Since I review the year in sports each December, my editor thought, “Hey, why not preview the year in sports in January?!?”
Why not? Because I have no idea what’s going to happen. Nobody does.
That’s why we watch sports: We don’t know how it’s going to end. It’s also why we shouldn’t watch pregame shows: everybody is just guessing.
That said, if Michigan Radio wants to pay me to make wild, unsupported guesses – then doggonnit, that’s what I’ll do.
Let’s start at the bottom.
That means, of course, the Detroit Lions, who finished yet another season by missing the playoffs, and firing their coach In my lifetime, the Lions have won exactly one playoff game – and I am no spring chicken. At this rate, if I want to see the Lions win the Superbowl, I’ll have to live several lifetimes.
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo has gotten the Spartans into the NCAA tournament every year, for 16 straight years. He once told me, as a joke, that maybe they should miss the tournament one year, just to remind their fans it’s not a birthright.
Maybe, but not this year. The Spartans are 15-1, ranked fourth, and flying high.
Izzo has won seven Big Ten titles, been to five Final Fours and won the national title in 2000. But I’ve often said his best season of coaching was 2010, when they lost two-time Big Ten player of the year Kalin Lucas, and got to the Final Four without him.
By that measure, this could be Michigan head coach John Beilein’s best season too. Last year they got to the NCAA finals for the first time since the Fab Five. They were expected to do big things this year, too. But then star center Mitch McGary had to bow out for back surgery. It was a colossal blow – to which the Wolverines have responded by winning five straight games, including their first three Big Ten contests.
Do not count them out.
That brings us to the Detroit Pistons, for some reason.
The Pistons made the playoffs for eight straight years until their owner, Bill Davidson, passed away in 2009. They haven’t made it back since, and they won’t this year.
The Red Wings, in contrast, are extremely well run, and proved it by making the playoffs every season since 1990 – a record that spans longer than the lifetimes of some of their players.
Another wild guess: their streak will not be broken this spring, either.
After Tigers manager Jim Leyland retired, they hired Brad Ausmus, a Dartmouth grad, who might be the smartest, best looking manager the game has ever seen. And that will carry him all the way up… to opening day.
In college football, the questions are simple: Are the Spartans really all that? And when will the Wolverines return to being all that?
The Spartans went 13-1 last season, beating Michigan and Ohio State to win the Big Ten title, then followed up with a Rose Bowl win over Stanford – all with players those schools didn’t want.
Can they prove it was no fluke?
At Michigan, the Wolverines are trying to prove that the last decade was a fluke, and they still belong among the nation’s elite teams. The big story this month was not a big bowl win or a big recruit, but the firing of an offensive coordinator, and the hiring of a new one. Good move.
Will Michigan’s offense be better than last year’s?
Well, as my dad so often told me as a kid, when you’re on the floor, you can’t fall out of bed. The best date on the schedule next year might be October 25, when the Wolverines travel to face the Spartans.
Be sure to tune in 11 months from now, when I will publicly deny making any one of these predictions.