Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Slowest Month for Sports

Now that the Super Bowl is over, we are left with a fairly dismal month in the world of sports. There is something a little empty feeling about not having football every weekend--college or professional. The NHL and the NBA are just far enough from their playoffs that teams are not quite being eliminated or saved on a nightly basis. The excruciatingly long time of the MLB preseason is slowly beginning. Even college basketball is in a bit of a lull, before the excitement of March.

Of course, all this changes very quickly. In one month’s time, we have hockey and basketball teams fighting for that last playoff spot. The NCAA basketball tournament is a blinding display of constantly exciting games. The Masters and WrestleMania are approaching. Baseball teams are beginning to take shape and resemble what they will be on Opening Day. Basically, we have an exciting month and half of sports, but first we have to wade through the drudgeries of February.

So, now would be a good time to look ahead to the future season(s) of your teams, an opportunity which I will take now. Apologies to most people, but this will be a Detroit-centric discussion. You’ll have to indulge me. They are in rough order based on their upcoming championship opportunities. Let’s get started!
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Dayton Flyers men’s basketball This team is good. Having been in and out of the top-25 rankings (19th at the highest, heretofore), they are finally starting to play well with a bit more national attention. They are winning games they are supposed to win, and in most cases, by an notable margin. Their losses have not been pretty, but at least they’ve been few. Barring a major collapse, they should garner at least an 8-seed in the tournament. I’m just hoping to eventually get out of the black hole of the Atlantic 10. After top-tier teams abandoned the conference, Dayton’s wins have been much less impressive. I, for one, would like to go through a few games in the tournament without being called the “Cinderella team.”

WrestleMania To make the month of February even worse, we had to say goodbye to Daniel Bryan, a wrestler that you could not help but like. There was not a dry eye in Seattle on the night he announced his retirement. Otherwise, it’s the best time of the year to be a fan of professional wrestling. I like the look of the matchups for Fastlane coming up later this month, but I am dreading the possibility of Dean Ambrose turning heel.

The Masters All eyes will, of course, be on the young sensation, Jordan Spieth. Number one in the world and defending his crisp Green Jacket from last year’s Masters, I can’t wait to see what he does this year. At 22 and with two majors already, he also has the tantalizing chance to pursue Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 championships. I feel like he could add one or two more in 2016. The player I’ve been most impressed with early this season has been Brandt Snedeker. With one win and three top-3 placings so far, he’s been consistently showing up at or near the top of the field. Unfortunately, I have concerns about Rory McIlroy. He’s only missing the Masters to complete the set of majors, but he dealt with an injury and a slow 2015 following wins in the 2014 British Open and PGA Championship.

Detroit Red Wings The Red Wings have been in the NHL playoffs every year since 1991. I worry about this streak every single year, to some degree. After some trepidation, I’m more and more confident this team will make the playoffs this year. Dylan Larkin has a viable shot at winning Rookie-of-the-Year, and Petr Mrazek has a terrific record of 21 wins in 37 games with a Goals Against Average under 2. Despite the extremely tight Eastern Conference standings, even a .500 record should be enough to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Detroit Pistons As confident as I am about the Red Wings, I’m cooling on the Pistons. Losing the best offensive player on the team in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a huge blow, as the team has dropped 4 of the 5 games he’s missed. There are solid players to cover the holes he has left, but they’re falling just a bit short of late. Andre Drummond is clinging to the most rebounds in the league, but even he has slipped a bit. A bright spot? It’s not going to take much more than 45 wins to get a spot in the East, which is quite doable. Another bright spot? KC-P is expected to be back this month.

Detroit Tigers This is probably the team I am most excited about this year (read: every year). The baseball offseason is always the longest, isn’t it? And spring practices and training is so torturously long leading up to the regular season. In any case, I went from being lukewarm on the team this year to all in after the trade securing Justin Upton. He improved an average to below-average outfield and added yet another dangerous bat to the lineup. The sometimes dismal bullpen shed some dead weight, and added a closer who might not murder fans out of stress each and every night (although I’ve thought that every year for a decade now). I recognize that my optimism is a result of fandom, but I think the Tigers have a legitimate shot of contending for the Central, and possibly the American League.

Detroit Lions As usual, I have no idea what to expect from this team next year. It’s too early to tell with the combine and the draft right around the corner. I will say that so far this offseason has not been altogether positive, seemingly losing more players than we’ve gained, most notably future HOFer Calvin Johnson. The already-lacking offense will take a hit, but the Lions will likely be drafting a defender with their 16th pick. At this point, we have to wait and see how the draft shakes out for any further speculation.
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Again, if you’re not a fan of any of these teams, I can’t believe you made it this far. Instead, I encourage you to reflect on your own teams and sports, and try to get through this dull month in good spirits. Cheers!