After a busy 4 years at Algonquin Regional High School, I will be graduating this Sunday, June 5.
Right after graduation, I’ll be hopping on a flight to Florida to cover the Special Olympics USA Games for the second consecutive time to follow the story of 3-time silver medalist golfer and Flutie Fellow Tyler Lagasse. You’ll be able to follow my coverage on this page.
Once I return, I will be preparing for my next four years as a sports media major in the Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. In case you have not heard, I was recently selected into the Park Scholar Program, Ithaca College’s full-ride scholarship program centered around service in the communications industry. I’d like to thank the entire Park Scholar Selection Committee for choosing to bring me on board for these next four years.
Check out this video of my official announcement from the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism’s 26.2 Can Do Fest before the Boston Marathon. I was there alongside football legend and Foundation co-founder Doug Flutie and voice of the New England Patriots Bob Socci, who have been a tremendous help with my goal to become a professional sports journalist.
I am really excited to begin the next chapter in my journey!
I was recently interviewed by Tom Eschen Jr., a sports reporter for For The Fans who is running the Falmouth Road Race for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. For The Fans (FTF) is an award-winning global sports provider delivering world-class international and domestic sports and lifestyle entertainment to dedicated fans everywhere.
The long and short versions of the interview will run sporadically on the “For the Fans” digital channel, which is on platforms like Roku Channel and Xumo TV among others. The pieces will run as filler content after live games and events, so they will be seen by many different audiences.
I’d like to give a special thank you to Tom Eschen and For the Fans for taking the time to highlight my story and talk sports with me. I wish Tom luck in the Falmouth Road Race, and you can donate to Tom’s Falmouth fundraiser for the Flutie Foundation here, which will help raise money for people and families affected by autism.
Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. I told my story so far to 300+ people, and hundreds more were watching it live. In my speech, I told the story of how I turned my obsessions of sports and writing into a passion – this blog. My goal of the speech was to inspire others and teach people that obsessions aren’t always something that need to be controlled or discouraged. After the speech, several parents came up to me asking me to get in touch with their kids. If you have something you’re obsessed with, I encourage you to start a blog about it. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a new passion – and eventually find a career. I have found my passion, and that is the highlight of this first chapter of my life. But this is only the beginning of my story. Hopefully, I can take this passion and make it a career. It all starts with the little things – internships, volunteering, etc.
For those of you who missed out on the livestream, I posted a video with just my speech:
After delivering the speech, I was featured in the Boston Herald. You can check out the article they wrote below:
I am so thankful to the Federation for Children with Special Needs (https://fcsn.org/) who gave me this incredible opportunity to be the keynote speaker in front of hundreds at the Seaport World Trade Center Ampitheater.
What I just witnessed was one of the wildest endings to a Boston sports event in my lifetime.
The Celtics were up 98-88 with four minutes to go, already defying the odds of a team that had been down 3-0 in the series. What followed gave me flashbacks to every close game the Celtics had been in this entire playoffs. 10 points was a deficit Miami was able to come back from. It appeared the Celtics were about to choke away another close game, but what followed proved wrong anyone who doubted the clutchness of this team.
Boston got the ball back with three seconds on the clock. Marcus Smart tried and failed on a three-point shot. However, with 0.4 seconds to go, Boston hadn’t given up on the play. Derrick White had been speeding towards the basket from the second he gave the ball to Smart. White got the rebound and immediately pushed the ball into the basket right as time expired.
At first, it seemed White was too late, but after the refs reviewed the replay, it was clear. White had released the ball with just a tenth of a second to spare! The team was jumping for joy and congratulating White on what he had just done. The Celtics had made history, and set themselves up for the opportunity to make even more.
150 other teams have been down 3-0 in an NBA playoff series. Only 3 of them made it to Game 7. While all of them did end up losing, this is a very different situation. None of those three teams had the chance to play Game 7 on their home floor. All the Celtics have to do to go to the NBA Finals is win Game 7 at the Garden.
If you would have told me this a week ago, I may not have believed you. Early in the series, the Celtics struggled to play defense how they had for the majority of the season. By Game 3 in Miami, they looked lost and defeated. However, just about anything can happen in this city of champions. Much like the 2004 Red Sox before them, the Celtics showed perseverance that few teams outside this city had shown.
Even tonight, there were moments that were familiarly frustrating. The Celtics were unable to make threes for most of the game. Even by the end, only Marcus Smart and Derrick White had made successful three pointers for the Celtics. In addition, they were letting up wide open threes to the Heat. Even when the Celtics defense began to pick up the intensity, the Heat continued to shoot an insane amount of threes. Duncan Robinson made a couple deep, contested threes in the fourth quarter that made me worry there was nothing the Celtics could do to beat the Heat.
Despite these problems, the Celtics held a lead for majority of the game. It almost seemed like they were playing an entirely different brand of basketball tonight. The offense was, as usual, centered around Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However, both of them were resisting on taking difficult threes and instead driving it to the paint. Robert Williams III was also key on both offense and defense, serving as a finisher at the rim and blocker of shots in the paint. You could argue Williams completely controlled the paint when he was on the floor.
That brand of basketball led them to be up 10 with four minutes to go. However, that’s when the Celtics began to feel the pressure. It’s also when Jimmy Butler woke up. Between drawing fouls and making clutch shots, Butler scored 13 of his 24 points in these final minutes. The final three came on a shooting foul with three seconds to go. This took it from a 102-100 Celtics lead to a 103-102 Heat lead, the kind of ending that felt all too familiar to Celtics fans. Though this game was far from over.
Winning in this fashion proves more than most other wins the Celtics have picked up in these playoffs. While they have let games get too close at times, we now know they have the clutch factor to win a close game when they really, desperately need it. This is still a team that’s gone 5-0 in elimination games these playoffs. When it really matters, the 2023 Celtics have risen to the occasion. Close game situations are definitely an area to work on, but tonight proved this team has that dog in them.
After seeing this win, it’s much easier to believe this team can follow in the footsteps of the 2004 Red Sox and defy the odds of the 150 NBA teams before them. Joe Mazzulla must have had someone from that Red Sox team come in to speak! Whatever it is that’s helping them turn it around, the Celtics seem to be doing it right. All they need to do in Game 7 is stick with what’s worked. If they can get a little better from three on top of it, watch out.
The 2023 NFL Draft is right around the corner, and it seems we know less about what’s going to happen than we’ve known in any other year. There have been rumors about 3 or 4 different quarterbacks going #1 overall, and it’s possible that none of them are even the best player on the board. This post will be my attempt at what I think is going to and/or should happen on Thursday night. While I have included 7-round mocks for the Patriots in the past, I feel it’s hard to forecast this draft beyond Day 2 or possibly even Day 1, so I’ll be sticking to my 1st round projections for this post. I did not watch a huge amount of film this year, so most of my projections are based off team need and fit combined with when players are expected by most to go.
I still think the Panthers could be torn between Young and C.J. Stroud. Stroud put up better numbers in college and I feel he’s the better pure passer. He at least has Frank Reich on his side. Young, however, may be better fit for the modern NFL with more mobility and more recently, better S2 test scores. Concerns about Stroud’s football IQ and even personality have been raised, and I think that’ll break the tie for the Panthers.
