Take 5 | UNC to the Final Four, O’Neill Cruz should be on Pirates’ opening day roster


AP Photo/Matt Rourke

North Carolina’s Justin McKoy goes up during practice for the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament in Philadelphia on Thursday.

By The Pitt News Staff

In this week’s edition of the Take 5, The Pitt News Sports Desk takes a look at a team to watch in the MLB, NFL free agency and more.

North Carolina is going to the Final Four // Kyle Saxon, Senior Staff Writer

Year one of the Hubert Davis era in Chapel Hill has been nothing short of turbulent. After a disappointing past two seasons, North Carolina looked to get back to its winning ways this year. While the Tar Heels amassed an impressive record of 23-8 in the regular season, they looked vastly outmatched in games against ranked opponents and experienced uncharacteristic struggles during conference play.

But everything changed on March 5. The Tar Heels capped off their regular season with a convincing win over archrival Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium –– Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game as Duke head coach. Since that day, North Carolina has played with a reinvented level of confidence and togetherness, and it has translated to postseason success. After completely dominating No. 9 seed Marquette in the first round, the Tar Heels endured a near-historic comeback from the No. 1 seed Baylor Bears to reach the Sweet 16.

Senior forward Brady Manek is playing the best basketball of his five-year career. Talented sophomore guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis are each capable of leading any given game in scoring. Factor in the junior center and national superstar Armando Bacot and North Carolina is seemingly unstoppable at their best.

The Tar Heels will defy the odds as a No. 8 seed, and reach the Final Four.

Oneil Cruz has to be on Pittsburgh’s opening day roster // Frankie Richetti, Senior Staff Writer

The lockout is finally over, and baseball season is on the horizon. With the lockout came changes to the new collective bargaining agreement. The Pittsburgh Pirates are a team that has manipulated the service time of their prospects in the past in order to gain an extra year of control of its players before they hit free agency.

The MLB added incentives to put an end to this manipulation. Teams who promote top prospects to the opening day roster that finish top-three in Rookie of the Year voting become eligible to receive additional draft picks. This impacts Pittsburgh, which has the 2022 NL ROY favorite, Oneil Cruz. The Pirates have no excuse not to promote Cruz to the big league roster before opening day. Even setting aside the incentives, Cruz is the right choice because he is the best shortstop on the roster by a vast margin.

Cruz tallied just nine at-bats for the Pirates last season, but he gave fans a glimpse of how good he could be. In his last at-bat of the season, the rookie golfed a ball 408 feet and showed off his incredible plate coverage. Cruz picked up where he left off this spring and demolished two home runs in a similar fashion.

The Pirates will likely have yet another losing season, but fans deserve to be able to watch Cruz on opening day. After all, he is a 6’7’’ shortstop with effortless power and superstar potential — who doesn’t want to watch that?

Teams are overpaying top receivers // Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

Wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams made headlines this offseason, signing record-breaking deals. Adams left the Green Bay Packers to sign with the Las Vegas Raiders on a five-year, $141.5 million deal. Hill, on the other hand, left the Kansas City Chiefs for the Miami Dolphins, who signed him to the largest wide receiver contract of all time — four years, $120 million.

Hill and Adams are arguably two of the best wide receivers in the league. But they’re not worth such humongous price tags.

Wide receiver is one of the deepest positions in the NFL. In the last two seasons, rookies such as Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson have come from college and had an instant impact. Cooper Kupp, a receiver who is coming off of one of the greatest receiving seasons ever, is making less than $15 million in 2022 for the Los Angeles Rams. Hill and Adams will both make nearly double that.

The Packers will surely miss Adams. The Chiefs will surely miss Hill. But both teams may honestly be better off without the star receivers. While it will be hard to replicate the production of these receivers, there are replacement level receivers for not nearly as high of a price tag.

Commanders re-signing McKissic was crucial, but lucky // Richie Smiechowski, Senior Staff Writer

In two seasons with the Washington Commanders, running back J.D. McKissic proved to be a strong point in an otherwise faltering offense. He’s been an invaluable dual-threat option in the backfield, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and amassing 986 receiving yards, while being a steady blocker during his time in Washington.

For most fans, re-signing McKissic was a priority this offseason — being somewhat of a hidden gem, his value is much higher than his price tag indicates.

Instead, the Commanders let McKissic test free agency, allowing him to sign a two-year, $7 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. The move mystified fans and analysts — re-signing him at that price should have been done as free agency started. Instead, the Commanders failed to extend an offer to the veteran back, forcing him to find other suitors.

Luckily for the Commanders, McKissic felt as though there was unfinished business in D.C.

Retroactively, Washington offered him the same two-year, $7 million contract, which McKissic accepted just one day after agreeing to terms with the Bills.

Washington should consider itself lucky — Buffalo’s personnel has already enticed other free agents this offseason. McKissic is a rare player who, of his own accord, elected to stay in the nation’s capital.

Fear the Twins // Stephen Thompson, Sports Editor

One of the biggest moves of the MLB offseason arrived Tuesday in Fort Myers, Florida, the site of Minnesota Twins Spring Training. Carlos Correa — the two-time All-Star shortstop who won a World Series title with the Houston Astros in 2017 — agreed to a blockbuster free agent deal worth $105.3 million over three years with the Twins on March 19, and instantly turned them from bottom-feeders to contenders in the American League.

Minnesota’s willingness to spend like a big-market team and award rich contracts for top-tier talent will have them back in contention for a spot in baseball’s expanded playoffs. The American League is loaded this year, with the Mariners, Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays having made splash moves to keep pace with the established powers in Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Houston.

But the Twins bolstered a lineup that already featured five-tool star Byron Buxton and sluggers Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco with one of the most well-rounded infielders in the game today. In doing so, they raised expectations and cemented their spot among the serious players.

The White Sox won the last AL Central crown by 13 games, but they should expect a more fierce fight for the division crown against the new-look Twins.