Champions League Round of 16 Review

Paris Saint Germain and Chelsea-

PSG - ChelseaPhoto Credit: The Guardian

Les Parisiens and the Blues met in the Round of 16 for the 2nd straight year in the most enticing draw of the round. In the first leg Chelsea scored early, but PSG came back with a valuable equalizer to send the series to London on a draw. The following game at Chelsea was an instant classic (and of course earned a 100 Thuuz rating). After a red card for PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic at 30’, and a Chelsea goal at 81’ the Blues looked destined to advance. Then, 5 minutes later PSG stormed back with a goal to tie it. In extra time Chelsea converted a penalty to take the lead, but PSG came up with one last equalizer with seven minutes left to advance based on away goals.

Shaktar Donetsk and Bayern Munich-

Bayern MunichPhoto Credit: BBC

This matchup was the most one-sided of the round. The draw started off with a very boring 0-0 draw at Donetsk, with Shaktar parking the bus and not letting Bayern score. The second game in Munich was the polar opposite, with Bayern wearing down their opposition en route to a 7-0 victory and progression into the quarterfinals.

Schalke 04 and Real Madrid-

This draw was a lot closer than many expected. After a 2-0 victory in Schalke in the first game, Real Madrid was expected to easily handle the next game. But Schalke wouldn’t go down easily, and put up four goals against Los Blancos. Luckily for Madrid, they stayed in it with three goals of their own. Even though Real lost in the second leg, they still advanced on the 5-4 aggregate.

Basel and Porto-

A matchup between two of the more obscure Champions League teams, and both came out with something to prove. Porto dominated play in the first match, but they were held to a 1-1 draw. In the second match, the score was more reflective, and Porto came away with a 4-0 victory to advance to the quarters.

Arsenal and AS Monaco-

MonacoPhoto Credit: BBC

In this draw, both teams had one good game and one bad game. In the first match at Arsenal, Monaco surprised the soccer world with a 3-1 road victory to give them a huge advantage going into the second leg. In that match, Arsenal reigned victorious with a 2-0 win, which brought the aggregate score to 3-3. However, Monaco was able to progress on away goals.

Bayer Leverkusen and Atletico Madrid-

This matchup was the only one to be decided by penalty kicks. Leverkusen won the first game with a 1-0 victory, and Atletico won the second with the same 1-0 scoreline. In penalty kicks, Leverkusen missed three of its penalties to allow Atletico to advance to the next round.

Borussia Dortmund and Juventus-

Dortmund might be having a nightmare season in their domestic league, but they were still a contender in the Champions League. In the first game at Juventus, Juve defeated Dortmund 2-1 to carry an advantage into the second game. Dortmund may have been too aggressive trying to get goals, because Juve put three goals past them in the second leg for a convincing 5-1 aggregate victory.

Barcelona and Manchester City-

Man City BarcaPhoto Credit: New York Times

Another Round of 16 matchup that was a repeat of last year, Barca and Man City provided another highly anticipated draw. Barca defeated City 2-1 in Manchester thanks to a pair of goals from Luis Suarez. In the second match in Barcelona, Barca only won 1-0 thanks to an outstanding performance from Man City keeper Joe Hart. Despite the meager scoreline, Barcelona dominated the entire match, and looks to be a scary team to face next round.

Quarterfinal Outlook-

Other than maybe Chelsea, every team that advanced was expected to do so. The quarterfinals are arguably the most exciting round because it features premier matchups, with twice as many games as the semifinals. The round features three Spanish teams, two German teams, two French teams, and a Portuguese team. The draws for the quarter-finals are: PSG vs. Barcelona, Atlético Madrid vs. Real Madrid, Porto vs. Bayern Munich and Juventus vs. Monaco. 1st legs will be played on the 14th and 15th of April, 2nd legs on the 21st and 22nd of April.

NCAA Basketball Conference Championship Preview

Championship Week commences Monday, as most of the major conferences hold their championship tournaments. This allows for another week of March Madness, complete with stunning upsets, amazing individual performances, and crushing defeats. By the end of the week, most of the NCAA tournament bracket will be set. Championship Week is the time for bubble teams to finish off their resumes, national contenders to assert their dominance, and underdogs to shock their conference and earn an automatic bid. Here is a preview of eight major conference tournaments.

ACC:

ACC

The ACC is consistently one of the strongest conferences in the country, and their 2015 conference tournament should only further that point. The conference could send seven teams to the NCAA tournament, so the conference tournament has huge seeding implications. Duke and Virginia are the obvious favorites, but there are at least six teams capable of winning it all. Look for North Carolina to slip by Louisville in the second round to set-up a matchup with Virginia in the semifinals. Additionally, Duke should be wary of NC State, as the Wolfpack beat the Blue Devils on Jan. 11, and also defeated Louisville and UNC in the second half of conference play.

