Friday, January 29, 2016

The Deal: A Sportsman's Television Guide to the Weekend

On a Weekend featuring stars, Serena Williams may be the brightest (Mandatory Credit: Vincent Thian Associated Press)

This Saturday represents a unique opportunity to show you how much of a sports geek I am.  I plan my weekends around sporting events, and weekends so chalk full of good sporting events like  this come around seldomly.  There are always a lot of options to watch this time of year; playoff football, NBA regular season, college basketball ramping up…but this sports stew is peppered with both a boxing title fight and the performances of one of the greatest athletes of this generation. Without further adieu…let me show you The Deal.


3AM ET ESPN (1) Serena Williams vs (3) Angelique Kerber

Serena Williams is going for her 22nd Grand Slam title; that would equal Steffi Graf’s singles record.  Williams has had a career that has spanned nearly 20 years.  Williams is 34, and that would be on the older side for a man in tennis—women’s careers are usually even shorter.  So the fact that she is not only competing, but still dominating is fascinating.  It is akin to Michael Jordan in his Wizards years-- if Jordan were still winning chips in the Nation’s capital.

Ok, so it’s 3am. I know that doesn’t bode well for high viewership. But it’s Saturday at 3AM, what better way to keep the party going than to see an historic performance from an all-time great? Plus, it’s a Saturday, the only thing you need to be up for is The Sports Shop at 9 am for ta couple of hours.

5PM ET ESPN (1) Oklahoma University vs Louisiana State University

After Serena’s performance and the morning show, you’ll need a nap. No problem, you’ve got time to rest and recuperate before the night’s festivities.  This shouldn’t be much of a game, but Buddy Hield (averaging nearly 26 points per game while shooting better than 50% from the floor and the three)  vs freshman sensation Ben Simmons (top 5 in the SEC in points, rebounds, and assists per game) features a matchup of two of the country’s best basketball players in college.  Both will hear their respective name announced this June in New York, so I expect something extra in the gas tank for both elite players. After their 3OT thriller vs Kansas, it’d be nice to see OU involved in another classic.
College Basketball Showdown Mandatory Credit USATSI

8:30 PM ET San Antonio Spurs vs Cleveland Cavaliers

There are about five teams in the NBA with a legitimate shot to be in the NBA Finals, and here is a matchup of two of them (Warriors, OKC, and Chicago being the others).This is the second week of the Saturday Night NBA Primetime game.  I love it; a big NBA game on Saturday nights is going to ruin any semblance of a social life I have great.

The Cavs are coming off the firing of David Blatt.  His replacement, Tyronn Lue, has vowed to speed up the offensive urgency, and to turn up the defensive intensity.  One of the main issues has been the play of Kevin Love, who has seen his numbers dip upon Kyrie Irving’s return from injury.  Their best three players (Love, Irving, and LeBron James) all just went for 20+ points for the first time this season. Is the change in coaching philosophies already having an impact? If you’re any type of sports fan, you’ve got to catch a potential NBA Finals preview. Let’s hope Gregg Popovich doesn’t get the hankering to sit one of his star players for this big game.

A rematch of a physical contest and FOY candidate? Sign me up. Mandatory Credit Mike Greenhill

9:45 PM ET Jean Pascal vs Sergey Kovalev Light heavyweight Championship Fight HBO

So the night's fighting festivities start at 9:45, but there is an undercard.  By the time the first fight is over, the Spurs vs Cavs game should be ending—and you’ll want to see every second of Kovalev and Pascal fighting.  This is the second fight for the two boxers.  The first saw Pascal give champion Kovalev the best fight Sergey has had in recent memory.  Pascal’s athleticism flummoxed the champion until Kovalev displayed his improved boxing skill that complements his insane power.  The fight was one of the best of the year, and resulted in Pascal getting knocked out in the 8th round.  Look for more fireworks out of these two as they provide a delightful end to a day full of contests.


5pm ET NHL All-Star Game NBCSN

I normally don’t watch hockey until the playoffs (my sports plate is usually too full with college and pro basketball to add another regular season sports-watching venture), but the change to a 3-on-3 tournament has made the exhibition game intriguing.  The NHL changed to the 3-on-3 format for its overtime games in the regular season; and by all accounts, the change has been a success. With the wide open ice and up-and-down pace, this All-Star game should be wildly entertaining even for those of us that aren’t ardent hockey fans.

7pm ET Pro Bowl ESPN

What’s better than one exhibition game? TWO! Ok, the Pro Bowl is kind of always a disappointment.  The League made the (correct) decision to shoehorn the Pro Bowl into the week between the Super Bowl and the Conference Championships.  No way you’ll watch all of this game, but it can whet your appetite for the best the League has to offer in a week.

Honorable Mentions:

(20) UK vs (4) KU 7pm ET ESPN

While UK is a bit down this year, this is still a top 25 matchup. Besides, when these two storied programs get together, it’s always noteworthy. There will likely be a handful of future NBA players for this game too.  If you think you can handle three straight games, I’d recommend keeping your eye out for another big Allen Fieldhouse matchup.

3AM ET Novak Djokovic vs Andy Murray ESPN Men’s Australian Open Final ESPN   

There has been a golden age of men’s tennic lately.  Whether it was the gracefulness of Roger Federer, the unparalleled athleticism of Rafael Nadal, or the well-rounded game of Djokovic, men’s tennis has been in good hands for a long time.  The three am start time is what makes the idea of watching even a game of this match untenable for me (I’m willing to wait up for Serena, I’m not for Jokovic), but there should be some high level tennis in the final match of the Melbourne tournament.  Djokovic is building his own resume as one of the best players we have ever seen. He has won 4 of the last 5 Australian Open’s, there’s little reason to think he won’t continue to dominate—especially after his drubbing of Federer in the semis.

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