Will Anderson Jr.
The Texans don’t seem thrilled by any QB not named Bryce Young, at least enough to take them at 2. I have them trading down as the Falcons move up for a guy who’s arguably the best player available. Atlanta has a bigger need at pass rusher than most other teams, so I feel like they would be willing to outbid other competitors and grab their top line edge rusher of the future.
With Anderson off the board, this pick could be a bit of a wild card. With a strong class of corners, I think this is a good opportunity for Arizona to fill a big need of their own. The Cards lost Byron Murphy to free agency and already lacked depth at the position when he was around. As the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year and a Consensus All-American, Witherspoon has the resume of a future star corner.
Some teams have taken Stroud off their boards with the football IQ concerns. However, the Colts are one of the more desperate teams for a young QB. Given their track record of filling this gap with veteran talent, I think they’d prefer an NFL ready option over a QB that might take more time to develop like Will Levis or Anthony Richardson.
Paris Johnson Jr.
There’s been some buzz about the Seahawks taking a QB, but I think addressing the offensive line is more urgent need for them. I see them slotting Johnson in at right tackle and shifting other linemen inside. This will provide Geno Smith with a pair of the best young, developing tackles in the NFL between Johnson Jr. and Charles Cross.
While I see Witherspoon as the top corner in the class, I do think Gonzalez is worthy of a top 10 draft pick. The Lions lost Amani Oruwariye in free agency and traded Jeff Okudah to Atlanta, so the role of #1 corner is wide open in Detroit. While he may take some time to reach his potential, I feel Gonzalez is capable of growing into that role.
Joey Porter Jr.
The Raiders have lacked an elite corner for years. Even with Witherspoon and Gonzalez gone, I still think they take the opportunity to get one. Porter Jr. has the chance to be almost as good or possibly even better than the two corners picked ahead of him, and that’s a chance I think the Raiders will be willing to take.
The trade down will put the Texans in perfect position to get their potential QB of the future without reaching. Richardson is going to take some time to develop, but with the Texans in the process of rebuilding, the hope would be that Richardson can grow alongside his teammates to set the Texans up for success in a few years. The Texans don’t seem to like Stroud, and realistically they would still be at a disadvantage in the AFC South with Stroud at QB. Taking Richardson 6 picks later is a better value for them.
Wilson has reportedly been rising up draft boards to the point where some believe he will be taken before Will Anderson Jr. While it’s possible this hype is a little overblown, I still see no way he falls out of the top 10. The Bears did add to their defense this offseason, but it’s still in their best interest to take the best defensive player on the board. They still have a way to go after how much last year’s defense struggled.
Lukas Van Ness
Brandon Graham isn’t getting any younger, the Eagles don’t really have much depth behind him. Van Ness is another member of this stacked pass rushing class that’s reportedly rising up draft boards. He’d likely be the best value for the Eagles to fill this need here.
Carter claims he’s only visiting teams with a top 10 pick. Wouldn’t it be ironic if he goes right after at #11? The Titans do have an elite duo up front in Jeffery Simmons and Teair Tart. However, they lack depth behind those two. Despite some potential off-the-field concerns, it may be hard to pass up on a guy who’s arguably a top 10 talent if there’s any room for him. Carter would definitely be able to find a starting job next to Simmons and Tart in Tennessee’s 3-4 scheme. They could make for a legendary trio.
Sure, the Texans may have brought in Robert Woods and Dalton Schultz in the offseason. Regardless, nobody on their roster is going to be their #1 receiver of the future. Smith-Njigba would provide Richardson with an easy top target out of the gate with potential to become an elite slot receiver like Cooper Kupp or Amon-Ra St. Brown in the near future. He is coming off an injury from this past season, but should be good to go for 2023, at least to some degree. Besides, the Texans aren’t exactly in win-now mode.
Johnston was the clear #1 option in TCU’s offense and at 6’3”, he has the size of a true #1 outside guy in the NFL as well. Much like how Mike Evans carried Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M back in 2013, I don’t think Max Duggan and TCU would have cracked the national championship without Johnston. Johnston has the potential to follow Evans’ path, making an immediate impact and becoming the top target for his team as a rookie. The Packers may have Christian Watson, but it remains to be seen what he can do against top tier corners. Bringing in a guy who played tougher competition in college could be a smart move.
With no clear standout option for them at this spot, I have the Patriots trading down and seeing who falls. I have them sending the pick to Tampa Bay who will take the opportunity to find their long term answer at QB. The Bucs do claim they have confidence in Baker Mayfield as their starting QB, but I feel this will be a one year solution that allows Levis to sit and develop. By 2024, Levis should be ready to take the reigns. I don’t think the Bucs will be expecting him to fill Tom Brady’s shoes, but he still has potential to at least become the franchise guy.
With Aaron Rodgers on the roster; the Jets don’t exactly have any pressing needs. Rodgers originally wanted his left tackle, David Bahktiari, to come with him in the trade, so taking a top tier tackle seems like a logical first move with Rodgers under center. Depending on how Mekhi Becton develops, Skoronski could either fill his role or play opposite him.
There’s a bit of a drop-off at corner after the top 3 in the class go off the board. However, this has been a big need for the Commanders for years, who continue to give up big games to WRs. Paired with Kendall Fuller, Banks should hope to help put a stop to that in the upcoming season.
The Steelers have had offensive line problems for years. With Kenny Pickett under center, it’s time they finally address it and get him his left tackle of the future. I don’t think there’s too big a dropoff from Johnson Jr. or Skoronski to Jones, so Pittsburgh should be satisfied if he falls to them.
While he doesn’t come up big every game, Kincaid at his best can completely take over a game. He’s one of the most dangerous receiving weapons we’ve seen in a while, especially at tight end. He was one big reason Utah owned USC this year: in their first matchup he had 15 receptions for a whopping 217 yards and a score. The Lions traded T.J. Hockenson after a rough start last season, but now they’re in win-now mode and bringing in another dynamic receiving tight end could help their case. He’ll have the chance for more of those “boom” games, especially with Jameson Williams out for the first six.
The Patriots need to do something to help Mac Jones in a crucial prove-it year, and I feel adding a WR is the best they can do for him. Would he be better off with a clear cut #1 WR? Probably. However, Flowers is very similar to the types of receivers Bill Belichick and Bill O’Brien have worked with in the past, and I feel that with the right coaching, the Pats can develop Flowers into that #1 guy. Despite his small size, he aspires to be more than just a slot receiver, and the Pats can rotate him and JuJu Smith-Schuster in and out of the slot. This pick allows Flowers to stay closeby after some time at Boston College and be in a system that plays to his strengths and allows him to flourish.
With the Seahawks addressing o-line at 5, I think corner is really the only other pressing need to address. I originally had them taking Kelee Ringo here, but he seems to be falling down draftboards of late. Cam Smith seems like a safer bet to go this early in the first round. He comes in hoping to finally provide the Seahawks with long term answers at the position.
