Weekly Nickel 11-28-2011

Photo courtesy of raleighdurham.about.com. Can North Carolina Head Coach Roy Williams (pictured above) rally his team to a huge victory over Kentucky in Lexington Saturday?

By Josh Kramer

What a past week in sports.  Wild NFL action.  Rivalry weekend for College Football.  Big time College Basketball upsets.  A shocking out of thin air NBA Labor agreement.  And a return of the NHL’s biggest star.  It will definitely be tough for this upcoming week to top last week.

Here are the events to keep an eye on.

5.  The Return of the Mack.  Hockey’s biggest star has returned to the ice, and appears ready to pick up right where he left off.  The hockey world got a momentous gift, when Sid “the Kid” Crosby took the ice for the first time in over 11 months.  With Ovechkin’s stardom waning, the NHL has been thirsting a star for the better part of six months.  That void appears to have been filled with the “Return of the Crosby.”  Talk about the strong getting stronger.  Pittsburgh already possessed the best record in hockey.  Now they just added the best player a quarter of the way into the season.  Here is the marquee matchup of the week.

-Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs:  The best teams in the NorthEast division square off in Canada.  Boston ripped the hearts out of Canada this past June in shocking the Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals.  Can they upset the northern neighbors again (lets hope no riots ensue this time)?  The Bruins are really a great all around team that has an electric offense and a very stout defense.  In addition, they have won nine of the last ten times they have stepped out on the ice and are the hottest team in the NHL.  The Maple Leafs on the other hand have been led by their star Phil Kessel all year and possess one of the League’s elite offensive attacks.  Unfortunately, Toronto has played very mediocre as of late and are not a dominant force at home.  The edge goes to the defending champs, who are just playing outstanding hockey at this time.

4.  I am not sure how it happened.  But it happened.  The NBA has come to a tentative agreement that will result in a 66-game season beginning on Christmas Day.  I guess it really is the most wonderful time of the year.  Things did not look promising by any means.  It seems like this deal kind of came out of thin air.  I am not complaining though.  My Christmas has been saved.  Stay on the lookout as this deal comes to fruition and the final details are ironed out.

3.  I know it is only November, but college hoops are already in full swing.  We were treated to our fair share of shockers this past week including the “Miracle in Las Vegas.”  UNLV appears to be back on the map.  And though many were disappointed in the effort by the Tar Heels, I feel like the loss will only make the showdown at Rupp Arena on Saturday even better.  Which leads to our matchup of the week.

North Carolina Tar Heels at Kentucky Wildcats:

-32 Final Four appearances (between the two).  12 National Championships (between the two).  I dare you to find me two more prestigious programs going toe to toe at one of College Basketball’s most storied arenas.  This game has been circled on every College Basketball fan’s calendar since the day it was announced.  These two teams met in last year’s Elite Eight.  Since then, both teams have only gotten better, and despite UNC’s recent letdown in Vegas, these are both widely considered the two best teams in America.  I honestly would be surprised if all ten of the starters on these teams did not end up in the NBA eventually.  They are both that talented.  In addition, both John Calipari and Roy Williams are two of the best in the country at winning, and putting out NBA talent.

-John Calipari has quite the track record since his arrival in Lexington.  He has an Elite Eight and a Final Four to his name (at least for the time being).  And has an unblemished record at the friendly confines of Rupp Arena.  Now I fully believe both of these teams are going to be much better come March than the teams that we see take the floor on Saturday.  But at this point, I give the edge to UNC.  Yes, I realize that the Tar Heels were exposed on Saturday night in Vegas.  But off nights happen.  And had the Tar Heels won that game and came into the “Super Game” undefeated, my edge would have went to the Wildcats.  I expect to see an extremely determined North Carolina team come out and play an outstanding 40 minutes of basketball, shocking Wildcat nation.  No team will go undefeated this season.  No team has gone undefeated from start to finish since 1976 for a reason.  At least one Bobby Knight record will stay in tact another year.

2.  Thanksgiving Day football has come and gone.  And though it was a great time for NFL football, there is still plenty of great action ahead.  We saw just how scary the Baltimore Ravens defense can be when they want to be.  Also, we had the pleasure of seeing Green Bay dismantle another overmatched opponent.  And during the Packer Massacre, we got to see a “Suh Stomping.”  Week 12 is nearly in the books, but Week 13 is right around the corner.

-Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (AFC North showdown)

-Atlanta at Houston (Two potential playoff teams)

-Green Bay at New York Giants (Can New York ruin the Packers perfect season like they did to New England in 2008?)

-Detroit at New Orleans (Offense versus defense)

All of the picks for Week 13 will be included in the weekly “TheSportsKraze Pick’em Challenge” on Friday)

1.  The BCS breathed a major sigh of relief Friday evening.  LSU came out extremely sluggish against the Razorbacks on Friday afternoon, quickly going down 14 to 0.  Eventually though, the Tigers weathered the storm and blew Arkansas out of Baton Rouge.  It appears inevitable that an SEC rematch of the “Game of the Century” will occur for the National Championship on January 9th.  And would that be such a bad thing really?  The real question now seems to be who will take home the Heisman Trophy?

Here are the marquee matchups to keep an eye on.

-Texas at Baylor (Big 12 top 25 showdown)

-Georgia vs LSU (SEC Championship Game)

-Oklahoma at Oklahoma State (Battle for the state of Oklahoma and possibly more)

-Virginia Tech vs Clemson (ACC Championship Game for Orange Bowl invite)

-Wisconsin vs Michigan State (Big Ten Championship Game for Rose Bowl invite)

(All picks for the big games will be released in my weekly College Football picks)

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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