As we approach a new year, it’s always fun to look ahead for what 2018 could hold in store for us, but to also appreciate everything that 2017 gave us.
While this past year was full of highs and lows concerning social issues in sports, the games themselves also gave us moments we’ll always remember.
Who would have thought that Geno Auriemma and UConn would lose on a buzzer beater to Mississippi State?
Did anyone predict that the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers would turn the World Series into a home run derby?
And after the season long hype of Warriors/Cavaliers Part III, didn’t we all feel a little cheated that the NBA Finals only lasted five games?
Who knows what 2018 has in store for us, but here are a few predictions for what I think we could be getting ready to witness in the coming months.
January 8, College Football Playoff National Championship
While I believe that Clemson is the most complete team in the country, Dabo Sweeney’s bunch isn’t going to beat Alabama two years in a row. Nick Saban isn’t letting that happen. Revenge is a great motivator.
In the other semifinal, Oklahoma will be too much for the Bulldogs because “UGA gon’ UGA.” Look for the Oklahoma offense to score big early, putting Georgia in a hole from which it won’t be able to climb out.
In the championship game, look for Baker Mayfield to shine. Saban doesn’t do well against mobile quarterbacks with big arms. Just ask Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. Oklahoma didn’t make it this far because of its defense, so you can score on that team. However, the question is, can you score with them?
Oklahoma averages 44.9 points per game, and I don’t see Alabama keeping up with it in a shootout.
Sooners win, and Mayfield plants the OU flag in the middle of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
February 4, Super Bowl LII
After the Carson Wentz injury in Philadelphia, NFL fans have been wondering who would step up as the best contender to come out of the NFC, as the Eagles don’t look as threatening without their start quarterback.
Well, what if a little history takes place and the Minnesota Vikings emerge to represent the NFC in Super Bowl LII, becoming the first team to ever have home-field advantage in the Big Game.
But, I don’t think the home crowd will be enough to knock off the New England Patriots. The addition of James Harrison will help the Patriots knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, and then Tom Brady will take over late to secure his sixth, and final Super Bowl ring.
Besides, there’s something about a team winning a Super Bowl on its home field that just doesn’t seem fair.
April 1, Women’s NCAA National Championship Game
UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Mississippi State will be the four teams that make it to Columbus, Ohio at the end of March. One side of the bracket will see UConn and Notre Dame face off in another chapter of their rivalry, as the Huskies will come away victorious. While Mississippi State will get some revenge on South Carolina, after falling to them in last year’s national title game.
In the championship game, it’ll be over before it even begins. Mississippi State ended UConn’s 111-game winning streak in last year’s national semifinal, and the Huskies will get their revenge in a blowout victory that will be the program’s 12th national title.
April 2, Men’s NCAA National Championship Game
Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Villanova should get their hotel reservations set, because they’re my picks to make it to San Antonio this year for the Final Four.
The first semifinal will pit the Gators against the Wildcats in a shootout that will set records for the most 3-pointers made in a Final Four game. But in the end, Villanova’s experience will be too much for Florida.
The second semifinal will be a rematch of the Champions Classic between Duke and Michigan State. Look for the Blue Devils to come away victorious in this one, as they’ll have Marvin Bagley healthy this time around, after winning without him back in November. The loss will be another tough pill for Tom Izzo to swallow, as his record against Coach K will be an embarrassing 1-12.
Monday night’s final will be a clash of youth and experience. The bulk of Villanova’s starters and major reserves are made up of upperclassmen, as they’ll face a Duke team that only has one senior on the roster (Grayson Allen) and starts four freshmen.
All season long, the Wildcats were the most polished and consistent team in the country. However, after learning how to win and play defense, the potential that Duke showed glimpses of early in the season all comes together, as the Blue Devils are just too talented for Nova to contain.
Coach K will return from his 13th Final Four trip with a sixth ring on his finger.
NHL Stanley Cup Finals
I’m not going to even fake it, because I know nothing about hockey.
But I do know that the Blackhawks or the Penguins always win it.
So with that, I predict that either the Blackhawks or the Penguins are going to win it.
Let’s stop kidding ourselves, because we all know that the Golden State Warriors will be back in the NBA Finals. However, it won’t be as it’s been in previous years. Teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs will push the Warriors like never before, as every team they face in the West will push them to at least six games.
In the East, we’re going to get the Eastern Conference Finals we’ve all been waiting for in a rematch between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Make no mistake, this is going to be Kyrie Irving versus LeBron James in a seven-game series. However, the Cavs will be too old and too tired to keep up with the young legs of the Celtics, and we’ll see LeBron’s streak of seven consecutive NBA Finals appearances come to an end.
The Celtics and the Warriors will give us an entertaining series, but it won’t last long. Look for the Warriors to win in five games. However, that doesn’t mean that each game won’t come down to the final possessions.
While the Celtics will lose in the Finals, it will be an invaluable experience for a young team that will wind up being the champions in 2019.
In 2016, the Los Angeles Sparks survived to defeat the Minnesota Lynx in an epic five-game series in the WNBA Finals.
In 2017, the Minnesota Lynx survived to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks in an epic five-game series in the WNBA Finals.
In 2018, it’s going to be the same two teams, doing the same two things.
There’s no way you can convince me that Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike are going to lose in back-to-back years. For the last two years, the Sparks and the Lynx have been the WNBA’s version of the Cavs and Warriors. They’ve given us two historic championship series in a row, and I don’t expect a change anytime soon.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the biggest baseball scholar.
However, I am smart enough to know that the Yankees’ batting order is loaded, and any lineup that includes Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton is completely insane.
I understand that the Yankees need to tighten up their starting rotation. But last year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers proved that the homer is king.
Who will the Yankees be facing in the Fall Classic?
The Chicago Cubs.
Expect this thing to be over in five games, if that. The Yankees went out and bought the most powerful lineup that money could buy, and it’s going to pay off.
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Carron J. Phillips