2014 was a year full of heartwarming stories and exciting champions. We saw everything from Germany’s World Cup victory to Mone Davis dominating the spotlight at the Little League World Series. Among others, UConn came out of nowhere to win March Madness, the SEC’s reign came to an end, defense shined in the Super Bowl, Madison Bumgarner showed he may not be human, and team basketball was beautiful once again as the Spurs captured their 5th title of the Tim Duncan era. But now that the year has passed, new opportunities emerge for 2015. Here are the top things to look forward to in the new calendar year.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
2015 will see the first National Championship game of the playoff era. The semifinals saw Oregon and Ohio State fight off Florida State and Alabama respectively to play in the first annual game. The actual game itself will occur on January 12 at “Jerryworld” in Dallas. Primarily, this game serves as the beginning of a new era. The end of the BCS was long awaited for almost all college football fans, but is this new system the long term answer? Will it truly determine the best team in all the land? In my opinion, the system is excellent. Although Alabama may have been a better team then Ohio State, Ohio State played a better game en route to victory. Ohio State, along with Oregon after their destruction of Florida State, deserve the opportunity to fight for college football’s most coveted trophy, and the game should prove to be a good insight to what the system will look like in the years to come.
WILL BRADY AND MANNING GIVE IT ONE LAST HOORAH?
Tom Brady and have proved year in and year out that they are the cream of the crop when it comes to NFL quarterbacks. However, as the years have passed, they have failed to capture football’s biggest crown. Can Brady and Manning give it one last run to glory? I think it will be difficult. The Seahawks seem to be the prime of the NFL this season, and even the Packers have shown they are nothing to mess with in Green Bay. Both the Patriots and Broncos have potent offenses that run through the quarterback, but I do not believe that the two of them can make one last run to win another Super Bowl. Both of their careers are slowly waning, Manning quicker than Brady, and I do not see a scenario where either can add another title to their legacy.
KENTUCKY’S ROAD TO PERFECTION
It is no secret that Kentucky has the opportunity to do something special; possibly even be seen as the best team in college basketball history. The majority of Kentucky’s tough match-ups have already resulted in wins. Louisville, Kansas, UCLA, Texas, and North Carolina have all yielded victory for the Wildcats. A lackluster SEC (sometimes Florida is ok, but only ok) could possibly see the Big Blue enter the tournament undefeated. A perfect record can only bring along additional pressure, but the maturity and experience of Kentucky’s sophomores and juniors adds an additional level of determination. No one is shy to say that Kentucky is by far the best team in the country, and in 2015 we will see if they are not only the best, but one of the greatest ever.
RORY’S PURSUIT OF THE CAREER GRAND SLAM
Rory McIlory is unarguably the best golfer in the world right now, coming off a 2014 season that saw him win 2 majors, a World Golf Championship, and have numerous other top-10 finishes. At only 26, Rory’s upside is up there with the game’s historical greats. Perhaps the greatest feat a golfer can accomplish is winning the career grand slam. Rory already has a US Open, a British Open, and 2 PGA Championships under his belt, leaving The Masters as Rory’s last test to become an all time great. With the only 5 players to win the Career Grand Slam being Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Gary Player, and Gene Sarazen, a win at Augusta would vault Rory to a god-like status. Of course, Rory does not have to win this year’s Masters, but it would be all more exciting if he could capture his third in a row and become a symbol of the game at only 26 years of age.
IS TEAM BASKETBALL THE NBA’S NEW FAD?
It may still be a little bit early in the 2014-2015 NBA Season, but an obvious trend has emerged from the league’s top teams: team basketball seems to create wins, while iso basketball creates more conflict then success. For the latter, the Knicks and Cavs are great examples. The Knicks, who basically let Carmelo try to carry the team on his back, sit at 5-31. The Cavs, who lack team chemistry despite the best display of talent, are 19-15, good for 5th in the Eastern Conference. It is about time people start to realize that team chemistry and knowledge is a winning formula. For example, the Hawks sit at 25-8 and lead the Eastern Conference. They also are probably not going to have a single All-Star. This speaks not only to their team chemistry, but also to Mike Budenholzer’s coaching style that gives any certain player the ability to go off any given night. Extra passes, crashing the boards, and team defense are all valued more by the Hawks then anyone else in the league, and this has them atop their conference. Similarly, the Warriors play a brand of basketball that parallels the Hawks in many ways. Although Steph Curry and Klay Thompson account for the majority of Golden State’s scoring, the Warriors have a team full of strong, reliable role players that can create a win on any given night. It is unknown how this new trend will play out in the remainder of the season, but one thing is for sure, a reality check is needed for many players across the league who still think they can single-handedly win a game.
IS 2015 THE CUBS YEAR?
The Chicago Cubs are arguably the most unexpected headline to appear on this list. The Cubs are one of the youngest teams in baseball, and it is not proven if all the hype around their top prospects is accurate yet. However, the Cubbies appear to be going full force this year, with the signing of Jon Lester and the mass call up of seemingly every prominent prospect in the organization. To start, a rotation of Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Jake Arrieta (2 more TBD) has plenty of promise, especially with Lester being one of the best in baseball. The Cubs also have one of the best, young infields in the NL, with superstar first baseman Anthony Rizzo holding down the fort. He is joined by former Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella (.328 OBP), Starlin Castro (.292 Avg last year), and Javier Baez, an up and coming short stop. Along with Wellington Castillo at catcher and Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler, the Cubs are a legitimate threat in the NL Central. 2015 may not be their year, but as the pieces begin to come together, the Cubs could be scary good in the upcoming years.