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The 15: 2017 Sports Highlights

January 16, 2017
2016 was full of highs and lows for Baltimore sports fans. There was the Ravens’ Christmas Day agony in Pittsburgh, the Maryland men’s lacrosse team’s heartbreaking loss to North Carolina in the NCAA championship game, Orioles closer Zach Britton still waiting in the bullpen in Toronto and much more. 

So, yeah, 2016 was full of lows for Baltimore sports fans. What does 2017 have in store? For The 15 this month, we take a look at Baltimore sports highlights on tap for 2017. 
 
1. Jan. 20: John Carroll at Mount St. Joseph boys’ basketball
You don’t have a ton of time to prepare for this one. This will be the second meeting between the Patriots and Gaels in the span of five days. Not only are both teams among the top ranked in the area, they feature some of the most captivating players the area has to offer. Mount St. Joe senior guard Darryl Morsell is headed to Maryland next season, and the Terps are one of many teams high on his junior teammate, forward Jalen Smith, a top 30-ranked prospect. John Carroll junior guard Immanuel Quickley is a top 15-ranked prospect who already has an offer from Maryland ... and from Kentucky and Kansas and UConn and UCLA ... you get it. 

2. Feb. 25: North Carolina at Maryland women’s lacrosse
These teams have squared off in three of the last four national championship games (Maryland beat Syracuse in 2014), including last year’s surprise 13-7 loss for the Terrapins. The Tar Heels and Terps are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the Inside Lacrosse preseason poll.

3. March 8-12: Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament at Verizon Center
Maryland spent 61 years playing in the ACC. During that time, the ACC Tournament was held in the area exactly four times. Maryland is now in its third season in the Big Ten, and it already gets the chance to "host" the event this year in Washington, D.C. Of course, the last time Maryland played in a conference tournament at Verizon Center (2005) the Terps lost their first game, so here’s to slightly better results this time around. 

4. March 17 & 18: Mustang Classic at Stevenson University
This is always one of the more underrated events on the local sports calendar, but it is no less outstanding. The Mustangs host eight Division III lacrosse powers (five of which are ranked in the Inside Lacrosse preseason top 20) for back-to-back quadruple-headers at Mustang Stadium. Stevenson faces Lynchburg and York in this year’s nightcaps. 

5. April 3: Opening Day, Blue Jays at Orioles
I would tell you to start thinking up excuses for why you need the day off work, but no one ever does that anymore, right? You just tell the truth, right? Could you even imagine saying, "Yeah, you see me wearing Orioles ties at least once a week, and I take the company tickets no fewer than 15 times a year, but no, I totally just have a cough and deleted you as a friend on Facebook by accident."
The only disappointing part about the Blue Jays coming to town is it looks like outfielder Jose Bautista won’t be with them. So who the hell do we boo? We didn’t start drinking at 5 a.m. to not boo anyone for no good reason. 

6. April 27-29: NFL Draft in Philadelphia
The Ravens will have the 16th pick in the draft and will once again go into it desperately needing a difference-maker in the first round and multiple contributors throughout. While hanging out with Eagles fans for a weekend might not sound like fun, this will be the closest the draft has ever been to Baltimore -- if it’s an event you’ve always wanted to attend. 

7. April 29: Johns Hopkins at Maryland men’s lacrosse
The Terps are ranked third and the Blue Jays 12th in the Inside Lacrosse preseason rankings. Both teams are likely to be in the mix again this season, with senior attackman Matt Rambo and junior attackman Shack Stanwick expected to lead the Terrapins and Blue Jays, respectively. With the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio, the NCAA regionals at Delaware and Hofstra and the Final Four in Foxborough, Mass., this is likely the only meeting in the area this season for the sport’s greatest rivalry. 
You might also want to put the March 18 game between Loyola and Navy at Ridley Athletic Complex on your calendar. Both Patriot League teams are ranked in IL’s preseason top 10. 

8. May 7: Baltimore AFL home kickoff
We don't know the full schedule just yet (and frankly we don't know all that much about the team in general), but we do know, for the first time, the Arena Football League will come to Baltimore May 7. The new Baltimore team will open on the road April 7 and will then return to Charm City for its home opener -- hopefully just after the Baltimore Blast have brought another title to the city. 

9. May 20: 142nd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico
You never know which year might be the final year for Preakness at Pimlico. I wish that wasn’t the case, but it is what it is. Classic Empire, Mastery and Practical Joke are some of the horses that could be in the mix, but you’re certainly not there for the horses.

10. June 29-July 2: PGA Quicken Loans National at TPC Potomac at Avanel Farm
The renovated course hosts a PGA Tour event for the first time since Ben Curtis won the Booz Allen Classic there in 2006. The event was held at Congressional four of the last five years, with last year’s event being won by former Navy golfer Billy Hurley, perhaps the best moment of the 2016 golf season. And lest you forget, this is Tiger Woods’ event, and he actually plays golf again. At least for now. 

11. July 14-16: Cubs at Orioles
While some fans are "over" interleague play, the visit from the defending World Series champs should make for a special weekend at Camden Yards. Other schedule highlights for the Birds this season include the annual home-and-home with the Nationals May 8-11 and a visit from would-be former Oriole outfielder Dexter Fowler and the Cardinals June 16-18. 

12. Sept. 2: Maryland at Texas football
How many times have you said, "I really want to go visit Austin" in your life? This is a tremendous opportunity to spend Labor Day weekend in one of America’s coolest cities, as the Terps play their most significant 
nonconference game since they played Notre Dame in 2011. It will also be the first game for Tom Herman as head coach of the Longhorns.

13. Sept. 24 or Oct. 1: Ravens/Jaguars in London
Trips to Tennessee and Green Bay are the other appealing destinations for fans wanting to travel with the Ravens in 2017. But this is the ultimate road trip (to this point) in Ravens history. 

14. Oct. 7: Air Force at Navy football
The Army-Navy game in Philadelphia Dec. 9 might get the headlines, but this should be an excellent game in Annapolis, Md., as the Midshipmen begin their quest to reclaim the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. Speaking of Annapolis, the annual Veterans Classic college basketball doubleheader is slated for Nov. 10 at Alumni Hall as well. 

15. Nov. 4: Maryland/Rutgers 
football and wrestling at Yankee Stadium
Dubbed the "Big Ten Battle in the Bronx," this is actually a really cool event, even if the football teams might not necessarily be. The college wrestling match is scheduled first, with football to follow, and if nothing else, the aesthetics should be pretty cool. 

Issue 229: January 2017