Question of the Week: What sports event are you most looking forward to in 2014?

Quinn Daly

The World Cup this summer is sure to be jam-packed with action as Rio De Janeiro, Brazil hosts the 32 teams that qualified. After Neymar and Hulk led Brazil to the 2013 Confederations Cup championship and gold medal this past summer, the stakes will be a lot higher in 2014. Brazil has poured nearly $3.5 billion into preparations for the World Cup, but estimates from Bloomberg and the fact that only six out of 12 stadiums have been completed mean that $10 billion more will have to be dumped into the project if it is to be completed on time.

The final four teams from the Confederation Cup tournament were Brazil, Italy, Uruguay and the perennial powerhouse, Spain. What interests me most about this World Cup is that I believe all of these four teams will likely not be the finalists. I can see Brazil riding the home crowd to the semifinals, and Spain will surely make it out of their group stages, but I have my doubts about Uruguay and Italy. For starters, 21-year old phenom Stephan El Shaarawy underwent foot surgery and has been sidelined for the past two months. The Italians rely on the deadly one-two punch of the aggressive Mario Balotelli and El Shaarawy, and many of their other opportunities are created by the ageless Andrea Pirlo. Without El Shaarawy, I doubt the Italians can generate enough offense to advance to the semifinals. Similarly, I have my doubts about the Uruguayan national team’s ability to make it out of their group stage. Italy and England are my two picks to make it out of Group D, a competitive group, but by no means equal to the “Group of Death” the United States has been placed in. The United States will compete against Germany, Ghana and Portugal for two spots, and while recent successes point towards the United States’ steady improvement internationally, this group is just too difficult to move on through.

Kevin Mahoney

Even though it is difficult to choose against the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup, for the obvious reason that it only happens once every four years, I am more excited for the NBA Finals, pending an Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat matchup. The main reason for this also seems obvious: a matchup between LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The NBA has not witnessed two players so great and so evenly matched since Magic and Bird. With all the incredible talent currently in the NBA, LeBron and Durant have managed to separate themselves from the pack into a stratosphere all to their own. It’s almost certain that Durant will win his first MVP this year, ending LeBron’s run of two in row. However, I know that Durant is not satisfied with this individual accolade. More importantly, he’s looking to end LeBron’s streak of back-to-back championships and seems more determined than ever to do so. At this point, Miami, pending any serious injuries or a catastrophic collapse, is a lock to come out of the East with Indiana playing so poorly.

For the Thunder and Durant, it will be a more difficult feat, but one I think they can accomplish, which would set up a rematch of the 2012 Finals. However, if the Heat and Thunder meet again in the Finals, it will be a completely different fight, one that is far more compelling and evenly matched. Not only hasDurant elevated his game to become No. 1 and No. 2 with LeBron, both Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka have earned precious playoff experience and become consistent players, setting up for what would be an epic series. Even though the World Cup is hard to top, a match up between LeBron and Durant would do it for me. If these two superstars end up meeting in the NBA Finals, I think we could be in an even better Finals than last year, and we all remember how exciting that was.

David Josselsohn

I am most looking forward to seeing the NHL playoffs play out over the next month. The talent and storylines in this year’s playoffs are endless, and the Stanley Cup really seems to be up for grabs this year. The East is led by the bruising Boston Bruins, backed by Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla and star goaltender Tuukka Rask. Boston has all the tools: offensive firepower, a tough defense and an impressive goalie, but as we’ve learned, nothing is a given in the NHL Playoffs. The Rangers, led by Rick Nash, Martin St. Louis and Henrik Lundqvist are immensely talented and could prove to be a tough test for Boston should they meet. And obviously, don’t forget about the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite faltering towards the end of the season, this is still a team led by stars Sidney Crosby, James Neal and Evgeni Malkin.

 The West, though, is where the excitement really begins. I could see any of the six top teams in the West progressing on to the finals, which is what makes these playoffs so interesting. The Avalanche are youthful, fast and have Vezina Trophy candidate Semyon Varlamov. The Ducks were the best team in hockey most of the year, so they cannot be counted out. Teams like the Blackhawks, Kings and Sharks are talented and have been in the playoffs plenty of time, so we will see if their experience pays dividends. Finally, the Blues’ acquisition of Ryan Miller makes them very dangerous to play against, especially now that they are finally healthy. The NHL playoffs have already begun and have been incredibly entertaining so far. My pick is the Bruins to beat the Ducks in six games, but just like past NHL Playoffs, nothing can be taken for granted.