Russell Wilson, Michigan, the NCAA Tournament bubble and much more in Five Things From the Week.
1. Russell Wilson and the Seahawks can resolve their differences, but that doesn’t mean they will
Russell Wilson has spent his entire career saying as little as possible in interviews. Whatever issues he’s had with the only organization he’s ever played for were handled behind closed doors. That all changed when Wilson went on the Dan Patrick Show and talked about needing better protection. His comments were so uncharacteristic that speculation immediately started about Wilson wanting out of Seattle.
Since then, his relationship with the team has gotten even worse. Wilson hasn’t forgotten to say his customary “go Hawks” at the end of media appearances. He is choosing not to do so. The Athletic provided a detailed account of the philosophical differences between Wilson and Pete Carroll. This is not the first time a quarterback and head coach have butted heads and Wilson hasn’t gone so far as demanding a trade. At least not yet. What is becoming clear, though, is that a change of heart will have to occur from one or both sides for this combination of personalities to be tenable long term.
2. Michigan has invited itself to college basketball’s most exclusive club
As impressive as the Michigan Wolverines have been, it was not until their win over Ohio State that conversation about them belonging in the same class as Gonzaga and Baylor was warranted. One week later, the Wolverines have officially crashed the Bulldogs’ and Bears’ party. Baylor returned from an extended COVID pause and very nearly lost to an Iowa State team still in search of its first conference win and then fell to Kansas. Meanwhile, Hunter Dickson got the better of Luka Garza in a Michigan 79-57 victory and Juwan Howard’s squad beat a desperate Indiana team by 16.
The Wolverines struggled for a half against vastly superior competition in the form of Wisconsin when they got back on the court after their pause. Baylor’s layoff can’t be pointed to as an excuse when the two other best teams in the country came out of theirs without much difficulty. If Michigan can win out, the debate about the No. 1 overall seed gets much more interesting for one primary reason: KenPom currently ranks the Wolverines’ strength of schedule as the 16th-best in the country. Gonzaga is 109th. Baylor is 99th.
3. Diego Simeone can’t have it both ways in the Champions League
Knowing three key members of his preferred defensive setup would be unavailable for the first leg of Atlético Madrid’s Champions League clash with Chelsea, Diego Simeone picked an attack-minded group and sent them out to execute the conservative game plan that’s served Atléti so well in past editions of the Champions League. The result was disastrous. They posed no threat going forward and should be grateful Chelsea only came away with one away goal.
Against average La Liga teams, Simeone’s been able to get away with it. They are scoring goals at the highest rate since they last won the league in 2013-14 while remaining as stingy as ever defensively. Against elite opposition, though, Atléti have struggled all season. Bayern Munich put four past them in the Champions League group stage. Real Madrid got a 2-0 win in their first meeting. Simeone should be applauded for continuing to evolve and has building the best team in Spain, but what happened in Bucharest was another reminder that nobody can be elite in attack and defense. Even Manchester City’s had to pick one or the other.
4. The NCAA Tournament bubble is in complete flux
Trying to predict this season’s NCAA Tournament bracket is an impossible task to a certain degree simply because of the disruptions caused by the pandemic. However, the series of events that have transpired with teams fighting for the final at-large bids is a sight to behold. In the Big Ten, Indiana’s three-game skid and Minnesota’s five straight uninspiring losses allowed Maryland and Michigan State to jump them in the pecking order with late-season surges.
Over in the Big East, St. John’s excused itself from the bubble entirely and Seton Hall lost back-to-back games to teams with a combined 17-24 record. The inability of numerous bubble teams to win games with any kind of consistency opened the door for teams like the aforementioned Spartans and Duke to go from off the March Madness radar to squarely on the bubble in two weeks. Good luck to the selection committee trying to sort through this mess.
5. The NCAA can’t come down on Oklahoma State now
Cade Cunningham came to Stillwater knowing full well he may not be able to play in the NCAA Tournament. At that point, it was likely he wouldn’t. Oklahoma State unsurprisingly filed an appeal of the sanctions handed down following the FBI investigation that rocked college basketball. Selection Sunday is two weeks away and the school is still awaiting a ruling. The Cowboys just picked up two top-15 wins (including a 40-point performance by Cunningham against Oklahoma) and are 5-1 in their last six games.
While someone has to be held accountable for the actions of former assistant Lamont Evans and it was always going to be the program, excluding a really good team with the best freshman in the country days before the tournament would be unbelievably cruel. If Auburn is allowed to self-impose sanctions in a year it is 11-13, Oklahoma State should be able to wait a year for a decision on the appeal. Every day it becomes more likely Cunningham will be participating in March Madness. And that is a good thing for everyone.
Southern Illinois’ stunning 38-14 victory over North Dakota State is easily the biggest upset of the college football season. The Bison had not lost since Nov. 4, 2017. Even if they had they not won 39 games in row, the fashion in which they lost would still be jarring.
Photo by Larry Maurer / Wikimedia Commons