By: Austin Streitmatter
Happy Tuesday! Welcome to Starting Hot, a 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 15th)
The PAC 12 is ridiculed amongst many of the major sports for being at the bottom of the Power 5. That cannot be said when it comes to Women’s basketball. UCLA and Oregon are ranked 8th and 13th in the country yet are 3rd and 4th in the PAC 12 respectively. These two teams are deep and have talent that would start in unranked teams sitting on the end of the bench. UCLA is led by Junior forward Michaela Onyenwere who leads the team in both Points and Rebounds per game. Outside of one game against Stanford, UCLA has lost by a total of 7 points across two games. UCLA is a good team and is only getting better! On the flip side, Kelly Graves’ Oregon Ducks are led by Sophomore forward Nyara Sabally (her older sister Satou also was an Oregon Star) who paces them in Points and Rebounds as well as blocks and is second on the team in field goal percentage. The Ducks also have senior leadership from Senior Erin Boley, a sharpshooter from beyond the arc, who is shooting a ridiculous 40% from 3 this year. The two teams have met once before with UCLA coming out on top by only 2 points. Record this game, it will be a good one: Pac-12 Network on Friday at 7pm CT
Also in the NCAAW world are some great matchups between top 15 teams and potential Sweet Sixteen previews. Firstly there is a fine battle between the #11 Michigan Wolverines and the #14 Indiana Hoosiers on Thursday. This will be the only matchup between these two teams during the regular season. The Wolverines are led by junior forward Naz Hillmon who heads a trio of double digit point scorers with an average of 25.7 points per game. They have a single loss on the year to a tough and solid Ohio State team. On the flip side is an Indiana Hoosier team that has been on the rise for the past couple of years. They are led by Grace Berger who recently joined an elite club of ballers to have a triple double against the same team more than once. Also in this club are NCAAW legends Dawn Staley (Current South Carolina HC) and Sabrina Ionescu (2020 WNBA Draft #1 Pick).
Michigan also will get a chance to get revenge on that same Ohio State team that they lost to on Sunday the 21st. The Buckeyes have a developing cornerstone in point guard Madison Greene who looks to lead the Buckeyes back to the right path after an upset loss to Wisconsin last week. This game is at 1 pm CT.
In the NHL the action is packed this week. There is a single game cancelled due to COVID this week. The NHL’s plan to prevent exposure with realigned divisions and quicker games appears to be working. This Thursday, the NHL fanbase is treated to a rematch of the Stanley Cup when the Dallas Stars host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning will be without star forward Nikita Kucherov as he is out for the year after having hip surgery. The Stars will also be without forward Alexander Radulov but the game should still be a thrilling rematch and if it’s anything similar to the Stanley Cup games, it will be worth the watch.
In the NBA we have a trio of games amongst 4 teams that should all be great games. The team with the best record in the league currently plays against the LA Clippers on Wednesday. Yep, you guessed it, it’s still the Utah Jazz. The LA Clippers have recently been shorthanded due to injuries but the teams still matchup well. On Thursday, the King and the Lakers host the newest Big 3 from Brooklyn in a potential finals preview. Look for Kevin Durant to make a return in this game as well as Lebron. The Lakers will need Lebron back as Anthony Davis will be out for the foreseeable future. Brooklyn then stays in the Staples Center but this time against the Los Angeles Clippers. This game could potentially be a blowout with both teams having played difficult schedules leading up to the game.
Finally we reach the team of the week. This one isn’t a team, sorry, it’s a conference. The Big Ten currently has 3 teams in the top 5 of the AP poll for Men’s Basketball. Additionally, they have 4 teams in the top 15 in both Men’s and Women’s Basketball. The Big 10 is deep this year. It is unknown if any team is a real threat to Baylor and Gonzaga who have looked unbeatable, but if any conference has a chance to unseat them it is likely that the team will come from the Big 10.
So there you have it, an outlook on the week. Should be a great week if you’re a basketball fan! 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: The Return of Bracketology.