It appears Austin Ekeler is on the outs within the next year. Besides, the Chargers have been trying to get an early-down complement to him for years. Bijan Robinson may start out as that if Ekeler sticks around, but he’ll be able to become the every-down workhorse and possibly even an elite RB in the future. He’s considered the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley, and I don’t think a team like the Chargers that has questions about their future at the position would want to pass up on a guy like him. It’s very rare that running backs are worth a first round pick at all, but Robinson is definitely an exception.
It appears the Ravens are at least operating under the assumption that Lamar Jackson is staying after the signing of Odell Beckham Jr. Under that assumption, why not get him some extra protection? Ronnie Stanley is locked in at left tackle for the foreseeable future, but right tackle has been a hole since the departure of Orlando Brown. Wright should most definitely be capable of filling that spot.
Forbes has been rising up draft boards since the Combine, and as a Consensus All-American, he probably should have been considered among the better corners in the class all along. The Vikings may have added Byron Murphy in free agency, but I feel Forbes would be the more likely #1 corner in the long term.
The Jags have been able to fill out most of their defensive depth chart over the last few years, but they still are lacking solid starters at safety. Branch has the potential to become the anchor not only for the Jags safety room, but possibly their entire secondary. While corners are more valuable than safeties in general, I feel Branch could wind up having a better career than some of the corners taken before him.
The Giants may have brought in Darren Waller to be their top target, but the WR room doesn’t really have any clear standout names. While Addison would likely rotate with other Giants receivers like Sterling Shepard, Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, and Darius Slayton early on, he could eventually have the potential to stand out from that crowd.
The Cowboys just took Tyler Smith in last year’s draft, but with the loss of Connor Williams offensive line continues to be a need for the Cowboys. I have them shifting Smith back to right tackle and taking Torrence, who’s arguably the best interior lineman in the class. I could also see them rolling with a tackle like Anton Harrison or Dawand Jones, but Torrence seems like the slightly better value.
There aren’t many first-round worthy linebackers, but after the loss of Tremaine Edmunds, it’s one of Buffalo’s only pressing needs. Campbell was receiving first round buzz at one point or another and I think a linebacker-needy team like the Bills may be willing to take the chance this late into the round. It’s possible they shift gears to Drew Sanders or Trenton Simpson, but I still believe in Campbell as the top linebacker in the class.
While I do think a lot of corners have surpassed Ringo on teams’ boards, I don’t see Ringo falling as much as some others do. The Bengals have been looking for a #1 corner for a while now, and while Ringo may be a raw prospect and a risky pick, I think he has upside after the success he has had at Georgia as a 2-time national champion.
I don’t see as many edge rushers going in Round 1 as some people do, but the Saints could use someone to pair with Cameron Jordan and they wouldn’t pass on a guy like Nolan Smith if he falls. Smith led the charge on national champion Georgia’s pass rush, and some teams have him much higher than this on their boards. It could be a golden opportunity for New Orleans as other teams pass due to lack of need.
The Eagles o-line has been good for years, but it’s unknown how much longer the veterans like Lane Johnson and Jason Kelce will last. The Eagles just lost depth at tackle when Andre Dillard left in free agency, and even if he doesn’t start right away, it’s time they line up their plans for their starting tackles of the future. Harrison definitely has the potential to be a part of that.
Even with Cedric Tillman on the same team, Hyatt was top 5 in FBS in receiving yards and TDs. Having Hendon Hooker at QB definitely helped things, but going from Hooker in college to Mahomes in the NFL would be a very smooth transition. Hyatt was the clear #1 WR for a strong Volunteers team, and I think he has the potential to do the same for the Chiefs. The Chiefs may have WR depth with Ka’darius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Richie James, and Skyy Moore on the team but Hyatt would stand out from that crowd. Hyatt wouldn’t even necessarily have to face top corners all the time; Travis Kelce would distract enough defensive attention that Hyatt can thrive alongside him. This is a great landing spot for any WR, but I think Hyatt would fit especially well here.
Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and I hope you all enjoy the draft on Thursday. I’ll be streaming live on The Master Plan YouTube.
In other news, if you’re in the area, there will be a booth with Boston Sports Mania merchandise to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism tonight at Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, MA. Either way, you can still get your merch online or make a direct donation to the Foundation at this link.
Happy Autism Acceptance Month! For the third straight year, I will be selling merchandise with my Boston Sports Mania logo to raise money for the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, who has been helping people and families affected by autism live life to the fullest for 25 years now.
You can get a t-shirt for $25, a long sleeve shirt for $35, and a sweatshirt for $50. All proceeds will go to the Foundation. You can also send a straight donation to the Foundation through the website.
If you’re in the area, you can also get gear at our in-person event at Apex Entertainment in Marlborough, MA on April 25th.
We have reached the final part of my March Madness bracket, and what’s in my opinion the most competitive region of all. I feel there are 4 real Final Four candidates from this region, 2-3 of which could have upside to take it all the way and cut down the nets in Houston. Keep on reading for my outlook on the region.
First Round Games
#1 Kansas vs. #16 Howard
I don’t see the Jayhawks repeating as national champions, but they’re not losing to a 16 seed, and especially not a MEAC team. Nobody in this MEAC really beat anyone of note, and this should be an easy win for the Big 12’s regular season champ.
#8 Arkansas vs. #9 Illinois
It wasn’t as smooth sailing for either of these teams as last year, but they still had respectable seasons. Illinois brought in Terrence Shannon Jr. from Texas Tech to lead the team with Kofi Cockburn gone. Meanwhile, the Razorbacks have one of the most stacked freshman classes in all of college basketball. I’ll bet on the younger team to get hot at the right time and come out on top.
#5 Saint Mary’s vs. #12 VCU
I’m not a huge fan of either of these squads, but Saint Mary’s has experience in this exact slot. They took down 12-seeded Indiana in the first round of last year’s tournament with some of their current core. VCU is a weaker 12 seed than the Hoosiers; they’re simply here because they won an Atlantic 10 that’s historically a stronger conference than it was this year. The Gaels are from a similar conference, but they were competitive with Gonzaga most of the year. That doesn’t happen very often.
Pick: Saint Mary’s
#4 UConn vs. #13 Iona
It would be fun to pick a Rick Pitino-led Iona squad, but UConn is just too good to be upset here. Between veteran big Adama Sanogo and breakout sophomore Jordan Hawkins, this team has the star power of a contender. They also had the Big East’s best freshman duo in Northborough’s own sharp shooting forward Alex Karaban and the 7-foot big Donovan Clingan. They have all the tool they need to make a deep run in this tourney.
#6 TCU vs. #11 Arizona State
The Sun Devils have prevailed despite the early season loss of Marcus Bagley. However, they don’t have a star to compete with TCU’s Mike Miles. TCU’s worst losses have come in games when Miles is out, so this is likely an under-seeding for the Horned Frogs. I don’t trust Arizona State to go that far in this tournament, and that’s something TCU has potential to do.
#3 Gonzaga vs. #14 Grand Canyon
Offensively, Gonzaga honestly doesn’t look much worse than they have the last couple years. The defense has taken a step back which caused closer games against Saint Mary’s, but they still have a pretty solid resume and have Drew Timme to lead the team. They may not quite be built for a national title, but I think they’ll make it out of this one.
