It has been far too long since I last wrote about sports. School has been getting increasingly busy and extracurricular activities are piling up such that I rarely have the hours necessary to sit down and watch a game – much less write about it. But I wanted to take this brief window I have before Halloween festivities to touch on a bunch of sports topics.
I’ll start with the Red Sox. I definitely wanted the Sox to bring Koji Uehara back as opposed to gambling on a young pitcher or an Edward Mujica-type, but when I saw the 2-year/$18 million contract he signed, my immediate reaction was that is a lot to invest on a forty-year-old pitcher who broke down at the end of this year. Based on market value, and the pitching talent teams would get for that sort of deal, it would seem to be a good contract for the Red Sox. But I’m just not sure how effective he’s going to be in 2016. The two year deal will force John Farrell to look long-term next year with Uehara, and I would not be at all surprised if he tries to limit how often Uehara goes two days in a row. This deal was made with an eye towards immediate contention though, which I’m happy about.
Everybody wants Andrew Miller and Jon Lester back, myself included. But the prices for those two pitchers will be absurd. If the Red Sox splurge on the two of them, there won’t be a ton left to spend. And if they are back, then you are left with a 2015 Red Sox team that looks very similar to the 2014 team. I don’t think the brass will want that. So realistically, I don’t see either coming back. My guess is there will be one minor free agent signing in the rotation and the rest of the changes will come through trades.
To the Celtics. I was able to watch most of Wednesday’s opener and I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that game very well might be the best the Celtics will play all year. Beyond Rajon Rondo being back to his assist-happy ways, and an improved Kelly Olynyk, my favorite part about this team is the bench. Too often, recent Celtics teams have lacked second-units that look to score. Marcus Thornton and Evan Turner sure take care of that problem. Add in Marcus Smart’s defense and that second-unit may start to dominate the second quarter. I still think this team will be bad. But they will be able to win games against teams that aren’t 100% focused that night. Teams won’t like playing in Boston this year.
More than anything though, I’m just happy basketball season is upon us. Davidson basketball starts up too in a couple weeks, which I’m pumped for. It’ll be an interesting year for the ‘Cats. There is more talent on our squad than pundits and coaches are giving us credit for – I know the A-10 is good, but there is no way a Bob McKillop coached team finishes 12th out of 14 in the conference. We’re going to have a fantastic backcourt, with Brian Sullivan, Jack Gibbs and Tyler Kalinoski returning to form one of the best guard trios in the conference. And Jake Belford’s 3-point ability will stretch defenses enough to open the drive up. However, the lack of experience and size at the 4 is frankly alarming. I’ve been hearing good things about the freshmen, but they can’t be expected to come in and find their footing right away.
Regardless of how successful we’ll be, I am really excited for the move to the A-10. It’s a necessary step up for a program that had found sustained success in the SoCon. From a fan’s perspective, I’m looking forward to having quality team come to Belk Arena and hopefully the students section can get fired up for some games this year. And as we’re going to rely heavily on the 3-ball, there might be a few upsets over the course of the year. I’ll be posting anything I write about the team on here, so there will be some Davidson basketball coverage on here for sure.
Now to Arkansas. I’m feeling a lot more confident about the Mississippi State game tomorrow than I should be. The pressure is off Arkansas this weekend. The monkey that’s been on our backs all year will feel lighter on the road against the nation’s top team. The Hogs know they can play with anyone, and with all the pressure on State, I’m hopeful Arkansas comes out firing tomorrow. It’s very much a trap game for the Bulldogs and Arkansas should be able to take advantage of that. With Brooks Ellis coming back, I think the defense is up to the challenge of stopping Dak Prescott. Give Jonathan Williams the ball and let the offensive line do the rest. At this point in the season, the Hogs have nothing to lose in this game. It’s time for some Razorback magic.
Lastly, to Arsenal. In theory, tomorrow’s game against Burnley at The Emirates should be a walk in the park. This is the type of fixture that Arsene Wenger should be able to win even with significant squad rotation. He should rest his injury-depleted squad for the midweek Champions League tie. And Arsenal should still be able to win 3-0. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that Wenger will not rotate the squad at all, Arsenal will labor for much of the match against the parked bus that is Burnley, and the match will be decided by a single goal.
I would like to see Joel Campbell get a start ahead of Santi Cazorla. Cazorla hasn’t looked right recently, and Campbell deserves a real chance. He has looked lively in short bursts so it’s time to see if he can provide the energy needed to break down Burnley. I also think Danny Welbeck could use a break, so maybe Campbell could even be given a chance up top. I wouldn’t be opposed to Yaya Sanogo either. But most importantly, Nacho Monreal should not be playing center back, whether Kieran Gibbs is fit or not. Slide Calum Chambers into the middle and let Hector Bellerin loose, especially in a game like this.
Hopefully, Arsenal will be far enough ahead that Theo Walcott will be able to make a substitute cameo in the second half. His return is vital to Arsenal’s success in the next two months. Before reinforcements are brought in during the January transfer window and before Mesut Özil and Olivier Giroud get healthy, Arsenal need to find their form. The Premier League can’t be won in the first half of the year – yes, Chelsea is still beatable – but it can be lost. The way the Gunners are playing, I don’t think they’ll make it to January within 15 points of Chelsea unless Walcott gets going quickly.
My predictions for tomorrow are a 3-1 win for the Gunners and a 27-26 loss for Arkansas.
What are you excited for this weekend? Basketball? Football? Soccer? Please comment below.