Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Drake’s Takes: Big Ten Softball Tournament and the NBA Second Round

May 13, 2022

This week’s Drake’s Takes covers Nebraska softball in the conference tournament and the second round of the NBA playoffs.

Big Ten Softball 

Nebraska softball started Big Ten Tournament play yesterday, and did so with a win. 

The Huskers, entering the bracket as the No. 2 seed, took down Penn State off the strength of a three-run fifth inning. The Nittany Lions scored their only run in the second inning and held that lead until Billie Andrews hit a two RBI double.  

This win, Nebraska’s first in the conference tournament since 2016, was a positive sign for a program which ended the regular season losing five of the final nine games. 

Two weeks ago, after the Huskers’ win streak was snapped with a series loss against Wisconsin, I mentioned that splitting the final two series against tough competition would be a positive sign. They followed through on that, winning two of three games against Indiana at home.

Nebraska lost two of three in the other series, on the road against Ohio State. The Buckeyes also happen to be the team’s second round opponent. 

There definitely is a path that exists for the Huskers to reach and potentially win the conference championship. The Buckeyes are a good team, but Nebraska has a solid chance of winning.

If that scenario does play out at 1 p.m. today, the conference championship will pose an even greater challenge. The two potential teams on the other side of the bracket are a top-25 Michigan team and a top-10 Northwestern squad. 

The latter appears to be much tougher than the former. The 35-15 Wolverines shouldn’t be underestimated by any means, but Nebraska did take down Michigan in both of their games in March. 

Northwestern also just happens to be on another level. The 40-9 Wildcats have five first-team All-Big Ten honorees, including the conference’s player of the year in Rachel Lewis and pitcher of the year in Danielle Williams. There’s a reason most rankings have them just within the top 10 teams in the nation. 

Both games today will certainly be worth watching. There’s a good amount of talent in the Big Ten, and all of the remaining four teams stand a chance. 

The Huskers are in a great spot to make the NCAA Tournament regardless of what happens, but even an appearance in the conference’s championship game would be an added bonus.

NBA Playoffs

We’ve moved toward the end of the second round in the NBA playoffs, and once again, great basketball is being played.

First though, I’ll mention Nikola Jokic winning his second straight MVP. I’m not going to act like I’m a die-hard Nuggets fan or anything, but given that I’m from Colorado, it’s cool to see. What’s even better is Jokic arriving via horse to receive the trophy, and doing an interview with said horse in the background. 

Meanwhile, MVP runner-up Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers were the first team to be eliminated from the second round. That team is a disaster of its own, but I’m happy for the Miami Heat. Jimmy Butler has once again been playing his best basketball in the postseason, and he’ll need to bring that to whichever opponent they face in the conference finals.

That opponent will be decided by what has been the best second round series so far to me, between the Bucks and Celtics. Game 5 was electric, featuring 40 points from Giannis Antetokounmpo, a go-ahead shot off of an offensive rebound by Bobby Portis and 34 points on the other side from Jayson Tatum.

Jrue Holiday may have been the one to make the biggest plays on Wednesday though, recording an impressive block and steal on Marcus Smart on the Celtics’ last two possessions. Holiday has been incredibly frustrating to watch offensively in the series, shooting just 34.4%, but he came through at the end. 

On the other side, Memphis has been truly impressive in the last two games without Ja Morant, first narrowly losing in Game 4 and completely blowing out Golden State in Game 5. Forcing a Game 7 tonight on the road may not happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Admittedly, I haven’t watched much of the series between Phoenix and Dallas, but that series was sent to a seventh game by the Mavericks last night.

Overall, the second round has been really fun, and filled with defense. There’s a different level of stress when watching a game where baskets are so tough to come by. Each second round series has at least had some stretches like that, and I’ve found it very enjoyable. It’s part of the reason I’ve become so invested in the Eastern conference in the playoffs, as almost every game is brutal.

Without a doubt, all this energy will carry into the next round and beyond.  

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