#7 Northwestern vs. #10 Boise State
This has been another chalky region so far, but I’m picking the upset in this one. Northwestern has seen growth from Boo Buie and Chase Audige that has helped them get to this level. However, their competition in the B1G was much easier than usual, so I’m not sure how much better this team really is than previous years. Boise State has a questionable resume as well, but they were very competitive all year in the Mountain West and have all 5 starters averaging 10+ PPG.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Boise State
#2 UCLA vs. #15 UNC Asheville
I think UNC Asheville is better than your average #15 seed, but this is UCLA we’re talking about. This is most of the same UCLA core that made a Final Four run as an 11 seed just 2 years ago. They may be without Jaylen Clark, but they’ll still have the trio of Jaime Jaquez, Tyger Campbell, and standout freshman Amari Bailey to lead the charge. That should be enough to avoid the upset and keep moving.
Potential Round of 32 Matchups
#1 Kansas vs. #8 Arkansas
#4 UConn vs. #5 Saint Mary’s
#3 Gonzaga vs. #6 TCU
#2 UCLA vs. #10 Boise State
There are some tempting upset picks here. Arkansas is young and full of talent up and down their roster. TCU could make it very close against Gonzaga. At the end of the day though, this region has some of the strongest high seeds and I would not be shocked to see an all-chalk Sweet 16. Kansas, UConn, Gonzaga, and UCLA all have legitimate Final Four hopes. It could be a dogfight to the end between those teams.
And the winner is…
You may have caught my pun at the end there, but I think it’ll be a Huskies vs. Bulldogs Elite 8 matchup to finish off this region. This UConn team is trending in the right direction, and it will take a lot to knock off the defending champs, but I trust them to do the job. The Gonzaga-UCLA game could go either way, but whoever makes it should give UConn a close game. At the end of the day though, UConn checks all the boxes for a Final Four team, and I actually have them cutting down the nets in Houston. If they can get past some questionable coaching decisions, they have one of the nation’s most talented and well-rounded rosters. They are very underrated as a 4 seed.
In case you haven’t already figured it out based on these articles, here’s my complete bracket:
Now sit back, relax, and enjoy the Madness! We sleep in May.
March Madness is almost here, and I’ve been releasing my picks region by region. The first half of the bracket has been pretty wild; I picked a lot of upsets and had 3rd seeded Baylor and 6th seeded Kentucky making the Final Four. This half of the bracket will be a little bit chalkier, but that’s simply because it includes some of the nation’s top contenders for a championship. Keep reading for my first round picks.
First Round Games
#1 Houston vs. #16 Northern Kentucky
Houston may be without Marcus Sasser in their early round games, but this is still a talented team without him. At the very least they’re talented enough to knock off a 16 seed. Kelvin Sampson’s defense is elite, and they’ll still see plenty of offensive production between veteran Jamal Shead, freshman Jarace Walker, and others.
#8 Iowa vs. #9 Auburn
Kris Murray has stepped right into the role of his brother, at least offensively. The Hawkeyes had some rough patches in the B1G, but they are still a top 10 offense, which I think will at least get them out of the first round. Auburn really hasn’t impressed me this year. Their road in the SEC was just as bumpy, and they didn’t really beat many notable teams along the way. I’ll take the Hawkeyes to survive another day, but with their defensive problems, don’t expect it to last.
#5 Miami vs. #12 Drake
Drake has been a popular upset pick, and these 12 seeds this year all look very dangerous. I wouldn’t count out Miami so fast though, they have one of the nation’s better superstar duos in Isaiah Wong and Nijel Pack, plus depth behind them. This Hurricanes team has the talent to make a deep run, so I think they’ll at least take their first game.
#4 Indiana vs. #13 Kent State
This one’s another popular upset pick, but what’s even behind the logic that Indiana is upset prone. Trayce Jackson-Davis finally has help with the breakout of Jalen Hood-Schifino, and the Hoosiers have had their best season in years. This Kent State team has scared some teams, but they haven’t been able to finish the job against their toughest opponents like Houston, Gonzaga, and Charleston. Kent State will be able to keep pace most of the game, but I’ll bet on TJD to finish the job for Indiana’s first tournament win in a while.
#6 Iowa State vs. #11 Pittsburgh
I don’t really like either of these teams. Iowa State did own Baylor all year but they also struggled against weaker Big 12 opponents. Pittsburgh has an underrated resume and came up big against Mississippi State, but I don’t trust many players on either of these teams to get the job done on a consistent basis. This game could really go either way based on which team’s top players have the better night, but I think the Cyclones are just a little deeper. They may be able to handle it in this one even if Jaren Holmes or Gabe Kalscheur disappoints, but I’m going to go with my gut and take the upset. Pitt has momentum after their last minute victory on Tuesday.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Pittsburgh
#3 Xavier vs. #14 Kennesaw State
Kennesaw State is lucky to be here. It may seem like the preface for a Saint Peter’s style Cinderella run, but that Peacocks team was on fire in their conference tournament. This team just barely squeaked by Liberty. Xavier may be without Zach Freemantle, but they still have plenty of talent and should be able to stay alive.
#7 Texas A&M vs. #10 Penn State
Many say both these teams are under-seeded, and I would agree, but this matchup is getting a little overhyped. Penn State is hot at the right time and the duo of Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy will bring the excitement, but the Nittany Lions lack depth behind them. Texas A&M has definitely exceeded my expectations, and the run all the way to the SEC Championship was impressive. I do think the team is a bit overhyped though, they got lucky over the course of that path to the title game and avoided facing Kentucky after their loss to Vandy. I’ll still take them in this one since they’re deeper than Penn State.
Pick: Texas A&M
#2 Texas vs. #15 Colgate
Colgate was getting a lot of hype as an upset pick last year and they fell short. Yes, they have a lot of veterans who score a lot of points, but they have struggled to finish the job against Power Five teams. Texas is more than just a Power 5 team. They are the champion of the absolutely brutal Big 12 and a potential national title contender. Look for Marcus Carr to drop 20+ as Texas routs the Raiders.
Potential Round of 32 Matchups
#1 Houston vs. #8 Iowa
#4 Indiana vs. #5 Miami
#3 Xavier vs. #11 Pittsburgh
#2 Texas vs. #7 Texas A&M
This may seem like a really chalky region, but most of these lower seeds in the Midwest just don’t impress me. Indiana and Miami will make for a fun game with lots of star power and could be the best candidates to knock off Houston early, but beyond that, I expect the top seeds to have a pretty easy path.
And the winner is…
The Cougars may end up with a tough Sweet 16 matchup between Indiana and Miami, but by then they should have Marcus Sasser back to lead their team and be able to get the job done and make the Final Four. Everyone loves to doubt the AAC, but Houston only lost 2 games to conference opponents all year. One was a close loss to Temple which they got revenge for later, and the other was the championship loss to a red hot Memphis team with Marcus Sasser sidelined. The Cougars beat Memphis twice when healthy, and come into the tournament with wins over Virginia and St. Mary’s as well. This could be tough down the stretch for them with Miami or Indiana and then Texas. However, even in a crazy year with no clear favorites, I think it would be foolish to pick a Final Four without a 1 seed, and I trust Houston more than any other.
