By: Austin Streitmatter
Happy Monday! Welcome to Starting Hot, a new section where we look at some of the events in the sports world during the upcoming week with a special highlight to our Game of The Week and our Team of the Week. We won’t dive super into detail on every game here but will give you a quick glance as to what days you should be glued to your TV or which games to be sure you record! (All stats are written as of February 1st)
Let’s start with the Game of The Week for this week. It’s only fitting that the first Game of the Week that we cover is The Big Game herself: Sunday’s NFL Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The top headline that you can expect to see is the battle between new school and old school as Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady lead their respective teams into battle. Mahomes is still in the prime and early stages of his career while Brady is 43 years old and in his 10th (!!) Super Bowl appearance. From a team perspective, we’ve seen these two line-up against each other once earlier in the season and in the same stadium. The Chiefs won that game 27-24 but it was a tale of two halves as the Chiefs dominated the first half while the Bucs stormed back to almost win in the 2nd half.
Our X-factors in this game for each team are Antonio Brown for the Bucs and The Passing Attack of Mahomes/Kelce/Hill for the Chiefs. Brown was only playing in his 4th game when these teams faced off for the first time and while that is still a significant time, the Brady/Brown connection has aged like a Fine Wine. Brown did miss the Bucs last game against the Packers but he should be 100% for Sunday’s game. On the Chiefs side of the game, it’s impossible not to talk about the high octane trio of QB Patrick Mahomes, TE Travis Kelce and WR Tyreek Hill. In the Regular Season matchup Mahomes found Kelce and Hill a combined 21 times for 351 yards and 3 TDs. If the Chiefs can get production anywhere close to that number for a second time, it looks like Back-to-Back champions for Kansas City.
Moving on to a different area of Sports, there is some solid action in the world of College Basketball this week with a top 15 team in action on all but 1 day. On Tuesday, we have a battle between two Elite 8 caliber teams from the Big 12 in #2 Baylor (16-0) at #6 Texas (11-3). On Wednesday we have a spread of # top 10 teams in action across the day. On Thursday we are treating to a Big 10 showdown between #8 Iowa (12-4) and #7 Ohio State (14-4). Saturday is when we see the most action between Final 4 Hopefuls with #19 Wisconsin (13-5) traveling to #12 Illinois (11-5), #23 Kansas (11-6) at #17 West Virginia (11-5), and #10 Alabama (14-4) at #18 Missouri (11-3). Also on Saturday is a battle of two teams that are surprisingly unranked in North Carolina (11-5) at Duke (7-5). Sunday brings us a rematch of an upset that happened earlier in the year when #8 Iowa (12-4) travels to Indiana to avenge an earlier 69-81 loss. Again on Monday we close the week and restart the next week with an upset rematch between #23 Kansas (11-6) and Oklahoma State (11-4) with Kansas losing 70-75 on January 12th at Oklahoma State. A solid week for Men’s college basketball!
On the professional side of Men’s basketball we have a couple of matchups to look out for. On Wednesday night we get a glance into the current stars and the future starts when Most Valuable Player candidate Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers (15-6) play against Rookie of the Year candidate Lamelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets (9-11). That game is on Wednesday at 7 ET. On Thursday we get our first look at a rematch of last year’s Western Conference Finals when the Denver Nuggets (12-8) face the Los Angeles Lakers (15-6). LA won last year’s series 4 games to 1. Shortly after that on Friday, NBA fans are treated to a potential NBA Finals preview when the other Los Angeles team, The Los Angeles Clippers (16-5) hope to take down one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference in the Boston Celtics (10-8). Each team is led by a strong tandem at the guard and forward positions with LA’s Kawhi Leonard and Paul George matching up across from Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
We have a classic NHL week ahead with a solid Wednesday night of hockey but first we get the Revenge Tour with the Dallas Stars (4-1-1) in action against the Columbus Blue Jackets (4-3-3). Dallas started the season late due to COVID issues but came out of the gate hot rattling off 4 straight wins before losing their first game to the Carolina Hurricanes (5-1-0) on Saturday. On Wednesday though, Hockey fans are treated to rivalries so good that no matter each team’s record, either can win. The first matchup is between the Detroit Red Wings (2-6-2) and the Tampa Bay Lightning (4-1-1). To all the hockey fans that just read those two sentences and said “that’s a bottom feeder team and the reigning league champions” I hear you. On any given night anything can happen, and when you combine a rivalry there’s always a chance for a great upset. If you want a guaranteed strong matchup then the latter game is for you. The Boston Bruins (5-1-2) travel to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers (7-2-1) at 7:30. Both teams made the playoffs last year and both teams have over a 5% chance of winning the Stanley Cup this year. This will be a great hockey game. If you can’t sit down and watch it, record it; you won’t want to miss it.
The landscape of Women’s College basketball has gotten mighty funky this year. In a league where commonly the top 4-8 teams dominate everyone else, the top hasn’t looked all that strong. The Louisville Cardinals (16-0) is currently the only team in the top 25 without a loss and they sit at the top of the rankings but have a tough matchup against a legitimate Final Four contender TONIGHT when they host the #4 NC State Wolfpack (11-1). Both teams have looked excellent this season but also have looked beatable and that makes for a perfect matchup where both teams play their best basketball. It’s a relatively light week with top 15 teams expected to win as there are no top 15 matchups until next Monday but that means every team is on Upset Alert. Next Monday however we get back to what makes Women’s College Basketball so great: Top Teams playing each other early and often. Firstly, in a potential Final Four Preview, the #2 South Carolina Gamecocks (14-1) and legendary coach Tara Vanderveer travel to Storrs to face the #3 UConn Huskies (11-1) and their legendary coach Geno Auriemma. Any time these teams face each other it’s destined to be almost the best basketball out there. Put this one on the DVR to show your kids. Secondly, because 1 great game wasn’t enough, the #9 Arizona Wildcats (11-2) take a quick trip up to Eugene to play against the #12 Oregon Ducks (11-3). The Ducks have yet another sensational guard in Te-Hina Paopao so make sure that you don’t miss this one.
Finally we have our Team of the Week. They’re currently 12-1 against the Vegas Spread and have a standalone record of 16-0. You know them, you love them: The Drake Bulldogs Men’s Basketball team. They’ve recently seen success but have only made 2 NCAA tournaments since 1987. This year, could and hopefully will be a 3rd NCAA tournament bid in the past 4 years. But this section is less about the actual success and more about the Vegas Success. The point of a spread is to even the game between two teams. The idea that “the better team has to win by this amount of points” makes the game a little closer. Theoretically, teams should go roughly .500 against the spread, meaning they cover the spread as much as they don’t. Drake is not doing that so far. They have a pristine 12-1 record against the spread this year, covering in as many as 12 in a row. That is why they are our team of the week.
So there you have it, an outlook on the week. It should be a fun week for sports fans all over as there’s plenty of action to go around. Do you have a game you’re most looking forward to? Let us know down below in the comments. But before you go, here is one thing Austin is excited to watch this week: Paige Bueckers of the UConn Women’s Basketball team.