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The upsets haven't really materialized

Before the top North American sports leagues returned from their long, pandemic-induced stops briefly, the standard knowledge was that these video games would be a free-for-all. After being off for months, there was no telling who 'd reveal up ready to play and who may be doing not have an edge -- or just merely out of shape. Plus, with everyone thrust into unusual, fanless places -- and NHL and NBA video games being played at neutral sites -- there was a sense that the playing field had been levelled to some degree. Lots of people expected a ton of upsets.

That's not the method it's played out. The NHL, NBA and Major League Baseball restarts are looking quite chalky up until now. Here's a take a look at how the favourites are remaining on top in each league:


Because its star players can influence the result of video games more than those in other sports, basketball has never lent itself to upsets. That hasn't really altered up until now in the Disney World bubble. Three of the four opening-round series in the Eastern Conference resulted in a four-game sweep by the wagering favourite. The other is most likely to end in five after top-seeded Milwaukee rebounded from a Game 1 misstep with 3 straight convincing wins over Orlando.

Underdogs are faring better in the West. Considering it's the much deeper conference, have we actually seen anything all that shocking? Sure, 6th-seeded Utah is up 3-1 on 3rd-seeded Denver, however those teams ended up two video games apart in the standings and many people saw the series as a tossup. The 4 vs. 5 matchup between Houston and Oklahoma City, who had similar regular-season records, is tied 2-2. The top-seeded Lakers are up 3-1 on Portland. The only real surprise is No. 7 Dallas providing the 2nd-seeded Clippers all they can manage. But still, that match is tied 2-2 and L.A. is a Luka Doncic buzzer-beating three away from being up 3-1. The Clippers are favoured by 7 1/2 points tonight, so the Mavs have a lot more work to do if they're to manage the series upset.


With the regular season cut from a 162-game marathon to a 60-game sprint, and several rosters currently annihilated by positive coronavirus test results, baseball seemed to be producing the perfect environment for wackiness. It's the reverse.

None of the six division leaders are truly a surprise. In the National League, the West-leading Dodgers have the very best record in baseball, simply as everybody forecasted, while the Central-leading Cubs and East-topping Atlanta were either co-favourites or favourites to be in this area heading into the season. In the American League, Minnesota leads the Central, as anticipated. The majority of individuals had the Yankees winning the East, but they're just a half video game behind Tampa Bay, which was a playoff group last year and a fairly popular pre-season pick to take the department themselves. Oakland is a moderate surprise atop the West, however they had the fourth-best record in the AL last year and pre-season favourite Houston is still doing OK in second location.


Ha! This is where the premise falls apart, right? In the playoff qualifying round, the No. 12 seed in each conference beat the No. 5. But hold on. While few individuals forecasted Montreal would secure Pittsburgh, plenty provided Chicago a good shot versus a deeply problematic Edmonton team. The other upsets in that round were quite moderate: Columbus over Toronto in an 8 vs. 9 matchup, and Arizona over Nashville in a 6 vs. 11 snoozefest between 2 lowly concerned teams that completed four points apart in the standings.

And do not forget, those were all best-of-five series, which are friendlier for upsets. When the format changed to the standard best-of-seven for the next round, just 2 of the 8 underdogs won: the 6th-seeded Islanders bounced 3rd-seeded Washington, and Vancouver took out defending-champion St. Louis in a 4 vs. 5 match.

This is the NHL, where upsets are the norm and not much appears to separate the top teams from the mediocre ones anymore. Take a look at last year's playoffs: Tampa Bay had one of the best regular seasons of perpetuity and then got swept by 8th-seeded Columbus in round 1. The St. Louis Blues went from dead last in the total standings to Stanley Cup champs in 5 months.

It's also worth keeping in mind that the consensus two finest groups in each conference -- Boston and Tampa Bay in the East, Vegas and Colorado in the West -- all won their first-round series in a breezy 5 video games. Colorado seems in difficulty now after dropping 2-0 to Dallas, but there's still a ways to enter that series.

So what's going on here?

