Every major 2018 sports championship predicted

As we approach a new year, it's always fun to look ahead for what 2018 could hold in store for us, but to also appreciate everything that 2017 gave us.

While this past year was full of highs and lows concerning social issues in sports, the games themselves also gave us moments we'll always remember.

Who would have thought that Geno Auriemma and UConn would lose on a buzzer beater to Mississippi State?

Did anyone predict that the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers would turn the World Series into a home run derby?

And after the season long hype of Warriors/Cavaliers Part III, didn't we all feel a little cheated that the NBA Finals only lasted five games?

Who knows what 2018 has in store for us, but here are a few predictions for what I think we could be getting ready to witness in the coming months.

RELATED: The biggest sports upsets of 2017

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The biggest sports upsets of 2017

10. Jacksonville Jaguars over Pittsburgh Steelers, Week 5 (NFL)

Maybe this 30-9 result isn’t all that shocking in retrospect, with Jacksonville’s defense emerging as an all-time unit this season. But we still weren’t sure the Jaguars were for real in Week 5, when they were just 2-2 and coming off a loss against the Jets. And the Steelers were rightly pegged as top-tier AFC contenders and eight-point favorites in this matchup.

Also, this is a game where Blake Bortles passed for only 95 yards with an interception -- and the Jags still managed to crush Pittsburgh by three touchdowns on the road. Perhaps Steelers coach Mike Tomlin should’ve given let Le’Veon Bell carry the ball more than 15 times instead of letting Ben Roethlisberger hurl 55 passes and five interceptions against Jacksonville’s vicious secondary.

Photo by Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

9. Wisconsin over Villanova, second round of NCAA tournament (college basketball)

Villanova was the defending national champion and the No. 1 overall seed of the 2017 NCAA Tournament heading into their second-round matchup against No. 8-seeded Wisconsin. But the Badgers ended the game on a 15-5 run to stun the Wildcats in a 65-62 triumph that let Wisconsin advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the fourth straight year. However, their magic ran out there in a thrilling 84-83 loss to No. 4 seed Florida.

Photo by Jerome Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

8. Kansas City Chiefs over New England Patriots, Week 1 (NFL)

It wasn’t so much that the Patriots lost to start off the season, but how they lost (though New England losing as nine-point favorites at home is pretty shocking in itself).

Alex Smith came out of the gates looking like a whole new quarterback, dropping dimes in a shell-shocked Patriots secondary. Kareem Hunt, a third-round draft pick out of Toledo playing in his first NFL game, ran all over New England and racked up 246 yards with three touchdowns. And seven months after Tom Brady orchestrated the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, it was the Chiefs who outscored the Patriots 21-0 in the fourth quarter on New England’s home turf.

With the Chiefs currently occupying the No. 4 seed in the AFC and the Patriots looking likely to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, we could very well see a rematch of this game in the divisional round of the playoffs. And yet even though we’ve seen this matchup fall in Kansas City’s favor once this season, it would still feel like a stretch to say it could happen in quite this extreme of a manner again. 

Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

7. Boston Celtics over Cleveland Cavaliers, Game 3 of Eastern Conference Finals (NBA)

The Cavaliers beat the Celtics in five games to advance to the NBA Finals, but Boston’s lone victory was a historic one. With star point guard Isaiah Thomas out with a hip injury and the Cavs fresh off two victories in Boston with average margins of 28.5 points, Cleveland was favored to beat the Celts by 17 points at home in Game 3. Instead, Boston roared back from a 21-point deficit to win 111-108 and capture the biggest single-game upset in NBA playoff history.

There weren’t too many other consequential upsets in the NBA this year as the league continued to be extremely top-heavy, but at least we were treated to an all-time underdog triumph on this night.

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

6. Wofford over North Carolina, Dec. 20 (college basketball)

The mighty Terriers hailing from Spartanburg, South Carolina entered their clash against the vaunted No. 5-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels with an 0-25 record against AP Top 25 teams in school history, according to ESPN. That changed with a stunning 79-75 victory that Wofford actually led for most of the game -- on the road in the hallowed Dean Smith Center, no less.

This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Wofford’s players, and the team celebrated accordingly after the game in UNC’s visitor’s locker room.

