Baseball season is heating up, the NBA playoffs are in full swing, MLS is underway and the final is set for the Champions League (European soccer cup). All of this can mean only one thing-it’s prediction time.
The last time I made predictions was during March Madness, when I picked Arizona and Temple in the final. So much for my “gut feeling,” but now the time has come for me to regain my lost pride.
The Champions League soccer final is fast approaching. On March 24, Real Madrid will meet Spanish rivals Valencia in Paris. After eliminating Manchester United and Bayern Munich, the two teams who met in last year’s final, Real Madrid has the momentum, and the team’s $30 million investment in Nicolas Anelka is finally showing returns in the form of goals. Valencia is a dangerous defend-and-counter team, as Lazio and Bayern Munich discovered, so they could surprise Madrid if they catch Roberto Carlos creeping too far forward.
Prediction: In the end Real Madrid will lift the European Cup for an unprecedented eighth time. Hala Madrid.
The Lakers seem to have settled down after a first-round scare against the Kings, and are up 2-0 against the Suns. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant are stepping it up in the playoffs, but the Lakers have let Phoenix hang around too much at the Staples Center. Poor free throw shooting and late-game turnovers will hurt them further down the road.
The Trailblazers, on the other hand, are executing well as a team, and have buried the Jazz in the first two games. Portland’s depth will pay dividends as the playoffs wear on. The Trailblazers have eight men in the playoffs playing 15 minutes or more, and five players averaging 10 or more points in the postseason. I see them giving the Lakers problems. Out of the East, the Knicks will emerge victorious but ragged from dogfight after dogfight.
Prediction: When all is said and done, New York will be overwhelmed by … the Trailblazers in the finals.
Major League Soccer
In MLS action, perennial power DC United was struggling without the services of Marco “El Diablo” Etcheverry and now have an uphill fight to even make the playoffs. Kansas City and Los Angeles look to be the teams to beat. Both teams are organized defensively, but both sport tame offenses. The Galaxy have creative midfielder in Mauricio Cienfuegos, but after a quick start Cobi Jones has not been finding the back of the net. Look for the Galaxy to pick up a Mexican striker after the Mexican League concludes to finish Cienfuegos’ crosses. Some being names mentioned are Luis Hernández of Tigres, Francisco Palencia of Cruz Azul, and José Abundis of Toluca.
Prediction: With the added firepower of a Mexican superstar, Los Angeles will reach its third MLS final, and win its first MLS Cup.
Major League Baseball
The baseball season is still in its infancy, but the Yankees and Diamondbacks are emerging as early-season favorites.
The Yankees are an experienced team that knows exactly how to win October games, and with a team ERA under four, New York looks capable of fending off Boston yet again. The Diamondbacks, led by Randy Johnson, have proved that last season was not a fluke. Sweeping the Dodgers at Bank One Ballpark also illustrated how capable the team is of winning the close ones. When Matt Mantei and Matt Williams return, look out. However, Atlanta still has the best pitching rotation in the National League. Greg Maddux, Kevin Millwood and Tom Glavine are hard to beat, and John “Big Mouth” Rocker is a top-notch closer when he can hold on to the ball. But even more impressive is the Braves’ potent offense from top to bottom, led by the red-hot duo of Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones. Atlanta is a classic playoff team.
Forget the Mets. Any team willing to write off Rickey Henderson so early deserves to be written off early.
Prediction: Picking anyone but the Yankees would be as stupid as picking Temple and Arizona in the NCAA basketball finals, and I have learned my lesson. New York beats Atlanta. Badly.
Agke Grow, a junior journalism major, is sports editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.