Hear ye, Hear ye, Bring on the Madness! It’s that time of year where everyone gets lazy at work for two days to watch the afternoon games of the second round of the NCAA Tournament. If you were smart like I used to be, Thursday and Friday were ‘sick days’, but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury anymore although the March Madness app keeps me in the action! While there are 64 teams duking it out over 4 days starting on Thursday, Water Cooler Talk will focus only on those games in which an upset is highly in the odds on Thursday and Friday. So let’s not waste time, shall we? Hide the monitors from the boss (and in this case, your co-workers as well), lean in and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week and the magician of bracketology.

South Region:

Depending on what happens between tonight’s game between Vanderbilt and Wichita State, I see two potential upsets in the South. Starting with the teams that play tonight, the winner plays Arizona on Thursday. While Vanderbilt is thanking their lucky stars by getting a bid into the tournament, Wichita State had to of taken a sigh of relief as they were on the bubble, though undeservedly. Yes, the Shockers record isn’t great, but injuries have hampered this team. Now is the time to show your worth Wichita State, and make a phenomenal run. I do like WSU to squeak by the Commodores tonight, and then “upset” the #6 seed Arizona Wildcats to play Miami (FL) on Saturday.

Moving to Friday in this region, we have the matchup of #4 Cal versus #13 Hawaii. The Golden Bears have already had a rough start to the tournament as assistant coach,Yann Hufnagel was fired Monday due to sexual harassment claims. As if there isn’t enough pressure on teams to perform, turmoil is the last thing you want on the path to a national title. I like Hawaii to take this game and I liked the Rainbow Warriors even before Cal had their coaching distraction. Hawaii finished the season with a 27-5 record and won the Big West Conference regular season and tournament title.

West Region:

I also see two potential upsets in this bracket. On Thursday, #5 Baylor will play #12 Yale. I know Yale isn’t Harvard, but the Ivy League schools seem to get one win in the tournament before bouncing out. I see no exception here, as I like Yale to knock off the Bears and those hideous jerseys.

On Friday, #6 Texas plays #11 Northern Iowa. UNI hasn’t been shy about upsets all season as they beat then #1 UNC, then #5 Iowa State and then #25 Wichita State. After a 10-11 start to their season, the Panthers have won 12 of their last 13 which suggests their hot streak should continue for at least one more game.

I don’t know if you can call this an upset as it’s a 7-10 matchup, but I also like VCU to top Oregon State on Friday afternoon.

East Region:

If Michigan beats Tulsa, I like Michigan to upset #6 Notre Dame. The Wolverines are extremely dangerous on the perimeter, though they do lack size. The Fighting Irish do have Zach Auguste, but they’re too hit or miss on offense for me to give them much of a chance.

Midwest Region:

Remember when everyone was high on Iowa State last season as a #3 seed? Well, they lost their first game to UAB. This year the Cyclones are the #4 seed and their first game is against a tough Iona squad, who’s ranked #13 in this bracket. Despite the Gaels being 0-2 against tournament teams this season, this team is also hot at the right time as they’ve won 12 of their last 13 games. Old habits die hard, and the Cyclones are no exception.

Seton Hall probably deserved more than their #6 ranking seeing how they are the Big East Tournament champions and have a 25-8 record, but it doesn’t negate the fact they have a tough test to open the tourney. While Gonzaga was not the team we’re used to seeing this season, Mark Few always has his squad ready to go when the calendar turns to March. I have always in the past knocked the Bulldogs for the conference they’re in and this year is no exception. They were just 1-2 against top 25 teams and didn’t have much competition in the WCC, but I have faith in Mark Few.

Those are my 2nd round upsets for the 2016 tournament. Were there any games I didn’t mention? Or games that you think I’m dead wrong about? Give me your opinions by following me on Twitter and telling me what you think the upsets are this year in the 2nd round. I hope everyone enjoys the tournament and I look forward to giving my Sweet 16 and Elite 8 predictions next week.

The final four, NFL Conference Championships will be played this coming weekend and the match-ups are intriguing, as they usually are every year. Water Cooler Talk will give you the insight of each game and tells you what to watch for when the game play occurs. So kick back, relax, hide the monitor from the boss and let Water Cooler Talk help you be the sports guru of the office this week.

Since the playoffs expanded to the current 12-team format in 1990, this is the first year in which the #1 and #2 seeds from each conference have met in the conference championships. What makes this weekends games so intriguing, is that each of the four teams have had completely different paths coming into this weekend.

The Carolina Panthers started 14-0 before losing Week 16, but finished strong at 15-1 and clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs Week 17.

The Arizona Cardinals started their season 4-2 before ripping off 9 straight wins before losing Week 17, a loss in which head coach Bruce Arians sat his starters in the second half of the game after Seattle was trouncing them on both sides of the ball and knowing Carolina had all but sealed their home finale.

The Denver Broncos offense has fluttered all season with and without Peyton Manning and didn’t clinch the AFC West and home-field advantage until Week 17 thanks in part to the Kansas City Chiefs long winning streak and the Bengals and Patriots late-season blunders.

The New England Patriots lost 4 of their final 6 games which ultimately led them to the #2 seed. Injuries to the offensive line and their two biggest play makers in Gronk and Julian Edelman had a lot to do with their late season stumble.

New England at Denver:  The Patriots seem to be healthy with the return of OL Sebastian Vollmer, WR Julian Edelman and TE Rob Gronkowski. Each of these players had an impact on Saturday that helped lead the Patriots past the Chiefs. Brady wasn’t sacked, Gronk had 2 TDs and Edelman had 10 receptions for 100 yards. Seeing how a depleted Steelers offense weaved their way through Denver on Sunday, this offense should be licking their chops.

While the Patriots confidence in their offense should be high, the same can’t be said for the Broncos offense or defense. Manning struggled at times to throw the ball and his receivers had numerous drops. The wind may have factored into most of the mistakes, but numerous mistakes need to be avoided in the playoffs. In order to advance to the Super Bowl, the Broncos need to get their pass rush to Brady to throw off the timing patterns on defense while limiting turnovers and converting third downs to avoid giving the ball to Brady on offense. If Denver can do this, with what should be a very energetic home crowd, they may just make it to San Francisco.

Many are hoping for Manning to get to the Super Bowl and ride off into the sunset with another championship. While that would be a good story, I just don’t think it’s going to happen. Brady and Belichick have the winning ingredient which will lead them to their seventh appearance in the Big Game. The Patriots will win a scrappy, hard fought affair, 26-20.

Arizona at Carolina:  When looking at Arizona’s season between weeks 7-16, you’d have said they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but their last two games have to say otherwise. After getting embarrassed in their regular season finale, they were barely able to escape the Packers last week, a team in which they dominated in Week 16. The loss of Tyrann Mathieu was a big blow and his absence is really starting to show defensively. Their offense has big-play ability on seemingly every snap, but the run game is a huge factor into that success. If David Johnson can’t get rolling early, those big plays may not be there for Arizona on Sunday against a stingy Panthers defense.

The first 30 minutes of games have been fantastic for Carolina for much of the season to this point, but it’s the last 30 minutes of the game which has Carolina fans referring back to the 2003-2004 Cardiac Cats. Big leads have turned into small margins of victory against the Colts, Packers, Giants and now the Seahawks. Besides this obvious mishandling of the offense and defense after halftime, there really isn’t anything bad to look at. The offense has big-play ability on the ground and through the air and the defense simply smothers runners and receivers at will while threatening to get to the quarterback on nearly every play. The Panthers need to frustrate Carson Palmer early and limit the run game like they did against Seattle early. Big lead or not after halftime, in-game adjustments will play a major factor if they hope to advance.

I anticipate smash-mouth football for a full 60-minutes on Sunday thanks in part to two physical defenses on the field. One turnover could mean the difference, so both QBs will need to protect the ball and not take unnecessary risks. I think the home-field advantage will ultimately help Carolina move on to San Francisco and they’ll move on to face the Patriots with a score of 28-21.