I’ll be posting the final region and my full bracket shortly, so stay tuned.
The madness has almost arrived, and I’ll be continuing along with my picks. The East Region is one of the weaker regions this year, but that could make for a lot of upsets. Read below to see my overview of the region.
First Round Games
#1 Purdue vs. #16 Fairleigh Dickinson
I do think Purdue is a bit fraudulent, and they’ve had first round exits before. If I was going to pick any one seed to lose to a sixteen, it would be Purdue, but that’s just not something I see happening. Zach Edey should lead the Boilermakers to an easy win here, but watch out for an upset in later rounds.
#8 Memphis vs. #9 Florida Atlantic
This is one of the most exciting 8-9 games in a while. It’s a battle between two arguably underrated teams. Headlined by the duo of Kendric Davis and DeAndre Williams, Memphis just embarrassed #1 seed Houston in the AAC tournament. Boca Raton’s own FAU Owls only have 3 losses all year, beating every team in their conference at least once as well as getting past the much larger University of Florida. FAU gets the job done consistently, and if they were facing any other team, I’d likely pick them to make a run. However, Memphis is loaded with talent and hot at the right time.
#5 Duke vs. #12 Oral Roberts
Many say Oral Roberts got unlucky with their draw here, but I don’t think Duke is as likely to make a run as many expect. Duke has had their moments and looked great in the ACC tournament, but they lost to ACC foes like Wake Forest and Virginia Tech and could be upset prone. Losses like that aren’t an automatic formula for an upset, but Duke is a very young team and no player on their roster is anywhere near as good as Oral Roberts senior point guard Max Abmas. Abmas has led ORU on a run through this tournament before, and I think he’s going to make a good effort to do it again.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Oral Roberts
#4 Tennessee vs. #13 Louisiana
The Vols may be without Zakai Zeigler here, but looking at Louisiana, they haven’t given me any reason to believe they can pull off the upset. Their biggest win this season was a November one over the 10-22 SMU Mustangs. Tennessee will still have the best player on the court by far in Santiago Vescovi, and they have a good amount of depth around him. One missing starter isn’t going to stop them here.
#6 Kentucky vs. #11 Providence
It’s been a bumpy road for Kentucky, but despite struggling against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats were starting to look good down the stretch. They’ve won their last five games against any team not named Vanderbilt. They’ve had a number of big wins along the way including a sweep of Tennessee. Oscar Tshiebwe has looked as good as ever, and there’s more depth around him than on last year’s team that lost to Saint Peter’s. Many have called this the Bryce Hopkins revenge game for Providence, but when your best player is a guy who barely made the Kentucky rotation, that says all you need to know about who’s best suited to win this game.
#3 Kansas State vs. #14 Montana State
Keyontae Johnson has revived his career on this Kansas State team, but behind him and Markquis Nowell, this team is very shallow. Montana State hasn’t done much to prove they’re any better. However, they come from the same conference as Eastern Washington, who nearly dismantled the Kansas Jayhawks a couple years ago. This year, Eastern Washington was atop the standings again and Montana State shut them down. Kansas State is one of the most upset prone top 4 seeds in this tournament. I’ll say Montana State keeps pace with Kansas State and wins a close one at the end.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Montana State
#7 Michigan State vs. #10 USC
It’s hard to bet against Tom Izzo in March, and this Spartans team has a nice core between Tyson Walker, A.J. Hoggard, and Celtics forward Sam Hauser’s brother Joey. I think USC is deeper though, and they’ve already made a statement by splitting with UCLA and nearly doing the same against Arizona. It was a rough start to the season for the Trojans with a loss to mid-major FGCU, but they have turned it around and I expect that momentum to carry into the tournament. This will be a very close one, but give me the Trojans in the upset.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: USC
#2 Marquette vs. #15 Vermont
Tyler Kolek has been one of the most improved players in the nation this season and led Marquette to perform far beyond their expectations. I don’t know how sustainable it is in March, but I think they at least get past Vermont. The Catamounts played well in the America East, but haven’t shown much against higher level opponents.
Potential Round of 32 Matchups
#1 Purdue vs. #8 Memphis
#4 Tennessee vs. #12 Oral Roberts
#6 Kentucky vs. #14 Montana State
#2 Marquette vs. #10 USC
Purdue and Marquette are slightly weaker then most teams of their seed level, and they’d draw tough matchups here with Memphis and USC. I would not be shocked if both of the two get upset. I do see SEC standouts Kentucky and Tennessee surviving to the Sweet 16; it’s unlikely a mid-major (even Oral Roberts) can handle an SEC powerhouse and whoever makes it out of that Montana State-Kansas State game is no match for a John Calipari coached Wildcats squad.
And the winner is…
After a roller coaster of a year, I think Kentucky will finally put it all together and make a run to the Final Four. With high seeds like Purdue and Marquette out of the way in the later rounds, the door is open for an underrated lower seed like the Wildcats to make a run. Oscar Tshiebwe and company will be on a revenge tour after their embarrassing exit just a year ago.
Stay tuned for the other half of my bracket in coming posts.
My spring break just so happened to fall on one of the busiest weeks in all of sports. March Madness and NFL free agency are starting up, the MLB is in the midst of Spring Training, and the Celtics and Bruins are chasing the top seeds in their respective playoff brackets. I’ll be putting out a lot of content this week, starting with the multi-part breakdown of my March Madness bracket.
In this article, I’ll be previewing the South region. After all four parts, I will be revealing my bracket in full.
Round of 64 Matchups
#1 Alabama vs. #16 Texas A&M-CC/Missouri State
It would be foolish to pick a 16 seed over a 1; UMBC is a special circumstance that may not happen again for a long time. I do think Alabama is a little overrated as a 1 seed, as they’ve had some ugly losses and lack concrete depth behind freshman standout Brandon Miller. However, their exit will not come in this around.
#8 Maryland vs. #9 West Virginia
I’d say both of these teams exceeded our expectations this season. Charlotte transfer Jahmir Young stepped up to lead Maryland to some quality wins first at the Hall of Fame Tip-off and later across the B1G. Meanwhile, West Virginia has faced some bumps in the road in a difficult Big 12, but the committee accounted for three success in spite of a difficult schedule and has them as the 7th Big 12 team on the bracket. These teams have pretty similar track records, but West Virginia did it in a tougher conference.
Pick: West Virginia
#5 San Diego State vs. #12 Charleston
The Mountain West has never won a tournament game, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to pick against every Mountain West team. This is too tempting of an upset to ignore though. This year’s 12 seeds are dangerous and will capitalize on any weakness in their 5-seeded opponents. SDSU may have the best player on the court in Matt Bradley, but Charleston is way deeper and should pull ahead later in the game as Bradley tires out.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Charleston
#4 Virginia vs. #13 Furman
As expected, the Cavs were one of the ACC’s better teams this season. They may be without Ben Vander Plaas, but they still have most of their core with Armaan Franklin, Jayden Gardner, and Kihei Clark all ready to go. Furman has definitely had their moments, but they haven’t gotten it done against a team like Virginia (unlike some previous March Madness teams from the SoCon). I don’t see that changing in this one.
