Honorable Mention: Highs and Lows
To my one reader (hello mother): welcome to week three.
In the long, bittersweet race to the end of senior spring, we will encounter many highs and lows. The last meal from Novack: undoubtedly a high. The final game of pong: a dubious low. Turning in your last final: a high. Accidentally clicking on this column: your unfortunate new low.
This year, I made two NCAA Tournament brackets. Mo Bamba Mo Problems was supposed to lead me to glory — my look-of-eagles, Triple-Crown steed. Unfortunately, bold early round picks flamed out (the University of Missouri unfortunately did not make the Elite Eight) and my champion, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels, lost a nail-bitingly close second round game to one of my all-time favorite teams, the University of Texas A&M Aggies. On ESPN’s Tournament Challenge platform, Mo Bamba Mo Problems finished in the 59th percentile.
For experiment’s sake, I created another bracket for comparison. Absolute Chalk predicted zero upsets. If the tournament committee seeded a team higher, my bracket put them through. The championship game featured Villanova University winning it all over the University of Virginia, a prediction simultaneously prescient and historically erroneous. Tapping the buttons on my phone to create this bracket took approximately three minutes in the Acapulco International Airport over spring break. On the other hand, months of intense research in the lab, fieldwork on the ground and shootin’ in the gym concocted Mo Bamba Mo Problems. Absolute Chalk finished in the 96th percentile. The house always wins, folks.
The NBA playoff race has eliminated all but 17 teams. Sixteen will move on. The only close battle remaining is between the Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Timberwolves, tied with records of 45-35 after Saturday’s games. Currently, the Timberwolves hold the tiebreaker over the Nuggets. Assuming a tied record holds going into the final game of the season, the two teams face off Wednesday in Minnesota for some must-watch television with a playoff spot potentially on the line. The winner would likely earn the honor of losing in four games to the Houston Rockets in a few weeks. I’m pulling for the Timberwolves and hopefully a first playoff experience for Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The Philadelphia 76ers have won 14 straight games, including a thrilling 132-130 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers last Friday. Ben Simmons dropped a triple-double on over .700 shooting from the field, topping a 44-point effort from Lebron James. In April, Simmons has stepped up his scoring average to nearly 20 points per game to go along with over 10 rebounds and 10 assists — a triple-double average. This team has been on fire in an Eastern Conference playoff slate that includes an injury-decimated Boston Celtics and three teams that barely have a winning record. With Friday’s win, the 76ers leapfrogged the Cavaliers and currently hold a one-game lead for the third seed. The team’s youth can still come back to haunt them in the playoffs, but as of right now they look unbeatable. #TrusttheProcess.
The playoffs are less than a week away, and it feels like uncertainty has only gone up. There appear to be three legitimate title contenders: the Cavaliers, Rockets and Golden State Warriors (assuming they get healthy in the playoffs). The one-seed Toronto Raptors are a black hole in the postseason, so I can’t justify listing them. Sorry, Drake. The 76ers are too young, comprised of J.J. Redick and a bunch of kids my age, but #TTP so really, who knows?
Honorable Mention of the Week
Long, long ago, two legendary individuals started “Riding the Pine,” a column that was neither funny nor insightful but kept the world captivated. People are quick to forget — institutional memory at Dartmouth turns over rapidly. Soon, the Class of 2022 will step foot on campus, and old, weathered, tired folks like myself will get cycled out into the real world. The Class of 2022 will know nothing about $6.50 to-go sushi from the Hop, three different Thai restaurants in town, KAF on the weekends or happiness, broadly speaking. I never thought my time would come to stand on the shoulders of tradition and shake my fist, but here I am.
Fret not, youth of tomorrow, for not all change is bad. Two years ago, the 76ers finished 10-72. Four years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were the St. Louis Rams and had a 6-10 record, quarterbacked by Austin Davis and Shaun Hill. Five years ago, the Houston Astros moved to the American League and racked up 111 losses.
Things change quickly. To quote the great Mark Ruffalo, “Stick around. Don’t lose your heart, just keep going, keep at it.”
Also, Shohei Ohtani. That is all.