2016 was a rollercoaster. Leicester City somehow managed to close out the Premier League, the Cavs won The Finals (ESPN made it out to seem great at least) and of course, the Cubs won the World Series. Looking forward, it’s always hard to know what will happen in sports but here are 5 things we expect to happen in Chicago/B1G this year.
- John Fox will remain coach of the Chicago Bears: This story has two sides, and surprisingly, I think a lot of Chicagoans will take the side that gives Fox the benefit of the doubt. This season was the first time Fox didn’t improve in his 2nd year as a head coach, and for some, that’s a big red flag in regards to Fox and his potential with his franchise. For many others, they realize that our IR was more talented than our starting lineup. The fact of the matter is, John Fox has proven that he can both succeed and earn the respect of players when given an adequate team to work with. If the Chicago Bears can stay healthy in the future, John Fox should be able to make progress in 2017.
- The Cubs win fewer games than they did in 2016: If you hate me for saying this, it’s ok; I hate myself for saying this. That being said, 103 games is such a high bar to set, and if not for one of the best starts in MLB history, the 2016 Cubs wouldn’t have reached it. With some lineup changes coming and younger guys taking over full-time roles, talent shouldn’t be hard to come by for the North Siders. However, don’t expect a start like last year and that’s alright. The growth will come throughout the season as chemistry builds and players adjust to everyday roles. With the talent and depth they’ll have in 2017, the goal won’t be any different for the Cubs.
- Rick Renteria makes Rick Hahn look like a smart dude: You have a developing team with talented prospects on the horizon and here’s your new manager’s resume: Former MLB player, 15+years of pro baseball coaching experience, bi-lingual, improved team’s record by 7 games in 1 year of managing, lead two future Cy Young candidates to fantastic seasons. Maybe Rick Renteria got lucky with Hendricks and Arrieta having great seasons, but for Cubs fans, Rick Renteria’s year as manager was one of visual and statistical growth for the Cubs. His bullpen management was a clear improvement for the Cubs, the team’s dynamic was visibly more optimistic on a day-to-day basis, and of course, they won seven more games with all kinds of lineup and player changes going on. Thanks to Joe Maddon, the White Sox were able to bring Renteria to their side of town. His easy-going personality and ability to communicate will foster a great environment for some of the new White Sox prospects to grow and develop in 2017.
- Northwestern makes the tournament: It’s not biased if Joe Lunardi agrees. In all seriousness, this will be an interesting year for both the Wildcats and other B1G teams. While the B1G admittedly doesn’t appear great this season, the conference runs pretty deep and lower teams are playing competitively. It will be interesting to see if Northwestern is able to gain more wins against good teams, or lose more games to lower teams that can compete. Luckily, their nonconference showing could get them into March with a .500 conference record or better. Knowing how close they are, Chris Collins and his team have the resilience and talent to pull through.
- Fred Hoiberg gets the boot: I know, firing Hoiberg won’t be cheap and it’s not a sunk cost either because they’ll also have to pay a new coach if they do. The fact of the matter though, is that Hoiberg doesn’t have that much time to get things going. Doug McDermott’s window of development is closing and Dwyane Wade will start to show age sooner than later. The Bulls need to have a win now mindset. Surely Gar Forman knew that when he signed Dwyane Wade, and there may be some pressure on him to make more changes, as his job could be on the line if the Bulls don’t turn it around by next season. Given the poor history of college coach’s leaping to the NBA, Hoiberg didn’t have any Brad Stevens-like accomplishments for us to believe he’d be an exception. The risk didn’t pay off. Inconsistency, and now issues with veteran guard Rajon Rondo could dig Hoiberg’s status in a deeper hole moving forward.