#6 Creighton vs. #11 NC State
Many have Creighton as a sleeper as they quietly rebounded late in the season in spite of a January rough patch. However, I’m skeptical after Xavier knocked them out of the Big East tournament with ease. Arthur Kaluma has not quite been the superstar the Bluejays we’re expecting, while NC State has seen some elite production from both Terquavion Smith and Ole Miss transfer Jarkel Joiner. The Wolfpack had a pretty quiet year, but I think they match up well with this Creighton team.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: NC State
#3 Baylor vs. #14 UC Santa Barbara
Baylor fell to a 3 seed after Iowa State had their number the entire season. However, this is a team I give a pass for playing in a brutal Big 12. The team is still stacked on both sides of the ball, led by a big three of Adam Flagler, L.J. Cryer, and freshman Keyonte George. UCSB has received majority of their scoring from their top two options, and that won’t be enough depth to keep up with this Baylor team.
#7 Missouri vs. #10 Utah State
I think this a bit of an under-seeding for the Tigers after they competed with some of the SEC’s best teams like Tennessee. However, being in this spot caused them to draw a tough matchup in Utah State. The Aggies have seen a step up this year from every single one of their starters, and they’ve had some low lows, they developed enough of a resume to make it to this point. With Isiaih Mosley’s status in question, give me Utah State.
Pick: UPSET ALERT: Utah State
#2 Arizona vs. #15 Princeton
It would be fun to see the Ivy League champs pull off a first round upset, but I don’t see Arizona going down that easy. Arizona has at least split with every Pac-12 opponent, led by standout star Azuolas Tubelis and 4 other 10+ PPG scorers. They could be on upset watch in later rounds considering their lack of a bench, but I see them hanging on here.
Potential Round of 32 Matchups
#1 Alabama vs. #9 West Virginia
#4 Virginia vs. #12 Charleston
#3 Baylor vs. #11 NC State
#2 Arizona vs. #10 Utah State
Watch out for West Virginia as an upset candidate; Alabama already lost to Big 12 bottom feeder Oklahoma and the Mountaineers played even better than the Sooners in that tough conference. I think the runs of the double digit seeds end here though. Tony Bennett’s defense should be able to shut down Charleston. I don’t trust NC State against Baylor; I really only have them winning as a result of Creighton’s inconsistency. Utah State may be able to get past a banged up Missouri team but they haven’t beaten anyone near the level of the fully staffed Arizona Wildcats.
And the winner is…
Baylor has one of the most stacked offenses in the entire bracket. Their defense has been lackluster, but I think that’s partially as a result of a tough Big 12 and Scott Drew should have their defense up to par with opponents in this region of the bracket. They will simply overpower their defensive minded opponents.
Check back for my previews of the other regions over the next couple days.
My hometown New England Patriots are not in a great spot right now. Their offense has been making costly mistakes week after week, and while they’ve been able to stay competitive in most games, they are truly missing Tom Brady’s ability like no other to clutch up and win in any situation. In a conference loaded with young, exciting QBs, they now lack a franchise guy or a true offensive coordinator to develop Mac Jones into one. What’s worse is that it’s unclear what Bill Belichick is willing to do about it. However, as we begin an NFL playoffs without the Patriots, I think the outcome of these playoffs could still be something Boston fans will appreciate.
No, I’m not talking about Tom Brady going out with a bang and winning his 8th ring. He still has the clutch factor I mentioned earlier, but he can only go so far without scoring touchdowns the first three quarters of games. I’m actually talking about a divisional rival.
It’s not often I’m happy for the Buffalo Bills. They ended New England’s long streak atop the AFC East and if they won a title this year (or anytime during my four years in Ithaca), I would never hear the end of it being a Pats fan in the middle of Bills territory.
However, when I watched last week’s game between the Bills and Patriots, the energy at the stadium seemed unlike many games I’ve seen before. It did remind me of one very special day in Boston.
Back in 2013, I was in attendance for the Boston Red Sox’s first game after the Boston Marathon Bombings. To give you an idea of what Fenway Park was like that day, I give you this excerpt from an article I wrote about the experience:
“The energy inside Fenway that day was indescribable. The pregame ceremonies began honoring the Marathon bombing victims, the police that hunted down the bombers, and the paramedics who helped many wounded victims. The Red Sox were wearing special Boston Strong jerseys and there was a “B Strong” symbol on the Green Monster. As part of the ceremony, David Ortiz firmly stated, “This is Our F***ing City!” I had been to several games before but this was different.”
Not many moments can unite people like that day did, but I think Damar Hamlin’s remarkable recovery from his scary collapse against the Bengals has done just that. Bills fans came ready with signs in Hamlin’s honor, and Hamlin himself delivered an inspiring message to the team from his hospital bed. If you watched the game when Hamlin’s collapse occurred, you will likely remember how shaken up his teammates were that night. This crisis, most importantly, is a wake up call about the need for more attention towards NFL player safety. Regardless, Hamlin and his teammates love this game, and at the end of the day, they’re going to continue to play. When Hamlin woke up, the first thing he asked was, “Did we win?” Hamlin’s perseverance inspired the Bills to play out the rest of this season in his honor.
That day at Fenway Park, the Red Sox won the game with Marathon Bombing victims in mind and went on to win a championship. I expect a similar trajectory for the Bills. While this is about a New England division rival, the Bills taking this energy and turning it into their first Super Bowl victory would be an inspiring story, and one that Boston fans can relate to.
The Bills have one of the best rosters in the league. I feel they have played some of the best football we’ve seen this year. Now, while other teams may have longer win streaks, I feel this energy will give the Bills the momentum they need to win it all.
Below I have outlined their path to victory, as well as my predictions for the rest of the playoff games this season.
Wild Card Weekend
49ers, 34, Seahawks, 28
Many are expecting a blowout here, but now is not the time to write off Geno Smith (as if there ever was a time to do that). I expect him to work with WRs D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett to put up a fight and expose a secondary that does not quite stack up with the rest of this strong 49ers defense. In the end though, I have the Niners winning this. They just have too much offensive talent all over the map for the Seahawks to handle. RB Christian McCaffrey will likely run all over the Seahawks front seven, forcing the Seahawks into the same fate all other #7 seeds have suffered, and the same fate they suffered in their last two games against San Fran this season.
Chargers, 28, Jaguars, 27
I think this is my pick for the most exciting game of the weekend. Two young franchise QBs on teams peaking at the right time battling it out in their first ever playoff appearances. I’m expecting a close game in which both offenses put up big numbers in both the pass and run game. In the end though, I still think Justin Herbert is the better quarterback of the two for the time being. Look for him to lead a game winning drive as the Chargers move on with a road win.
Bills, 28, Dolphins, 17
The Dolphins are the only team on the AFC side of the bracket without a surefire franchise QB. The team has been able to win with Tua Tagovailoa after giving him Mike McDaniel, a coach who believes in him, and two elite receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. However, that’s not enough for the AFC playoffs anymore, and besides, Tagovailoa isn’t a guarantee to play this game after repeated concussion problems. Whether Tagovailoa plays or not, this team is no match for QB Josh Allen and the Bills.