The pick: Virginia

Big 12:
Big 12 - Perry Ellis

The Big 12 also enjoyed a very successful year, finishing with five teams ranked in the top 25. Oklahoma State and Texas are the two teams on the bubble. Texas will have to top Texas Tech and then likely Iowa State to make a strong case for the tournament. Oklahoma State beat Kansas, and Baylor twice, but lost five of their last six. They’ll get a quarterfinal matchup with in-state rival Oklahoma. Look for Baylor and Oklahoma State to make deep runs in the tournament and challenge Kansas for the conference championship.

The pick: Baylor

Big East:

Big East - Darrun Hilliard

The Big East enters its conference tournament with five teams over 20 wins, including #4 Villanova. Xavier is the only team on the bubble, and will likely need to top Butler to solidify their case to the committee. Villanova is one of the most well-rounded teams in college basketball, with six players averaging nine points per game or more. The Wildcats have only been beaten twice all season and their depth is unmatched.

The pick: Villanova

Big Ten:

Big Ten - Frank Kaminsky

The Big Ten could have up to seven teams in the NCAA tournament if the cards fall the right way during the Big Ten tournament. Purdue and Indiana sit squarely on the bubble, with RPIs of 56 and 57 respectively. The Boilermakers hold the four seed in the tournament, and will face Iowa or the winner of the Nebraska-Penn State game. Purdue topped Iowa back in January, but the Hawkeyes won six straight to close out the season. Indiana will have to top Northwestern to get to a matchup with Maryland. The Terrapins boast wins over Wisconsin and Iowa State, but lost to Indiana on Jan. 22. If Maryland can get past Indiana, look for another exciting matchup with Wisconsin in the final.

The pick: Wisconsin

Pac-12:

Pac 12 - Joseph Young

To say that is has been a down year for the Pac-12 might be an understatement. The only two locks in the conference are Utah and Arizona. Oregon looks to be in as well, but the Ducks cannot afford a first round loss in the conference tournament. UCLA won their final three games, but losses to Cal and Arizona State (whom they might face in the first round of the tournament) undermine their body of work. The potential semifinal matchup between Utah and Oregon is intriguing, as the Ducks will fight to not be one of the first four teams to play in the NCAA tournament, and Utah will battle to get a top 3 seed.

The pick: Oregon

SEC:

SEC Kentucky

It is true that the SEC tournament is very important for a couple of bubble teams, like LSU and Texas A&M. But the real reason to watch is Kentucky. The Wildcats completed an unblemished 31-0 regular season, and will look to stretch their record to 34-0 by winning the SEC tournament.  With the country’s most impenetrable defense, Kentucky is the team to beat. LSU or Texas A&M could be a tough second round matchup for the Wildcats, as both teams played Kentucky close during conference play. However, expect Kentucky to run away with the conference title.

The pick: Kentucky

AAC:

AAC - Nic Moore

Cincinnati, Temple, and SMU, appear to have their tickets punched to the big dance, barring particularly bad first round losses. The AAC team with the most to prove is the two seed, Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane swept the season series with Cincinnati, but non-conference losses to sub-par teams like Oral Roberts and Southeast Oklahoma State (yes, you read that right) have hurt their resume. A third win over Cincinnati and a trip to the tournament finals would help Tulsa’s case.

The pick: SMU

Conference USA:

Conference USA has three teams with 20 or more wins, but Old Dominion looks to be the only team with a shot at an at-large bid. The Monarchs own impressive non-conference wins over LSU, VCU, and Richmond. Louisiana Tech is the one seed in the C-USA tournament, but they lost to Old Dominion by 20 points just two weeks ago.

The pick: Old Dominion

MLS Preview

With every season, the MLS gains more and more recognition from across the globe. Let’s preview the 2015 MLS season.

 

New Expansion Teams

 NYC FC logo Orlando City

As the MLS’s reputation grows, so does the size of the league. New York City FC and Orlando City SC are the latest teams to join the MLS, and will begin play this year. NYCFC is co-owned by Manchester City and the New York Yankees, and will host their games at Yankee Stadium. NYCFC already has some big names, with stars of the past Spaniard David Villa and Englishman Frank Lampard set to join the new team. They also signed rising US National Team member Mix Diskerud, who will look to boost his confidence. Orlando City SC signed Brazilian legend Kaká, and they are still looking to make more big moves.

US National Team Members in the MLS

Jurgen K

USMNT coach Jürgen Klinsmann isn’t shy about saying the MLS is inferior to European leagues. However, against Klinsmann’s advice, multiple US players have come to the MLS. Of the 23 players on the 2014 World Cup roster, 13 are currently in the MLS. Jermaine Jones, Michael Bradley, and DaMarcus Beasley all made moves to the US in the middle of last season, and Jozy Altidore and Diskerud left Europe recently to join the MLS. If you want to learn more about the US National Team, tune in to some MLS games.

MLS is a Last Hurrah for Big Names

davidvilla

The addition of older players like Villa, Lampard, and Kaká supports the notion that the MLS is almost like a retirement package for stars in the twilight of their careers. It’s not just European players either; Jones, Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, and Clint Dempsey all only have a couple years left in them. We also saw it with Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry retiring last season. Even with their age, these players bring a prestige and a high level of play that raises the quality of soccer in the MLS.