Take 5 | Frozen Four predictions, Duke-UNC matchup and more


AP Photo/D. Ross Cameron

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) drives to the basket through a trio of Golden State Warriors defenders during Wednesday’s game in San Francisco.

By The Pitt News Staff

In this week’s edition of the Take 5, The Pitt News Sports Desk takes a look at everything from the impact of F1 racing in Las Vegas to who will win the college hockey national championship and more.

Michigan will win the Frozen Four // Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

The NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament has whittled its way down to four teams — Michigan, Minnesota State, Denver and Minnesota. And when the dust clears, the team from Ann Arbor will lift the trophy.

Michigan is the favorite for a myriad of reasons, the foremost of which is the amount of NHL prospects on their roster. Sophomore defenseman Owen Power headlines the roster after the Buffalo Sabres selected him with the first overall pick in 2021.

There are also sophomore forwards Matty Beniers and Kent Johnson, who combined for 28 goals and 52 assists. They were also selected with top five picks, as Beniers went No. 2 overall to Seattle and Johnson went at No. 5 to Columbus.

The Wolverines are also on a mission, as they haven’t won a national championship since 1998. They defeated American International 5-3 and Quinnipiac 7-4 to get to this point, and they have scored more goals than the other three schools in the tournament — but they’ve also allowed the most goals. If Michigan can tighten up its defense, it will string together two more wins and take home its NCAA-record tenth championship.

Suns will continue to soar over the western conference // Will McGlynn, Staff Writer

The Phoenix Suns have quietly topped the western conference this season, silencing the doubters who claimed they only survived the western conference due to a flurry of injuries on opposing rosters. The Suns have been elite this season — going on long winning streaks, having an exceptional record away from home and playing well against the league’s best teams. 

The Suns had a relatively easy road to the finals last season, beating an injury-riddled Lakers team, sweeping past the Denver Nuggets and beating the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard. Things have changed this season in the NBA, but the Suns look even better, holding a massive lead in the west over the inexperienced Memphis Grizzlies at the No. 2 seed.

With an outstanding regular season, an all-star player in Devin Booker and the hall of fame point guard Chris Paul, it’s hard to say this team won’t return to the NBA Finals. This season has essentially been a rerun of last year’s Suns, but they look even better this season. Maintaining key veterans and continuing to develop young stars was the offseason plan for this group, and it has worked to perfection. The Suns are battle-tested and they are coming back for the crown this season.

Las Vegas Grand Prix comes at the perfect time for F1 // Richie Smiechowski, Senior Staff Writer

F1 drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton were prophetic in their answers about what they wanted new American ownership to implement into the sport back in 2017.

“Race in Vegas,” Ricciardo said.

“Miami,” Hamilton added.

Both drivers will get their wish in 2023, as F1 announced on Thursday that the series would take to the streets of Sin City for the third time ever. The Las Vegas Grand Prix will be one of three U.S. races in 2023, alongside Austin and the newly formed Miami Grand Prix.

While American fans rejoice, the rest of the world is skeptical — no other country hosts more than two races a season, and the United States is still far from being the sport’s biggest audience.

Despite the doubts, a third U.S. race is massive for F1 and their popularity. They are striking while the iron is hot, taking advantage of a blossoming market that’s already seen record numbers in viewership just two races into the nascent 2022 season.

If F1 manages to avoid its tendencies to lean toward greed over visitor experience, the Las Vegas Grand Prix will be a spectacle. The track looks fast and features lots of late-braking opportunities — a perfect fit for the 2022 car. The long, curved straight through the Vegas Strip should offer fans some of the most iconic views of the season. 

Browns mortgage the future for more question marks // Jermaine Sykes, Staff Writer

The Cleveland Browns traded three first round picks, a third round pick and fourth round pick in exchange for Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson and a fifth round pick. In what is a historic trade, the Browns finally have a household name at quarterback. While Watson is an arguable top five quarterback in the NFL — when he doesn’t have off-the-field issues — the Browns have deeper concerns than quarterback.

Watson will replace the Browns’ 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Mayfield led the Browns to their first playoff appearance in 18 years in 2020, as well as their first playoff win against division rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Mayfield regressed in 2021 due to injuries, and the Browns’ win-loss record took a hit as they fell to 8-9. While regression is never a good sign, Mayfield did not play poorly enough for the Browns to mortgage the future for his replacement.

The Browns have other needs as well. The Browns aren’t necessarily a “quarterback away” like we’ve seen with the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in years past. 

Watson is definitely an upgrade over Mayfield. But Watson and his $230 million fully guaranteed contract won’t be able to fix all the problems in the Browns organization.

Take a minute to enjoy the North Carolina-Duke matchup // Zack Gibney, Senior Staff Writer

Every once in a while, the sports gods come together to create a matchup that just seems too good to be true.

This is the case with Friday’s Final Four nightcap between North Carolina and Duke — two of the biggest rivals in all of North American sports meeting in the most important game in the matchup’s history.

With a spot in the National Championship Game on the line, the stakes have never been higher.

This is especially true when you consider the fact that legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski announced that the 2021-22 campaign would be his last hurrah after an illustrious 47-year career. UNC played spoiler in the legendary coach’s final home game at Duke, and the Tar Heels will look to do so again on the sport’s biggest stage in New Orleans.

Add it all up, and you’re left with one of the most consequential games in modern history.

If North Carolina wins, they will not only be one win away from a national championship and leave an indelible blemish on the legacy of one of the most iconic figures in the history of college basketball.

A Duke victory would further cement Kryzyewski’s status as one of the greats and do so by knocking off a bitter rival one final time.

Sit back and enjoy.