Why aren't we seeing the amount of upsets many individuals anticipated? Here's my theory: rather than levelling the playing field, the NHL's and NBA's bubbles and MLB's empty house arenas have produced a lab-like environment that eliminates numerous of the variables that assist create randomness. There are no raucous crowds to sway the refs/umps into making calls that favour the house team. No basketball or hockey gamers are showing up to video games jet tired or lagged from a long flight. Without loved ones around, it's simpler to turn in early for an excellent night's rest. Under these more controlled conditions, there's less to go wrong for the favourites. Skill and ability triumph. Simply like we're seeing.

The Raptors comfortably swept the underdog Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs.(Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

Quickly ...

The Leafs traded young forward Kasperi Kapanen to Pittsburgh.He's talented and just 24 years of ages. Kapanen is coming off a frustrating season and likewise has a credibility for showing up late to practice (he was scratched for a game back in February after oversleeping). Plus, Toronto is quite solid at forward however might use help elsewhere and is up against the salary cap. Hence, today's trade. 6 gamers are involved, however the essential pieces are Kapanen (and his $3.2-million US cap hit) going to Pittsburgh for the 15th-overall choice in this year's draft and forward prospect Filip Hallander. The general agreement amongst the wise individuals on Hockey Twitter is that the Leafs won this offer. Read more about it here. Lionel Messi desires out of Barcelona.The soccer super star has actually been with the Spanish powerhouse for almost 20 years, but obviously he's had enough. Barcelona stated today that Messi has sent them a letter stating he wants to leave. This comes 11 days after an awkward 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals. Messi, 33, has helped Barcelona win the Champions League four times and the Spanish league 10 times. Read more about his desire to leave here.

The National Women's Soccer League added an encore.The initial strategy was for the Challenge Cup tournament in Utah previously this summertime to change the regular season and playoffs for this pandemic-tainted year. However, apart from the Orlando Pride getting tossed out for a rash of favorable COVID-19 tests, the occasion worked out enough that the NWSL has actually chosen to add an 18-game "fall series" beginning Sept. 5 in teams' house cities. The league's 9 clubs (consisting of Orlando) have been divided into three local "pods" to lessen travel, and each group will play the other two in its pod two times. The NWSL likewise revealed it's continuing its broadcast-rights relationship with CBS, which aired some Challenge Cup matches live. The big U.S. network will show a "game of the week" every Saturday in September. Read more about the NWSL's return here.

Usain Bolt tested favorable for the coronavirus.The track legend is taking some heat after publishing a picture on Instagram that revealed him not wearing a mask at a celebration recently celebrating his 34th birthday. Bolt took the test the next day. He stated he hasn't revealed any symptoms of COVID-19 and is self-isolating in the house in Jamaica "just to be safe." Since Monday, the island had a confirmed overall of 1,413 cases of the coronavirus and 16 deaths. Read more about Bolt's favorable test here.

Milos Raonic is the only Canadian left in this week's tuneup for the U.S. Open.Guy's 12th seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 15 Felix Auger-Aliassime both lost their second-round matches yesterday at the Western & & Southern Open. The unseeded Raonic advanced to the round of 16 with a straight-sets win and was because of play former world No. 1 Andy Murray today. The only Canadian in the females's singles draw was Leylah Annie Fernandez. She lost in the very first round. The Western & & Southern Open is normally played in Cincinnati, but this year's is occurring in New York City, at the same website where the U.S. Open will start on Monday. Canada's Bianca Andreescu is not playing today and has likewise decided to not protect her U.S. Open ladies's title. Due to a combination of a knee injury and the pandemic, she hasn't completed given that October.


Getting your name on the Grey Cup takes skill, determination and years of tough work. Or $349.To raise money for its teams and gamers after cancelling the 2020 season, the CFL is setting up a new base upon the renowned trophy and offering inscriptions to fans. Season-ticket holders can get their name on the so-called Grey Cup Fan Base for $349, and it's $399 for anyone else. R ead more about the fundraising relocation here.

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Before the leading North American sports leagues returned from their long, pandemic-induced pauses, the conventional wisdom was that these games would be a free-for-all. Sure, 6th-seeded Utah is up 3-1 on 3rd-seeded Denver, but those teams finished two games apart in the standings and most individuals saw the series as a tossup. Many individuals had the Yankees winning the East, but they're just a half video game behind Tampa Bay, which was a playoff team last year and a relatively popular pre-season choice to take the division themselves. The Raptors conveniently swept the underdog Nets in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Read more about it here.