Brian and Greg Answer My Two World Cup Questions - by Colin Gawel

Gents,  How did your previous predictions turn out and what were the biggest surprises leading to the semi finals? How do you see it playing out from here? 

Greg - BriPhi looks a lot smarter than I do to this point...we were both on France, and he called the full-on EuroFinal. I'm amazed by the Year of the Underdog...not completely, but the teams that have gone home so far...wouldn't have guessed (as I've proven in this very space). I'm seeing a France-England final...France dominates theirs, and England in a close one. As far as the final, my heart says England, but my head says France. The Battle of the Channel!

The plus for England is that while Harry Kane had an off-night in the scoring column, his mates picked up for him. I do think the Golden Boot goes home with Kane.

Brian P. - I'll stick with France and agree with Greg that I like England to get through on the other end. France/Belgium will be wildly entertaining. For France's sake they need to be prepared for the Belgium counter attack way better than Brazil was. Brazil did a terrible job there.

My main surprise at this point was how well Russia did. They were at a serious talent disadvantage versus most of the field. It's been fun! Entertaining World Cup to be sure.

Greg - The X factor for France is Mbappe's speed. I don't think the Belgian defenders have anyone who has the wheels to stay with him.



Brian and Greg Answer Colin's World Cup Questions

Brian Phillips and Greg Bartram answer my simple minded World Cup questions entering the knockout stage of the tournament. - Colin G.

1) After group stage, whose stock is rising and who is falling?

Brian - To me the knock out stage (16 remaining teams, single elimination) is all about match-ups. We're seeing parity in this year's field. No one's stock is falling faster than host Russia. Uruguay exposed them 3-0 in the group finale. Spain will make quick work of them. I'm certainly more intrigued by Sweden after what they did to Mexico.

Greg - Agreed with Sweden, but I also thing El Tri still has a trick or two up their sleeve. This is a team that made the US look disinterested at home here in Columbus, so I think there's more here. Russia made out like bandits umping out to an 8-1 goal differential, but I think that was the adrenaline of being at home. I expect them to crater. Speaking of stock falling...Argentina? They barely made it, and out of a perennial powerhouse like that with a player the caliber of Messi to stink up the joint that badly...

What games are you most looking forward to in the first knockout round?

Brian - Brazil/Mexico for me. Can Mexico return to the form they showed against Germany? Can Brazil stand up to the physical game they'll see from El Tri? A not 100% Neymar should expect to be knocked around again. Will the center ref offer any protection or let them play? I am also very curious about England/Columbia. Heavy expectations again on the Brits. Does Harry Kane have another goal or two in him?

Greg - Brazil/Mexico, as Brian says, but also and especially France/Argentina. I think France dominates this. Uruguay/Portugal...Sorry, go home sad, methinks.

Do you feel the use of replay has been a success?

Brian - I have loved the replay. The ones I've seen they've gotten correct, and in important spots. And they've been efficient in the process.

Greg - I think VAR has been effective. I haven't seen one that they got wrong. The goal against Germany would've been a crime to let slip away. Not too much to break up the flow, but keeping the game legal...I'm all about it.

What teams would you put your money on at this point?

Brian- I'm liking France right now., but I'm glad I don't have money on this. Expect some surprises. The final four will be all Europeans.

Greg - I was all about the Sons and 'Ssons of Iceland, and sorry they didn't advance. Portugal's an interesting story, underdoggy because of the country's size, but turning out some of the word's best...Ronaldo has been a machine. And here's your Michigan have Michigan, but you root for the B1G, right? Same thing for El Tri. The US looks better the deeper Mexico moves...maybe their defense should Build a Wall?  I'm feeling Portugal

Cavs Draft On Tap - by Ben Galli

NBA Draft Night is almost here!  A rich pageantry of collegiate wunderkinds, characters, and conspiracy.  With free agency the dominion of old money teams, the draft is the easiest way to level the playing field.  It's the aspiration for a better future. And a reward for being losers.  The right pick can change fandoms and legacies.  The Warriors aren't the Warriors if they don't find a Draymond Green with the 35th pick.  Is Klay Thompson playing better than what you expected from the 11th pick in a weak draft?  

The Cavs pick 8th this year. Perhaps the only prized possession from the Kyrie "The World Is Flat Enough" Irving trade.  It's not the best pick and the Cavs are probably looking at the 2nd tier of talent available, but with the right development they could be picking up a star.  Here's a look at the Cavs' prospects heading into Thursday night.

Dream Scenario:  Maybe the only thing that can save this summer for Cavs fans is if Cleveland somehow found a way to trade this pick to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard thus convincing LeBron James to stay.  It's a stretch.  Would Kevin Love, maybe Rodney Hood, and the 8th pick be the best offer on the table for the Spurs?  Doubtful.  

Realistic Best Case Scenario:  One of the players with superstar potential falls to the 8th pick.  It is a precarious position though where Cleveland remains on the outside looking in.  The best players in the draft seem to be the Aytons, Doncics, Bagleys, and Jacksons.  Deandre Ayton can be a monster, a sleeker Joel Embiid.  Doncic seems to be the real deal.  I'll predict he'll be the funnest player to watch from this draft. 

The Cavs won't have a chance at these guys.  But they can hope that a Michael Porter Jr. might fall to them.  Facing concerns with the back surgery that sidelined him for most of his freshman year, Porter's ceiling is the roof.  Porter has a really nice skill set for the NBA.  He's long and a pure scorer.  And if LeBron leaves, there will be no shortage of ego in the Cavs locker room.

Most Realistic Scenario:  The Cavs take a gamble on another player with high upside.  I see Trae Young and rising Kentucky Wildcat Kevin Knox as picks that make sense for a franchise that may need to take risks.  Mikal Bridges from national champion Villanova and Miles Bridges of Michigan State (no relation) should be really solid pick ups.  Less of a risk plus less boom and bust potential.

The Anthony Bennett Scenario:  It's a real shot in the dark to try and predict who's going to be a bust in this year's draft.  You can only guess.  The worst thing the Cavs could do is trade this pick for average talent disguised a la a Trojan horse; perhaps much like the Isaiah Thomas deadline deal was.  Getting talent on level with the likes of Avery Bradley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope won't convince kings or peasants.  

My Gut Scenario:  I'd hope that somehow a Michael Porter Jr or Jaren Jackson Jr become available for Cleveland.  Not likely though.  I think the Cavs take a chance on Kevin Knox.  And hope he follows in the steps of Devin Booker.  Collin Sexton remains an outcome.  Trae Young would be the most polarizing.  For all the hype it brings, draft night can be a cruel night.  The wrong pick can set franchises back years.  But the right pick can keep a city and franchise buzzing for a decade.