Vikings, 34, Giants, 21
This has been a popular upset pick considering the Vikings have a negative point differential, but come on. Do you really expect Justin Jefferson, the best receiver in the NFL right now, to fold against the 9-7-1 Giants? I’d expect the Giants to keep it close early, but QB Kirk Cousins will clutch up late in the game as he utilizes Jefferson. Let’s save the exposing of the Vikings for a team that has a more serious case for Super Bowl contention.
Bengals, 23, Ravens, 16
You have to give the Ravens some credit for their defensive performance lately; since acquiring LB Roquan Smith from Chicago they’ve allowed just 14.7 PPG. As a result, I’m not expecting an insane stat-line out of Joe Burrow here. The Ravens offense, on the other hand, has been dysfunctional without Lamar Jackson. I don’t expect it to get much better, as Jackson is unlikely to be 100% even if he’s back. Besides, even Jackson is 1-3 in his playoff career. Everything seems to be working for Cincinnati right now, and this Ravens team isn’t the one to stop them.
Buccaneers, 23, Cowboys, 20 (OT)
The Cowboys are actually favored on the road in this one, but when’s the last time you saw them beat Tom Brady? Fun fact: they never have. Even in this dysfunctional season, the Buccaneers took down Dallas 19-3. To be fair, QB Dak Prescott got hurt midway through that game, but Prescott hasn’t been looking all that sharp lately: he has a 15/11 TD/INT ratio in his last 7 games. I do expect the Cowboys to have the early lead here, as they have a lot of talent all over the map. Tom Brady isn’t going down easy though, and I expect him to lead a fourth quarter comeback and win it for the Bucs in overtime.
Chargers, 35, Chiefs, 34
Patrick Mahomes has looked as good as ever despite the loss of WR Tyreek Hill. However, his performances against the AFC’s best this season have not been all that promising. He lost to the Bills and Bengals (despite those teams being seeded lower), and he may have swept the Chargers, but those were 3 point wins in which Justin Herbert was missing key receivers (Allen was out in the first one and Williams was severely limited in the second one). This one should be a close battle in which both QBs thrive. However, the Chargers are healthy and hot. I expect Herbert to shock the world and take down his divisional rival to advance to the AFC Championship.
Bills, 27, Bengals, 24
This will be an interesting one, as we finally see a rematch of Week 17’s canceled game. In addition, these teams have been playing at a level few others can, and I expect the winner of this game to go on to win it all. The Bengals have been on fire lately, with Joe Burrow continuing to improve week after week regardless of what receivers he has to work with. They still don’t have the momentum the Bills will have coming into this game. I do expect it to be very close, but I have Josh Allen working with Stefon Diggs to put together a big drive in the final seconds and set up a game winning Tyler Bass field goal.
Eagles, 16, Buccaneers, 10
This Bucs defense should be able to slow down the Eagles run game. However, the Eagles have the perfect defense to shut down Tom Brady. James Bradberry and Darius Slay are one of the best cornerback duos in football. They can each take on one of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, severely limiting the options for Brady to throw to in an offense that’s been dysfunctional at times. Evans may have 9 consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, but at the end of the day, he’s a matchup-dependent receivers who feasts on weak secondaries. Brady will probably find Leonard Fournette for some checkdowns. Still, with his best two receivers locked up, it’ll be hard to make anything happen on offense. It could be Brady’s last game in a Buccaneers uniform, or any uniform for that matter.
49ers, 28, Vikings, 23
This is where I see the Vikings season ending. I’m expecting Brock Purdy and the Niners offense to put up a lot of points early on a weak Vikings secondary. Like always, QB Kirk Cousins and WR Justin Jefferson could work some late game magic for the Vikings. I don’t think it will be enough to come back for a win this time around. A 5-point loss is probably a generous prediction. I don’t think Minnesota is anywhere near the level of the Eagles or Niners, who I have meeting in the NFC title game.
Bills, 34, Chargers, 17
The way I have the Divisional Round matchups working out should make for some close, exciting games. I can’t say the same about this one. I feel the Bills and Bengals are operating on a level no AFC West team has reached, and this game will show it. Look, Josh Allen and Justin Herbert are both great quarterbacks. However, in comparison to the Bills, teams like the Chiefs and Chargers have some serious defensive problems. The Bills run game is nothing special, but I still think it will have an unusual amount of success against a flawed Chargers front seven. With the run game heating up, the pass game strong as ever, and the whole roster motivated, the Bills could be a scary opponent to face in the Super Bowl.
Eagles, 20, 49ers, 17
This one will be closer since both teams have pretty competent defenses and each QB has an elite supporting cast. Putting the supporting cast aside, Brock Purdy is a pretty good QB, and I think he has a chance to become a franchise guy. However, I think Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat ability will set him apart in this game, and Purdy will fail to keep up with him as the clock winds down.
Super Bowl LVII
Even when the Bills were able to make it this far in the 1990s, this is where they failed; you may have heard about their infamous four straight Super Bowl losses. I have the Bills capping off this historic season with the first Super Bowl win in franchise history as they take down the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. It’ll be hard for the Bills to shut down the combo of mobile QB Jalen Hurts and RB Miles Sanders. However, this Eagles pass game is built very similarly to how the Bills pass game was in Josh Allen’s breakout year. The Bills secondary will take advantage of that, limiting the impact of Philly’s WR duo of A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith. Meanwhile, Allen will take advantage of the fact that he has a deeper group of receivers, including all three starters from 2020 in addition to an improving Gabriel Davis and Isaiah McKenzie. This Bills team is always ready with their next player up, and that will make the difference in this one.
Comment with your thoughts on these predictions. If you’re a Boston fan, who are you rooting for in these Patriot-less playoffs?
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I’m back in Massachusetts for my first Thanksgiving as a college student, and it’s been great seeing my family and some friends back home. What makes it even better is watching a triple-header of NFL football on my home TV, including the first Patriots Thanksgiving football game in a decade (the last one resulted in the infamous Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble). Below you can read more about what I expect from the day; aside from turkey at least.
We kick off the holiday with the annual early afternoon Lions game, and I’m expecting yet another loss for Detroit. The Lions haven’t won their Thanksgiving Day game since 2016, and the Bills are one of the toughest opponents they’ve had in a while. The Lions may be on a three game win streak, but only the best of the best have been able to complete with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, and this elite Bills offense. The Bills just completely picked apart the Browns defense on this same turf, and the Lions defense has struggled the entire season. The Lions have had some strong offensive weeks and may put up some points, but I don’t expect this game to even be close.
Next up we’ll have a classic Thanksgiving rivalry match-up as the Cowboys host the Giants. New head coach Brian Daboll has led the Giants to success in a number of close games, but they still fell short in their first match-up with Dallas, and I don’t expect this one to even be close. Running back Saquon Barkley won’t be able to bail out Daniel Jones against one of the best run defenses in the NFL. Meanwhile, I expect the Cowboys offense to keep the momentum going after dropping 40 on the Vikings last week. The Giants are still likely to make the playoffs, but they’ll head home embarrassed after this one. Meanwhile, the Cowboys seem to have a leg up in the Odell Beckham Jr. sweepstakes, and if this game goes how I expect, that will likely seal the deal.
