THE HAWKEYE

A Look Back at the Best Championships of 2017


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As we ride on into the wintery months 2017 is nearing its end. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and before you know it houses will be decorated from head to toe in lights. With the end of 2017 inching closer and closer, it is important to take a look back at what was a crazy year for sports.

The first big game of the year was the College Football Championship. Taking place on January 9th, the rematch between powerhouse Alabama and a Deshaun Watson led Clemson team was a good one. Bama’ came out strong and midway through the second quarter took a commanding 14-0 lead.

However, the Tigers came clawing back and made the score 14-7 going into the half. After the third quarter, with the score at 24-14 it looked as if Alabama was going to repeat as national champions, but once again, the Tigers came clawing back. A passing touchdown to Mike Williams at the beginning of the fourth quarter made it 21-24, then a rushing touchdown by Wayne Gallman gave Clemson a 28-24 lead with about 5 minutes remaining in the game.

Alabama was not going to let the game end like that, as Alabama’s quarterback, Jalen Hurtz ran for a 30 yard touchdown to take back the lead. With just over 2 minutes left in the game it looked as if Alabama had bested Clemson once again. It looked like another great performance from Clemson that just wasn’t enough to beat Alabama. It looked like the newspapers on January 10th would read “Alabama tops Clemson 31-28 and wins back to back championships.” At least, it looked like that.

Deshaun Watson, who set a record for most passing yards in a championship game with 420 was not going to let the Crimson Tide best him again. He drove down the field in the final two minutes to set up a first and goal from the 2 yard line. With 5 seconds left on the game clock, Watson took the snap, rolled out to his right and found wide receiver Hunter Renfrow in the corner of the end zone for the game winning touchdown.

 

 

Next comes February 5th and Super Bowl 51. Through 3 quarters this game looked like it was going to be one of the worst blowouts in Super Bowl history. It finally looked like Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would be defeated by someone not named Eli Manning.

The Atlanta Falcons took a 21-3 lead into halftime, then came out and scored another touchdown to start the 3rd quarter and give themselves a commanding 28-3 lead. Then disaster struck. The Falcons offense shut down completely, their defense that held the Patriots to just a field goal in the first half stopped trying, and Tom Brady remembered that he is the greatest quarterback on the face of the Earth.

The Patriots scored 25 unanswered points and tied the game with less 2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and forced the game into overtime. The Patriots then won the coin toss and elected to put the football into the hands of Tom Brady.

Once this happened, the game, for all intents and purposes was over. Brady marched the ball down the field, picking apart the Falcons defense player by player and led the Patriots to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history.

The Falcons had the chance to possibly end the dynasty that is Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Instead, they crapped the bed and wound up on the wrong side of a comeback for the ages.

After the Super Bowl, there is an awkward dead time in sports. There is no more football, no baseball, the NBA is in its midseason boring to watch mode, and the next big thing, March Madness, is still a month away. However, that month-long wait is well worth it as March Madness promises some of the most compelling basketball of the year, and 2017 was no exception.

2017 didn’t have a Cinderella team like in years past. There wasn’t a #15 seed that somehow managed to muscle their way into the sweet 16 with a creative play style that drove top seeds crazy, but #7 seed South Carolina picked up some of the slack.

They started off the tourney by thumping #10 seed Marquette 93-73 and then made almost every basketball fan in America happy by upsetting #2 seed Duke in the second round. Two victories later South Carolina found themselves in the final four ready to battle it out with #1 seed Gonzaga for a spot in the championship game.

After a fairly back and forth first half, Gonzaga took a 45-36 lead into halftime but in the second half, South Carolina came creeping back. Despite the Gamecocks efforts the Gonzaga team that finished 32-1 on the regular season came out on top, winning by a final score of 77-73. On the other side of the bracket #1 seed, North Carolina did what they do best… win games.

After obliterating #16 seed Texas Southern 103-64 in the first round the rest of the Tar Heels games were fairly close, including a narrow one-point victory in the final four against Oregon to advance to the national championship.

Then for the first time in what seems like forever two #1 seeds went head to head for the right to call themselves the best college basketball team in America. Unfortunately for the bulldogs, a strong performance by their point guard Nigel Williams-Goss and 7-foot center Zach Collins wasn’t enough to beat North Carolina. The Tar Heels won the game by a final score of 71-65 and claimed redemption after losing the championship just a year ago on a buzzer beater to Villanova.

Next up we have the NBA Finals. While the third straight meeting between the Warriors and Cavs wasn’t the most exciting series it makes the list of top 2017 championships for one reason: the Warriors sheer dominance of the NBA.

After a record-setting 2015-2016 regular season in which they went 73-9 the sharpshooting Warriors led by Steph Curry looked unbeatable. They even came back from a 3-1 deficit in the playoffs and beat the OKC Thunder to make the finals. Golden State then went head to head with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the second year in a row. Led by arguably the best basketball player ever, the Cavs and LeBron James were looking to make up for the year before in which they were bested by the Warriors in a 6 game series.

Revenge for the Cavs looked all but impossible after Golden State took a 3-1 lead in the series. As if the 3-1 lead was cursed, the Cavaliers came storming back, won 3 straight games and brought the city of Cleveland its first basketball championship ever.

Now comes the offseason. Even though they set the record for the best regular season in NBA history the only thing people remember from the Warriors 2015-2016 season is that they blew a 3-1 lead. Well someone in the Warriors front office must have been fed up with the jokes because as if they weren’t already good enough Golden State went ahead and signed Kevin Durant. Before the 2016-2017 season even started it was over for any team not named the Golden State Warriors. After a league-best 67-15 season it was clear that this year Golden State would not be stopped. Through three rounds of the playoffs, the Warriors record remained unblemished and they went into the finals with a record of 12-0.

With the addition of Kevin Durant to their roster, Golden State took quick care of the Cavs and led 3-1 going into game 5. This year would be different though. The Warriors weren’t going to blow a 3-1 series lead again. They beat James and the Cavs in game 5 and the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors proved to everyone in the world that assembling a super team does win championships.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Look Back at the Best Championships of 2017