There you have it, the Patriots and Panthers will advance in what will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

That’ll do it for this week’s edition of Water Cooler Talk. Be sure to follow me on Twitter (@JasonSaulter) if you like what you’ve read and be sure to check out other blog entries. Enjoy the games on Sunday and have a great week and weekend everyone.


It’s an exciting and sad time of year for Water Cooler Talk as the NFL playoffs are set to begin this week as well as the National Championship in college football, but that means football season is drawing to a close. Let’s take a look at the Wild Card games on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the title game between Clemson and Alabama on Monday. Black Monday didn’t have as many surprises as expected, but are there more coaches on the move? Water Cooler Talk talks about the Hall of Fame voting in MLB and some free agents who may be signed soon. Let’s get 2016 kicked off right! Hide the monitors from the boss (because let’s face it, you’re not ready to be back), kick back, and let Water Cooler Talk help you be this week’s sports guru of the office.


NFL-logoAre any of us surprised that Cleveland fired their head coach and GM? Probably not. Is anyone surprised on how the Browns will look to fill those positions? Probably not. Usually, you look for a GM first so they can bring in a head coach they can work with. The Browns however are going about the process backwards, they’re looking for a head coach who will then have input on who will be hired as the GM. Is it any wonder this team has been so bad for so long? This job is very undesirable, which leads me to believe they’ll have to reach to bring someone in.

Tom Coughlin stepped down as the New York Giants head coach after 12 seasons at the helm. Kudos to the ownership for not firing the future hall of fame coach, they instead let him walk away with dignity. The players didn’t find this to be a satisfying move, but 12 years is a long time with one franchise. I think Coughlin finds another job in a hurry, and I think the vacancy left for the Giants will be filled in with a very viable head coach.

The Miami Dolphins are interviewing anyone who has ever coached…that’s exaggerated but they are talking to a lot of former head coaches. They are obviously ready to put a record together that matches their on-field talent.

49ers owner Jed York admitted he made a mistake last offseason by hiring Jim Tomsula, and after a 5-11 2015 he’ll look to get the team back to the glory days of winning. This too would be a desirable destination, but GM Trent Baalke is staying put. If you remember, this is the guy who drove Jim Harbaugh away to Michigan, so a red flag still remains within the 49ers front office.

The Eagles are also looking to get back to their days of winning consistently, and I’m sure it begins with someone who’s the total opposite of Chip Kelly. This is also a desirable destination, and whoever fills the position should have success for numerous years to come.

Tennessee is another desirable destination seeing as they have an established QB for years to come, a solid defense, and the #1 overall pick for the 2016 NFL Draft.

After a disappointing 8-8 season, the Indianapolis Colts didn’t fire Chuck Pagano, they instead gave him a new contract. I don’t disagree with the move as Pagano is a good coach who just happened to fight injuries on his squad throughout the season. With this new contract, let’s see if he and GM Ryan Grigson can work out their differences and get the Colts back on top in the AFC South and eventually get to the Super Bowl.

Sean Payton is still employed as the New Orleans Saints head coach, but that could change in the weeks to come. Both parties seem ready to part ways after 10 years, but the Saints won’t let Payton go so easily. Word has it that the Saints want a 2nd-round draft choice for Payton’s services. Plenty of teams will inquire about Payton, and I think the 49ers are the team to get him.

Four games are on tap for this weekend with the AFC Wild Card games on Saturday and the NFC games on Sunday. Let’s predict who will win this weekend:

Chiefs at Texans – Houston will look to embarrass Kansas City after the Chiefs put a whooping on the Texans in the season opener. The Chiefs are riding a 10-game winning streak while the Texans won 6 of their final 8 after their bye. The Texans suffered a big loss on Sunday when LT Duane Brown was lost for the season. KC continues their hot streak and gets by Houston with a score of 20-14.

