Bracketology: Favorite DC athlete (Sweet 16)

By: Joe Pohoryles

March Madness is supposed to be in full swing. Instead, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has stopped the sports world in its tracks. NFL free agency is buzzing, but there are few leagues with actual gameplay to watch.

To stay in the spirit of bracket season, I have constructed a 32-team bracket built to determine the most popular athlete in DC sports. Separated into four regions, each making up the four major teams, a favorite athlete can be narrowed down. Combined with the Wizards region are the ‘Wildcards,’ representing athletes from the non-major teams. The Wildcards are with the Wizards because NBA rosters hold 12-15 players, which would give a disproportionate amount of spots to Wizards players, compared to the roster sizes of the other three teams. Since there are other athletes in DC more deserving of a spot than the eighth-most liked player on the Wizards, the Wizards and Wildcards each take up four spots in their own region.

In addition, the eighth-seed in the Wizards/Wildcards region is blank, allowing you to insert any DC athlete of your choosing if one of your favorites is not already featured on the bracket.

The seeding is determined by social media following, more specifically Instagram. (Any players that do not have Instagram accounts were substituted with Twitter.) To reiterate, the seeding is NOT based on my own personal opinion, but rather based on how popular the player is on social media. I find this to be a better form of initially ranking as opposed to just randomly seeding. It shows which players are generally favorited compared to others, and any “upsets” could rightfully be considered such, as your own opinion would differ from the consensus.

Below I will be breaking down my own personal selections, but I’d love to hear your opinions. Feel free to share your thoughts in a comment on this post, or reach out to me on Twitter (@Joe_Poho) or Instagram (@joepoho). I may even publish some of the submissions. Happy bracketing!

For the First round (Part 1) results, click here.

For the First round (Part 2) results, click here.

Second Round (Sweet 16)

‘Capitals’ region

(1) Alex Ovechkin vs. (5) Nicklas Backstrom

For this to be a second round match-up is just cruel. Nicklas Backstrom deserves to be the two-seed, but his relatively low profile play translates off the ice as well apparently. He and Alex Ovechkin are the two franchise faces, as they are the franchise leaders in assists and goals, respectively. The Ovechkin/Backstrom Era has been the best stretch in franchise history, and the 2010s Caps were the winningest team of the decade (in fact they had the third-winningest decade in NHL history behind the 1970s Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins), so it was only right that the two finally led the team to the Cup in 2018.

Both legacies are stamped, but at the end of the day, Ovechkin’s electric play and personality have made him more fun to watch, and it’s rare to see an all-time great sustain this type of success for your team, so by the narrowest margins, I favor Ovechkin over Backstrom.

Winner: (1) Alex Ovechkin

(3) TJ Oshie vs. (7) Braden Holtby

TJ Oshie and Braden Holtby are not as quite big in franchise history as Ovi and Backstrom, but both are fan favorites. Oshie did not begin his career with the Caps, unlike Holtby, but the former St. Louis Blue endeared fans with his relentless hustle he brings to every shift. Holtby, meanwhile, is the best Caps’ netminder since longtime star Olaf Kolzig. Both are great, likable players, but as I said in the first round, I give extra support to the American players, so I’ve rooted for him in that respect even before he joined the Caps. Another close call, but Oshie takes it.

Winner: (3) TJ Oshie

‘Nationals’ region

(1) Juan Soto vs. (4) Stephen Strasburg

Both Juan Soto and Stephen Strasburg were crucial pieces in the 2019 World Series run, and both are poised for a dominant decade in the 2020s. Strasburg is 10 years older than Soto, and after an up-and-down decade in which he sparked the turn-around of the Nationals franchise, he is set up to get even better through his 30s, where he can hopefully remain healthy.

Soto, meanwhile, is just 21 and is already one of the best left fielders in the National League. Can you imagine what he’ll be once he hits his prime? What type of player will he be at 25 years old? Or 27? He made a quick ascension to the majors, and an even quicker ascension to superstardom. He is just two-and-a-half years older than me, which makes it even cooler to watch, as this is the first local superstar from my age group. Probably the most exciting player the Nats have had in a long time (even more so than Bryce Harper, unbiasedly), he has the edge over Strasburg in my eyes.

Winner: (1) Juan Soto

(2) Max Scherzer vs. (6) Adam Eaton

This one is pretty cut-and-dry. In Max Scherzer’s five seasons with the Nats, he’s been among the best pitchers in baseball and a face of the franchise. Adam Eaton, meanwhile, is a good player, and had a valuable role in the World Series run, but does not create the same type of spectacle as Scherzer, whose energy from first pitch to pitch 115 make him must-watch. I like both players, but Scherzer takes this one easily.

Winner: (2) Max Scherzer

‘Redskins’ region

(1) Adrian Peterson vs. (4) Ryan Kerrigan

Adrian Peterson has been one of my favorite football players, even before he joined the Redskins. Ryan Kerrigan has been amongst the Redskins’ best defensive players for a long time. Although running back is the more exciting position, and I have drafted All Day onto my fantasy football team more than any other player, I defer to Kerrigan because when looking at DC athletes, Kerrigan fits the bill better. He’s the leader of the Skins’ defense and a prominent piece in the franchise’s history, whereas Peterson will always be more associated with the Vikings. (But happy 35th birthday, AD!)

Winner: (4) Ryan Kerrigan

(6) Terry McLaurin vs. (7) Jonathan Allen

Two of the younger rising stars on either side of the ball, Terry McLaurin and Jonathan Allen will each be franchise cornerstones for the foreseeable future. I’m excited about both of them, but if I had to pick one, I’d have to pick McLaurin. It’s been a long time since the Redskins have had a homegrown star wide receiver, and it’s too early to give McLaurin that distinction, but with an offense that lacks weapons, McLaurin’s consistency and big play ability put him on that track.

Winner: (6) Terry McLaurin

‘Wizards/Wildcards’ region

(1) John Wall vs. (4) Rui Hachimura

These two have yet to share the court together, but if John Wall can get close to what he once was, his connection with Rui Hachimura could be lethal. I can’t wait to cheer on both players, but when it comes down to who I like more, the truth is that with everything Wall means to the Wizards franchise over the past 10 years, he wins over Rui.

Winner: (1) John Wall

(2) Bradley Beal vs. (3) Elena Delle Donne

Two full-fledged stars, each currently headlining their respective teams, Bradley Beal and Elena Delle Donne are franchise icons. It’s extremely difficult to choose between these two players whose games I respect immensely. To narrow it down, I have to give the edge to Delle Donne, who drew me into watching WNBA basketball in the first place, and willed the Mystics to a championship despite a broken nose and back and knee issues.

Winner: (3) Elena Delle Donne

Down to the Elite Eight, the conclusion to this edition of Bracketology will come tomorrow. There will be much less description next time, as I’ve explained as much as I can about why I like the players that remain. Make sure to check in tomorrow.

(Cover Photo Credit: Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer)

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