The Thunder Ridge girls will win their first 5A state title in program history

The Titans’ girls basketball team has done nearly everything right to kick off the 2020 season. Thunder Ridge enters the new year with a 11-1 record. The Titans only loss came Dec. 9 to Rigby, an uncharacteristically low-scoring affair, and they’ve won four straight. They have the scoring (Lauren Davenport), the rebounding (Paige Clark) and the distributing (Aspen Caldwell), which will turn into the third-year program’s first state title in March.

-Greg Woods

The high school baseball season will be even more unpredictable

After a dazzling season in 2019, high school baseball barely got started in 2020 before the season was shut down due to COVID-19. It was a lost year for seniors, which means a bunch of new players who may not have even been on varsity rosters in 2019 will be front and center this spring. Some may have played with American Legion teams during the summer, but it’s yet to be determined how much of an impact a lost season will have on players.

-Allan Steele

Skyline football will finally come down to earth

The only damper on Skyline’s 2020 4A state title was that they were always going to have trouble repeating in 2021. The Grizzlies that engineered the run — Cade Marlow, Connor Maloney and Eli Ames on offense, Karsen Jensen, Brixton Gilbert and Adrian Alvarez on defense — are mostly seniors. The team does return some interesting pieces for next fall, namely wideouts Kenyon Sadiq and Abrahn Silverio, but the program will struggle to replicate that success without the players that made it possible.

-Greg Woods

College recruiting will continue to be chaotic

The recruiting process has already taken a hit in 2020 with most on-campus visits canceled and coaches having to sort through video and use Zoom meetings to get to know players. With NCAA Division I college players granted another year of eligibility, it will be challenging for recruits to find the right place to earn a roster spot and equally challenging for coaches to sort through the pieces to assemble a team with essentially fifth-year seniors and incoming freshmen competing for playing time. Look for more players opting to go to smaller or lower-level programs. This might result in a boon for community college athletics.

-Allan Steele

Bonneville girls soccer will finally get over the hump

Over the last two years, the story of Bonneville’s girls soccer team has been one of steady improvement. When head coach Amy Feik took over the reins in 2016, she inherited a lowly situation, but the team has increased its win total in each of her five years thus far. The Bees haven’t won a state title in Feik’s tenure, but expect them to make the 4A state tournament in 2021.

-Greg Woods

Rigby football rebounds for another run at a 5A title

The Trojans ended their season with a disappointing performance in the championship game, but return enough talent to again be a force in 5A. The bar has been set high because coach Armando Gonzalez has established a solid program, not just a good one- or two-year team. Plus the return of quarterback Tiger Adolpho is a good start.

-Allan Steele

Mattie Olson will enter her senior season as a D-1 signee

There may be no better junior prospect in Eastern Idaho — maybe not in the state — than Skyline’s Mattie Olson. This season, she has dropped scoring outings of 41, 34, 29 and 20, making her a devastating scorer. If she continues at this clip, she’ll enter her senior campaign with a Division-I scholarship in place, paving the way for Olson to wreak havoc at the high school level for one more season.

-Greg Woods

There will be fans in the stands.

This prediction is not really a reach. At some time in 2021, people will be able to attend games. Maybe it won’t happen next week, but it might be soon with fans attending the always entertaining state basketball championships in Nampa in a few months. It might not be until spring, or maybe the summer when the Chukars get their season underway. Either way, it will happen and sports will be better for it.

-Allan Steele

A good rivalry continues in cross country.

Bonneville runner Alivia Johnson and Skyline’s Nelah Roberts battled during the season and capped it with a stellar 4A state championship race. Roberts, a freshman, won the state title after pulling away. Johnson, a sophomore, finished third. The two will no doubt be shoulder to shoulder when the season starts this spring.

-Allan Steele

A new chapter in Chukars’ history.

The team’s 81st year will look different as the Chukars become part of MLB’s new Partner League. What that looks like on the field is yet to be determined. The level of play might be inconsistent as the organization is responsible for paying for players, but the prediction here is that it’s still hard to beat a summer night at the local ballpark.

-Allan Steele

NATIONAL SPORTS PREDICTIONS

The Los Angeles Lakers will repeat as NBA champions, earning LeBron James his fifth ring and solidifying his case as the GOAT.

At the time of writing, the NBA season is about four games old, but LeBron and the Lakers don’t just look like they’re back — they look like they got better. Over the short offseason, they replaced ho-hum pieces with oh-wow upgrades, giving James what looks like his best team ever. When he wins his fifth championship in July, he will become the greatest ever. Arguing otherwise will be an exercise in futility.

-Greg Woods (endorsed by Allan Steele)

More celebrating for Dodger fans

The Padres made the big moves in the offseason but LA is still the team to beat, not only in the NL West, but in the Major Leagues. After winning their first World Series in three decades, the stage is set for a Dodger repeat.

-Allan Steele

Now the “What are they thinking?” predictions

The Kansas City Chiefs won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions.

Look, we know the deal with the Chiefs. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a unicorn, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce make everyone more dangerous and together they form a kind of spaceship offense that the league has never seen before. They have been inconsistent over the last month, though, and they have showed something like an inability to put teams away late. That’s why they won’t repeat as champions this season. Anyway, I was asked to make an outrageous prediction that I didn’t actually believe, so this is my entry.

-Greg Woods

Quack, quack!

The Gonzaga men’s basketball team won’t get past the second game of the NCAA tournament. Blue bloods Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not be factors at the end of the season. The team to beat? Oregon. That’s right; the other team in the west raises the banner and the Pac-12 is back.

-Allan Steele