Steelers at Bengals – The Steelers needed a lot of luck to get into the playoffs, but no one cares how you get in as long as you’re in. The Bengals have played surprisingly well with AJ McCarron as the QB and were close to having a first-round bye. If D-Will is out for the Steelers, this game will go to the Bengals. Should D-Will play with his ankle injury, I still think he’ll be ineffective enough that the Bengals strong secondary can contain Big Ben and Antonio Brown enough to move on to the next round. Cincinnati wins 23-15.

Seahawks at Vikings – The Vikings got embarrassed by the Seahawks just a few weeks ago, a game which was played in Minnesota. The Vikings want revenge, but I don’t know if they’re receiving corps can do enough. Sadly, I think Seattle will win 27-16.

Packers at Redskins – The Packers just can’t click offensively, the complete opposite can be said for the Redskins. With Green Bay struggling as bad as they are, I think Kirk Cousins leads the Redskins to a 30-24 victory. You like that!


635850317002095475-1004202147_yuhhhhhIt comes down to Clemson and Alabama for the national championship. These are the two teams that absolutely deserve to be in this position, as they’re the best teams in the nation, especially after convincing wins on New Year’s Eve. Offensively, Clemson has a significant advantage. Defensively, these two teams are evenly matched. Both front-sevens have superb talent while each team fields an above-average secondary. Clemson DE Shaq Lawson is expected to play, which helps the Tigers have hope. I’m a fan of the Crimson Tide, but I think Clemson gets their first title since 1980 with a 28-27 win.


2015-College-Basketball-National-Championship-Odds-and-Predictions-300x282If you missed last night’s Oklahoma-Kansas 3 OT thriller, then you missed what will most likely be the game of the year. #1 ranked Kansas and #2 Oklahoma showed us why they’re ranked where they are and should continue to do so throughout the remainder of the season. There’s plenty of buzz in Lawrence, KS and Norman, OK, as both teams have squads to potentially get to the Final Four. While Kansas is more balanced, Oklahoma has POTY candidate Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler and Jordan Woodard. The next time these two will meet is on February 13th.

Let’s not forget about Michigan State. They were #1 until last week when they lost to Iowa, and that was without their best player on the floor, Denzel Valentine. The Spartans will soon have their POTY candidate back and are heavily favored to make a push to a Big Ten title and a Final Four appearance.


1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgThe Los Angeles Dodgers made a couple of moves last week to bolster their starting rotation. The first signing included LHP Scott Kazmir who got a 3-year deal with an opt-out option after 2016. The Dodgers then signed Kenta Maeda to an 8-year deal. Maeda hails from Japan and has a variety of pitches to include a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and changeup. This past season he won Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young Award and has a lifetime 97-67 record with a 2.39 ERA. LA now has six arms to work with in the rotation, with five lefties and Maeda who is the lone right-hander for now.

Yoenis Cespedes is still the one name we’re all waiting for to sign. It sounds as if the Baltimore Orioles are the front-runners to sign the superstar outfielder, which indicates they’re moving on from Chris Davis. The remaining chips should fall in place shortly after he signs, names like Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, and Ian Desmond will find landing spots.

The voting results will be in tomorrow on who will be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this July. Ken Griffey Jr. is definitely in, and the consensus is he’ll be the first player to ever be unanimously voted in. Other names who should make the list this year are Mike Piazza and Tim Raines. Names who should be in but will probably have to wait another year are Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina.

Alan Trammell, who played for the Detroit Tigers from 1977-1996, will also most likely not get voted in which means he’ll move off the ballot starting next year. Known more for his defense than offense, the second baseman hit a career .285 with over 2,300 hits and 1,000 RBIs. If Trammell hopes to make it in,he’ll need the Veterans Committee to make that vote, but no one from the Golden Era has been voted in by this committee.

Then there’s Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Not going to happen…ever.

That’s it for this week’s edition, the first of 2016 Water Cooler Talk. I hope to have helped make you become the sports guru of the office this week, and if I have hit me up on Twitter and tell me about your conquest. Have a great week everyone!