. He shadows the other teams best receiver and does well with that assignment. His stats above do not lie. He does not miss games, he plays the role of top corner on his team, and plays in a scheme that doesn’t hide him on the field. He plays the best of the best and has shown he is among them. How about we put it this way. How much would you pay someone to hold DeAndre Hopkins to 5 catches 48 yards on 13 targets? Personally, I’d back up the Brinks trucks 100 times over. Elite talent at a premiere position, at a young age.

Let’s talk the supposed character concerns that Ramsey is diagnosed with. Since being drafted in 2016, he has not missed a game. He has not been arrested or suspended by the league. Essentially, people dislike him because he talks the talk all day, but does that matter when he plays the way he does? Name a top cornerback in this league that does not have an edge to them. Richard Sherman, Josh Norman, and Marcus Peters all have varying levels of edginess to their game, and simply stated it’s what makes them great. Letting go of one of the best corners in the game, who you drafted 5th overall just 3 years ago for a middling first round pick and some other assets will not help the Jaguars move forward. The Jaguars seem to be a team that reached their peak in the 2017 AFC Championship game and their demise has been just as quick.