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

5. New York Yankees over Cleveland Indians, American League Divisional Series (MLB)

The Yankees, underdogs? You bet. The Indians finished with the American League’s best record (102-60), boasted three of the top 7 vote-getters for the AL MVP award and reeled off the second-longest winning streak in MLB history at 22 games. And that last feat is seen by many as more impressive than the New York Giants’ 26-game streak in 1916, when the talent was far more diluted in a completely different era.

So yes, it was shocking when New York dug out of a 2-0 hole to win its best-of-5 divisional series against Cleveland, who have blown two-game leads in consecutive postseasons. You have to figure AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber will come back with a vengeance in 2018 after turning in two stinkers in this series -- but if these two teams meet again in next year’s playoffs, the Yankees will have likely reclaimed their long-held status as hated favorites.

Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

4. Liberty over Baylor, Week 1 (college football)

Baylor coach Matt Rhule figured to get an easy win in his coaching debut with the Bears against Liberty, an FCS school from Virginia that’d gone 6-5 in 2016 and would again in 2017. Baylor’s only previous loss to a lower-level team had happened in 1981 versus Lamar.

But the Flames scored 31 points in the second half and piled up 585 yards of total offense to stun the Bears 48-45 in Waco, Texas. Crazily enough, Liberty athletic director Ian McCaw had resigned from the same position at Baylor in May 2016 as a result of the stunning sexual assault scandal uncovered at the school.

Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

3. South Carolina over Duke, second round of NCAA tournament (college basketball)

South Carolina was the surprise Final Four participant this year in March Madness. The team’s out-of-nowhere run caught fire just 90 minutes away from their campus in Greenville, S.C. with an 88-81 victory over college basketball’s most recognizable program.

The Gamecocks scored an eye-popping 65 points against Duke in the second half to qualify for the first Sweet Sixteen in school history – and coach Frank Martin’s men achieved a couple more firsts for their program before valiantly falling to Gonzaga in the Final Four.

Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

2. Howard over University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Week 1 (college football)

It’s sort of fitting that the biggest point-spread upset in college football history occurred in Las Vegas. The Howard Bison -- led by Caylin Newton, NFL quarterback Cam Newton’s younger brother -- accomplished the feat on Sept. 3 by upending UNLV 43-40.

The game was coincidentally 10 years to the day after Appalachian State knocked off Michigan in perhaps the sport’s most famous upset. The previous record for a point-spread upset was Stanford beating USC 24-23 as a 39-point underdog in 2007.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

1. Trinidad & Tobago over United States, CONCACAF World Cup qualifying (soccer)

Though the United States hasn’t ever been much of a soccer country, its team almost always managed to not lose against tiny island nation Trinidad & Tobago. The U.S. had only lost to T&T in three of their 25 previous matches leading up to Oct. 10, and won 18 of them. They even had a famous victory against the Caribbean side in the past, clinching a spot in the 1990 World Cup with a 1-0 road victory over T&T to qualify for the tournament for the first time in 40 years.

But their 2-1 defeat to the same country will be remembered much more by U.S. soccer fans after it prevented America from playing in the 2018 World Cup, snapping a run of seven consecutive appearances that all started with beating out Trinidad & Tobago in North American qualifying nearly 30 years ago. The Soca Warriors exacted some revenge on the Stars and Stripes this year despite gaining nothing but pride from the win themselves, dealing the USMNT its most embarrassing defeat in team history.

Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images
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January 8, College Football Playoff National Championship

While I believe that Clemson is the most complete team in the country, Dabo Sweeney's bunch isn't going to beat Alabama two years in a row. Nick Saban isn't letting that happen. Revenge is a great motivator.

In the other semifinal, Oklahoma will be too much for the Bulldogs because "UGA gon' UGA." Look for the Oklahoma offense to score big early, putting Georgia in a hole from which they won't be able to climb out.

In the championship game, look for Baker Mayfield to shine. Nick Saban doesn't do well against mobile quarterbacks with big arms. Just ask Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. Oklahoma didn't make it this far because of their defense, so you can score on them. However, the question is, can you score with them?

Oklahoma averages 44.9 points per game, and I don't see Alabama keeping up with them in a shootout.

Sooners win, and Mayfield plants the OU flag in the middle of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

February 4, Super Bowl LLI

After the Carson Wentz injury in Philadelphia, NFL fans have been wondering who would step up as the best contender to come out of the NFC, as the Eagles don't look as threatening without their start quarterback.

