Detroit Red Wings vs. Chicago Blackhawks – 3/10 @ Joe Louis Arena in Detroit
Before we get to the Main Event of Top Five Live, the NHL is a great place to start. Two of the “Original Six” will square off in Detroit as the NHL season nears the start of the playoffs.
The Blackhawks are firing on all cylinders, but they have yet to lock up the number one seed in their conference. They are still chasing the Minnesota Wild with about 15 games left in the regular season. The Blackhawks have made numerous deep runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As a result, they are well aware of the significance of having home ice advantage.
Chicago has a variety of veterans that have proven their reliability in the postseason. However, there is a crop of young players that need to grow up fast in order for Chicago to be successful. Artemi Panarin, Tomas Jurco and Gustav Forsling are all 25-and-under, and all play key positions for the Blackhawks. Time will tell if they will step up when the pressure is at its highest.
As for Detroit, they will look to put up a road block for Chicago’s success this season. The Red Wings are currently the bottom feeders in the Eastern Conference, a rare position for such a storied franchise. Their big name players have delivered a championship, but the last title the franchise won came in 2008. For most franchises, that would be acceptable. For one accustomed to winning on a regular basis, the ownership and fans have gotten impatient much quicker. The front office will have to make some tough decisions, but for now the main focus will be to finish the season strong in Detroit.
World Baseball Classic: United States vs. Dominican Republic – 3/11 @ Marlins Ballpark
Not quite Opening Day just yet, but the World Baseball Classic is shaping up to be an exciting tournament thus far. The tournament is still in its early stages, but a group stage game going down this weekend could be a preview of the WBC Championship. Outside of the United States, the Dominican Republic breeds baseball talent like no other country. There is a player from the DR on almost every MLB roster. They country is also always well represented at the All-Star Game.
Perennial All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey are just the beginning for the talented U.S. team. They are stacked at every position and will have plenty of firepower to keep up with the best offenses.
J.A. Happ, Chris Archer and Andrew Miller are part of the best pitching staff in the tournament as well. However, a tough test stands in the way before the U.S. can take on the Dominican Republic. They will need to show up ready to play and not overlook Colombia in their first game of the tournament.
Jose Bautista, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz…I could keep going but you get the idea. The Dominican Republic’s roster is insanely talented. Growing up playing nothing but baseball, these players have become brothers throughout their journey to becoming some of the most successful players in the MLB today. The one concern for the Dominican Republic is their starting pitching depth. Other than Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez, the DR will struggle to keep teams off the scoreboard. Their prolific offense should more than make up for it, and I expect this game to be high-scoring and entertaining throughout.
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors – 3/11 @ AT&T Center
The times they are a changin’. No, this isn’t a Bob Dylan album review, but the Western Conference just got a lot more interesting. A day removed from an epic comeback by the Spurs and an epic fail by the Warriors, and the West is wide open. A month ago, the Warriors were a well-oiled machine, looking to book a trip to the Finals at the All-Star break.
After an injury to Kevin Durant and shooting slump from the two-time MVP Steph Curry, the Warriors have encountered a cold streak that is rare for them. Golden State is fresh off of a 99-86 loss to the Boston Celtics and their lead has dwindled to 1 1/2 games in the Western Conference. The Warriors have been on cruise control for a majority of the past two seasons. We will see how they handle adversity as the best team in the NBA is on their heels for the #1 seed in the West.
Slowly but surely here come the San Antonio Spurs. For those who thought their success would dip after the retirement of Tim Duncan, think again. Kawhi Leonard is a legitimate MVP candidate, and his prowess on both the offensive and defensive is rare. He needs a few more years of consistent dominance, but the comparisons to Michael Jordan and LeBron James are not as ludicrous as they sound. His supporting cast of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and LaMarcus Aldridge is efficient. The nucleus in San Antonio is exceeding expectations, and Golden State is playing like they keep looking in their rear view mirror as the Spurs are fast approaching.
San Antonio will also be at home this Saturday night. The Spurs are a dangerous team in their own building. Whoever has home court advantage in the Western Conference Finals will likely advance to the Finals.
Boston Celtics vs. Chicago Bulls – 3/12 @ TD Garden
Across the country in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics are making a push for the #1 seed as well. In the past week they have knocked off the Cavs and Warriors, and are proving to be a dangerous team. However, throw in a surprising loss to the Bulls before the All-Star break as well as a last second loss to the Phoenix Suns, and the Celtics are a confusing team to figure out.
Back at home, they are a different team and will look to avenge the loss they suffered against Chicago. Isaiah Thomas is a serious candidate for MVP, and he is surrounded by a bunch of young, hungry talent that is ready to win now. Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley and Jaylen Brown are all athletic, defensive-minded and make IT’s job that much easier. The one thing about the Celtics is the fact that they save the best for last. Their fourth quarter dominance has been well documented this season, and will be crucial if they wish to advance deep in to the playoffs.
In the Windy City, the Chicago Bulls‘ hopes of making the playoffs are blowing away fast. The team came in to the season with high expectations. They let Derrick Rose go, an injury prone star that was proving to be unreliable. Chicago held on to Jimmy Butler, a rising star in the league with a complete game. Additionally, they added veteran leadership in the form of Hall-of-Famer Dwyane Wade and NBA Champion Rajon Rondo. However, results have been mixed and if the Bulls can’t make the playoffs with this roster, a major overhaul may be coming in the offseason. One game at a time for now, and the Bulls have a big one this Sunday.
NCAA Tournament March Madness Selection Sunday – 3/12
Now the for the moment every college basketball fan has been waiting for…Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament! Every college basketball fan is on the edge of their seat to see if their favorite team will make the tournament. Others know their squad is safely in and are just waiting to see who the first round opponent will be. The path they will have to navigate to reach the Final Four is always intriguing.
No. 1 seeds could potentially be North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas, Oregon and Villanova. Those fans will be ready to explode if their team gets the coveted seed that ensures and easy path to the National Championship.
Syracuse, Wichita State, Kansas State, Xavier and Michigan State are teams that used to qualifying for the tournament with ease. However, this season will be a little different as all of them have work to do in their teams’ conference tournaments.
As usual, there is also a cast of mid-majors that will play the role of “Cinderella” during March Madness. Teams that will most likely be seeded 7th or lower but have a chance to make a deep run include: Oklahoma State, Maryland, Seton Hall and Marquette. Teams that face these opponents in the first or second round will need to be on high alert come tourney time.
Will this be the year we finally see a No. 16 seed pull off the all-time upset of taking down a No. 1 seed? Tune in to CBS on Sunday night to find out.
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