There is no doubt that this weekend is the one weekend of the year when sports fans spend a lot of time thinking about the future.
At least, they spend time wishing it was next weekend so that they can commence Super Bowl festivities.
Unless you’re one of the few that celebrate the Pro Bowl.
Well, there’s another reason to look forward to next week. Four of our five girls basketball conference battles will come to a conclusion, and three of those battles have local teams vying for a title.
Let’s take a closer look.
Big Northern West
What can be better than the two top teams, tied for the conference lead, playing each other in the last week of the season?
That’s what the BNC West provides this week. Oregon and Byron are both 8-1 and both play two games this week.
Oregon owns a 53-39 win over Byron on Jan. 4, but soon after that, the Hawks lost to Lutheran.
The Tigers and Hawks meet Tuesday in Byron, with the winner taking the driver’s seat for the title. After that, Byron plays at Mendota on Friday, and the Hawks host Winnebago on Saturday.
Better yet, there’s a good chance they’ll meet again in a regional final a week later.
My prediction: The second Oregon-Byron matchup will be closer, but I think the result is the same. The Hawks are my BNC West champs.
In the Three Rivers, Prophetstown and Riverdale are tied at 10-1. The Prophets play twice this week – at Fulton on Tuesday and against Erie on Thursday.
Riverdale hosts Newman on Tuesday and Fulton on Thursday.
Last year, the Prophets suffered a late loss to Erie that dropped them into a tie with the Rams.
This year, it has been Fulton, of late, knocking off teams. The Newman-Riverdale game could be a regional title preview for the following week.
My prediction: I think both frontrunners will be tested. Prophetstown and Erie always play spirited games, and I think Newman will want to prove something against Riverdale. Ultimately, I think both teams win out and tie, once again, for the Three Rivers crown.
Eastland, which has been playing without star Lexis Macomber because of a stress fracture in her foot, picked up a big win Wednesday over division-leading Stockton.
The Cougars still trail the Blackhawks by a game. Eastland has a home game against West Carroll on Saturday, and then it plays East Dubuque (Tuesday) and Galena (Thursday) on the road. East Dubuque (12-6) is the toughest game on that slate and won the first matchup, 64-53 in Lanark on Jan. 15.
Stockton has a pair of home games against Galena (Saturday) and River Ridge-Scales Mound (Thursday) sandwiched around a road game against winless Warren (Tuesday).
My prediction: I think Eastland navigates the last three games unscathed, but Stockton has a very tough matchup with RR-SM. My thought is that these two teams end up tied for the NUIC West crown.