Well, what if a little history takes place and the Minnesota Vikings emerge to represent the NFC in Super Bowl 52, becoming the first team to ever have home-field advantage in the Big Game.

But, I don't think the home crowd will be enough to knock off the New England Patriots. The addition of James Harrison will help the Patriots knock off the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game, and then Tom Brady will take over late to secure his sixth, and final Super Bowl ring.

Besides, there's something about a team winning a Super Bowl on their home field that just doesn't seem fair.

April 1, Women's NCAA National Championship Game

UConn, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Mississippi State will be the four teams that make it to Columbus, Ohio at the end of March. One side of the bracket will see UConn and Notre Dame faceoff in another chapter of their rivalry, as the Huskies will come away victorious. While Mississippi State will get some revenge on South Carolina, after falling to them in last year's national title game.

In the championship game, it'll be over before it even begins. Mississippi State ended UConn's 111-game winning streak in last year's national semifinal, and the Huskies will get their revenge in a blowout victory that will be the program's 12th national title.

April 2, Men's NCAA National Championship Game

Duke, Florida, Michigan State and Villanova should get their hotel reservations set, because they're my picks to make it to San Antonio this year for the Final Four.

The first semifinal will pit the Gators against the Wildcats in a shootout that will set records for the most 3-pointers made in a Final Four game. But in the end, Villanova's experience will be too much for Florida.

The second semifinal will be a rematch of the Champions Classic between Duke and Michigan State. Look for the Blue Devils to come away victorious in this one, as they'll have Marvin Bagley healthy this time around, after winning without him back in November. The loss will be another tough pill for Tom Izzo to swallow, as his record against Coach K will be an embarrassing 1-12.

Monday night's final will be a clash of youth and experience. The bulk of Villanova's starters and major reserves are made up of upperclassmen, as they'll face a Duke team that only has one senior on the roster (Grayson Allen) and starts four freshmen.

All season long, the Wildcats were the most polished and consistent team in the country. However, after learning how to win and play defense, the potential that Duke showed glimpses of early in the season all comes together, as the Blue Devils are just too talented for Nova to contain.

Coach K will return from his 13th Final Four trip with asixth ring on his finger.

NBA Finals

Let's stop kidding ourselves, because we all know that the Golden State Warriors will be back in the NBA Finals. However, it won't be as it's been in previous years. Teams like the Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs will push the Warriors like never before, as every team they face in the West will push them to at least six games.

In the East, we're going to get the Eastern Conference Finals we've all been waiting for in a rematch between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Make no mistake, this is going to be Kyrie Irving versus LeBron James in a seven-game series. However, the Cavs will be too old and too tired to keep up with the young legs of the Celtics, and we'll see LeBron's streak of seven consecutive NBA Finals appearances come to an end.

The Celtics and the Warriors will give us an entertaining series, but it won't last long. Look for the Warriors to win in five games. However, that doesn't mean that each game won't come down to the final possessions.

While the Celtics will lose in the Finals, it will be an invaluable experience for a young team that will wind up being the champions in 2019.

WNBA Finals

In 2016, the Los Angeles Sparks survived to defeat the Minnesota Lynx in an epic five-game series in the WNBA Finals.

In 2017, the Minnesota Lynx survived to defeat the Los Angeles Sparks in an epic five-game series in the WNBA Finals.

In 2018, it's going to be the same two teams, doing the same two things.

Winner?

The Sparks.

There's no way you can convince me that Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike are going to lose in back-to-back years. For the last two years, the Sparks and the Lynx have been the WNBA's version of the Cavs and Warriors. They've given us two historic championship series in a row, and I don't expect a change anytime soon.

World Series

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest baseball scholar.

However, I am smart enough to know that the Yankees' batting order is loaded, and any lineup that includes Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Giancarlo Stanton is completely insane.

I understand that the Yankees need to tighten up their starting rotation, as well as strengthen their bullpen. But last year's World Series between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers proved that the homer is king.

Who will the Yankees be facing in the Fall Classic?

The Chicago Cubs.

Expect this thing to be over in five games, if that. The Yankees went out and bought the most powerful lineup that money could buy, and it's going to pay off.

And there you have it: 2018 the year in preview.

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