We end the day with what might be the best matchup of the three. With QB Mac Jones getting into a groove again, the Patriots have won three in a row and brought themselves back into the playoff picture. The Vikings will be eager to rebound after what happened on Sunday, but it’ll require QB Kirk Cousins to make a statement in primetime, something he’s struggled to do his entire career. I’m not expecting an outstanding game from Cousins, and that will allow Jones and the Pats to make this competitive. However, Cousins will have help from both RB Dalvin Cook and WR Justin Jefferson. As much as I’d want to see the Pats pull this off, I feel at least one of them will make some big plays that win the Vikings this game.
That game will cap off an action-packed Thanksgiving day slate. Feel free to comment with your thoughts, and no matter what happens, I hope you enjoy these games and have a great Thanksgiving experience.
Josh Vorensky ’11 earned an Emmy for his work as an associate producer for a segment on ESPNews along with three other Ithaca College alumni. (Photo via Josh Vorensky)
For many individuals wanting to break into the sports media realm, the dream is to work with the worldwide leader in sports and be recognized for their work. Josh Vorensky ’11 has already reached the pinnacle of the sports media mountain.
Before ESPN, Vorensky had internships with New Jersey Networks, MTV and NBC during the 2010 Winter Olympics. Now, he works as an associate producer and feature producer at ESPN, creating features for shows and programs. In 2020, Vorensky was a part of the production team that won an Emmy for Outstanding Sports News/Feature Anthology for the Sports Center (SC) Featured segment that aired on ESPNews. As a feature producer, Vorensky tells the story of athletes as part of the Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown broadcasts.
I spoke with Vorensky about his experience at ESPN and his career as a producer.
Andrew Roberts: What are some of the things you always do before a production?
Josh Vorensky: Before production day you always have to have a location and crew picked out; you need to know what your story is about and how that location kind of fits what your story’s going to be. Let’s say it’s a story about an artist. You’d want to be in some kind of art studio-esque place, so you’d want to nail down the location. You’d also want to nail down the crew; you want to know what kind of cameras, the specs of what you want to shoot. So there’s basically a checklist of what you want to have before each shoot. You need to have your crew picked out, your location picked out and if you’re doing an interview, your subject as well. A lot of times you’ll have to do some pre-interviewing, get to know the person and kind of know what you’re going into.
AR: How do you organize your production information?
JV: I have to write everything down. I learn better that way and that’s what I usually do. I do things on call sheets (example pictured below) that keep everything organized, especially a shot sheet if it’s kind of a new crew. If it’s crews that I trust, I give general guidelines of what I want. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of figured out the kind of shots I want. When you’re shooting these shots you just shoot what you need but always keep in mind the sequence of what is necessary.
AR: Do you have standard protocols for what you pack when you travel? How many days a month do you travel?
JV: I have a general backpack; I keep a toiletry kit in my backpack. I’ve been traveling a little bit less; it kind of ebbs and flows. One time I’ll travel twice in a week and then I just had a shoot today where I was remote producing. That’s kind of a benefit of the pandemic where you don’t have to travel for every shoot, which provides a better work-life balance.
AR: Tell me about a typical day. If there isn’t one, tell me about a few.
JV: I usually like to get started early depending on what the shoot is and when the subject is available. It’s usually somewhere north of an hour and a half for setup time and then whatever the interview is. During our office time, I’m editing, coming home with ideas and kind of getting everything ready. I’ve been in features formally for at least five to six years; my role at ESPN has kind of changed over time. I started as a project-based production assistant where I was doing things like highlights, rundown and prompter. As I got more experienced, I was working on “Outside the Lines” and doing these things called wraps. When I got promoted, I worked at “Baseball Tonight,” SCEU, which is the SportsCenter Enhancement Unit, and did some writing. Now this is going to be my fifth or sixth season doing features for Sunday and Monday NFL Countdown.
AR: What exactly do feature producers do?
JV: You do documentaries on athletes; you’re a storyteller, producer and documentarian. You help to create content for the network, and it’s a joy to do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than seeing the impact the stories had on a wider public. That’s generally what I do; we pitch stuff all the time, I send ideas every week and help to complement our program and broadcast.
AR: What kinds of classes and extracurriculars would you recommend for someone who wants to be a feature producer?
JV: I took some screenwriting classes. I would say learning how to craft stories and craft news elements is very important. Volunteering for “Newswatch” helps, I think that knowing how to edit helps, knowing how to shoot helps and pitching as many ideas as you can, things that are new and creative. Especially in college, you have so much available time to do all this really cool stuff, and I’d just try to push yourself creatively and get a reel together.
AR: What qualities must you possess to be a successful producer?
JV: I think you have to be able to think creatively, be very diligent, but also be able to take a step back, take a few breaths and look at the bigger picture. It’s very easy to walk into an environment and want to shoot everything, but you have to think about what you need for your story. When I was younger, I wanted to get as much b-roll as possible, but how does that fit within the wider story? I think overall, you have to be organized, willing to think creatively, focused, and calm.
AR: What would you recommend for college students interested in production to do outside of classes and extracurriculars?
JV: Outside of the TV extracurriculars, I would say get yourself into other hobbies. I’m in an orchestra out of work. I like to run. I try to keep myself as well-rounded as possible. It’s nice to step away sometimes. If you find other clubs outside of TV, feel free to join. Personally, I was involved in Hillel during my time at Ithaca.
AR: Is there a typical career path for producers?
JV: I don’t think there is. I think people have gotten here in a number of different ways. Some people have interned here, others have shadowed here. I would get some real world experience if you can and be ready to learn.
AR: What do you like most and least about your job now?
JV: I love my job. I think it’s awesome. I love being able to tell stories and meet people; I find it incredibly gratifying being able to create some cool stories and push myself creatively. I do enjoy traveling. I don’t know if there’s a worst thing, honestly.
AR: If you could talk to your college self, what would you say to them?
JV: I would say to take a step back sometimes and not overload myself. I loved Ithaca; I did find there was a lot of competitiveness, especially in the Park School. That was good; it made everybody better. I think the most important thing to know is to focus on yourself and how to make yourself better. Don’t look at what other people are doing. I found myself doing that a lot. When I took a step back, just enjoyed myself and made my own TV show, I think I was a lot less stressed, I became more confident and I definitely prepared myself to be in the career that I am in. So focus on yourself, don’t worry about other people, take inspiration from them but don’t feel like ‘I wish I could do X like them’. Just be yourself, just do it. Create your own path. What I loved about Ithaca is that even though I was involved in sports, I did way more than sports. I didn’t isolate myself into just doing sports. I think my first two years, I was way too concerned with what other people were doing. Once I just enjoyed what I was doing and charted a path for myself, it made everything a lot easier and more fun.
My Take on spending time with Josh
Overall, feature production is not an easy job. It requires a high level of creativity and requires some technical skills. However, Vorensky really enjoys it, and it can be a fun job for many others too. Those interested have great opportunities to gain a wide variety of experience at Ithaca through ICTV as well as classes in areas like TV production, journalism and documentary studies. If you focus on yourself and carve your own path, you have a high chance of success in the industry.