Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone, we enter the dead zone of the American sports year. There is not a lot of exciting stuff going on between the Super Bowl and March Madness, but there are still some good NBA and NHL matchups, as well as some great conference games in college. There’s also a new professional football league on the rise that starts this weekend, so we won’t have to wait until September to see some competitive football again.
All the games you won’t want to miss this week are all in one place, so let’s check them out.
NBA: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics
Thursday Feb. 7, 8 p.m. on TNT
It’s one of the greatest rivalries in sports, and it’s certainly the greatest rivalry in basketball. Since Boston just beat LA in both the World Series and the Super Bowl, a new chapter of this rivalry may be just waiting to be written. This will be the first matchup between these storied franchises since LeBron James made his trip out west last offseason.
On paper, it looks like the Celtics have the upper hand. They enter with a 35-19 record and in third place in the East, while the Lakers have just a 27-27 record and are in 10th place in the West. However, the Celtics may be without their top scorer Kyrie Irving, who is listed as day-to-day with a hip strain.
Losing Irving may even the playing field a little bit, especially since James is back from his injury and is playing well again. Plus, you always have to add in that rivalry factor. Whenever teams play against their rivals, they always seem to elevate their game a little bit.
Momentum might be on the Celtics’ side though, as they are riding a three-game winning streak while the Lakers lost two straight.
Regardless of the outcome, Boston vs. LA for the second time in a week should be a lot of fun, but I definitely expect a close game.
NCAAM: #19 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #7 Michigan Wolverines
Saturday Feb. 9, 12 p.m. on FOX
This is a rematch for the ages. Two weeks ago, Wisconsin, who were unranked at the time, took down then No. 2 ranked Michigan by a score of 64-54 for their first loss of the season. This was probably the second biggest upset in college basketball this year, behind Syracuse beating Duke on the road.
Michigan suffered another loss to an unranked opponent when they lost to Iowa last week, and they don’t quite look as infallible as they did early in the season. They are still in first place in the Big 10 with a 10-2 conference record and a 21-2 record overall, but if they lose to Wisconsin again, that would put them in a really tough position to remain the top seed.
Wisconsin on the other hand, has not lost since their big win over Michigan. They are riding a five-game winning streak into their game against Minnesota on Wednesday. Wisconsin is in fourth place in the Big 10 right now at 8-3, but if they win against Minnesota and Michigan they may jump to first place by the end of the weekend.
Senior Ethan Happ is having a great year for the Badgers, averaging over 18 points and 10 rebounds per game, and he went off for 26 when they beat Michigan last time.
Freshman Ignas Brazdeikis leads the Wolverines in scoring with 15.5 points per game, but he was held scoreless in their loss to Wisconsin. If they have any hopes at vengeance, he will definitely have to be involved.
Big Ten basketball on a Saturday afternoon doesn’t get much better than this one.
Alliance of American Football Opening Night: Atlanta Legends vs. Orlando Apollos or San Diego Fleet vs. San Antonio Commanders
Saturday Feb. 9, 8 p.m. on CBS
Anytime a new professional sports league gets underway, it’s a pretty big deal, but the general consensus is that it will not take off. I don’t believe that is the case with the new Alliance of American Football or AAF. They already have TV contracts with CBS, TNT and NFL Network to broadcast their games in its first season starting this weekend.
The AAF seemed to have a solid foundation from the start with notable names like Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward and Justin Tuck as some of the executives. They went out and hired coaches with either college or NFL experience to run the teams. Finally, instead of trying to compete with the NFL, which nobody can (just ask the XFL), the AAF wants to work with the NFL to give unproven young players an opportunity to play in a competitive professional league.
These players include undrafted guys out of college and players that have been released from NFL teams or their practice squads. Many of these players will be looking to use the AAF as a springboard to make their NFL dreams come true.
Here’s how it works: there are eight teams that will play in four games each week for a 10-week regular season followed by the playoffs. The rules are almost the same as the NFL except that there are no kickoffs or extra points. Also, there will be no TV timeouts and far fewer commercials.
This is definitely a league worth checking out, because a lot of these guys may end up on your favorite NFL team next season.
Danny Barletta is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .