Our countdown of the top moments of the 2017 sports season in middle Tennessee continues with our top 10 teams of the year.
Again, this list was compiled (in the most scientific way) using my daily notes and recall of the team’s that had the most impact on me and most of our viewers this past year.
To check out our top plays of the year, click here:
As 2017 winds down it's always fun to think back on the year that was. This year was filled with the city's greatest playoff run ever and many other fabulous games ...
Or click here for the top performances of the year: https://www.newschannel5.com/sports/top-tennessee-sports-performances-of-2017
And now on to the teams.
10. MIDDLE TENNESSEE FOOTBALL (7-6)
Perhaps not what the Blue Raiders envisioned when they opened the season with the top passing duo in school history returning for a much anticipated opener against Vanderbilt, but Middle survived a season-ending injury to receiver Richie James and a significant injury to quarterback Brent Stockstill to reach a bowl game for the fourth time in five years. Once there, the Blue Raiders knocked off Arkansas State 35-30 in the Camelia Bowl for their first bowl victory since 2009.
9. VANDERBILT MEN’S BASKETBALL (19-16)
New Commodores coach Bryce Drew inherited a veteran team from departing coach Kevin Stallings and very quickly turned it into his own. After starting the season just 11-12, Vandy, led by Luke Kornet, closed with eight wins in 11 games, including a pair of victories over nationally-ranked Florida to reach the SEC Tournament semifinals and earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Even a heartbreaking loss to Northwestern in the opening round of the big dance couldn't dampen the strong beginning to a new era of Dores basketball.
8. VANDERBILT BASEBALL (36-25-1)
A year after the tragic passing of Donny Everett preceded the end of their run of regional titles, the Vandy Boys returned to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament by winning the Clemson Regional. Will Toffey went 9-19 with three home runs on the way to MVP honors as the Dores beat St. John’s and then Clemson twice to win a regional for the fourth time in five years. The team’s run ended in a two-game sweep at the hands of top-ranked Oregon State in a super regional the next week.
7. BRENTWOOD ACADEMY FOOTBALL (12-0)
Vandy fans should have even more to cheer for in the future after watching a pair of Commodore commitments lead Brentwood Academy to a third straight state title this fall. Quarterback Gavin Schoenwald and receiver Camron Johnson connected on a pair of touchdowns as the Eagles topped rival MBA 28-14 in the Division II-AAA Blue Cross Bowl, capping a 12-0 season.
6. TITANS (8-7)
This will be higher on the list if the Titans are able to beat the Jaguars Sunday and secure their first playoff berth since 2008. It has not been the season many had hoped for after narrowly missing the playoffs in 2016, but Sunday’s season finale marks the closest this team has come to a playoff game in nine years, and that in and of itself is a step in the right direction. As difficult as the three straight losses in December that dropped them from division title contention have been, all will be forgiven if not forgotten, if Nashville has playoff football to talk about in January.
5. AUSTIN PEAY FOOTBALL (8-4)
The Governors entered their second season under head coach Will Healy with the nation’s longest losing streak, which grew to 29 after consecutive losses against FBS foes Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio) to start the year. But Austin Peay broke through with a 69-13 rout of Morehead State Sept. 16th and never looked back. The Govs ran off eight wins in 10 games with their only losses coming against no. 4 Jacksonville State and Peach Bowl bound Central Florida. Despite finishing 7-1 in the OVC and 8-1 against their division, the Govs were snubbed from the FCS Playoffs, adding fuel to the fire for 2018 and beyond.
4. BELMONT WOMEN’S BASKETBALL (27-6)
Led by spectacular point guard Darby Maggard, the Bruins blitzed the OVC with a perfect 16-0 regular season conference mark and three blowout wins in the league tournament in March to earn a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. Belmont gave no. 4 seed Kentucky all it could handle in a first round game in Lexington, but fell 73-70 to snap a 21-game winning streak. Head coach Cameron Newbauer was then hired away as the new head coach at Florida days later.
3. RIVERDALE GIRLS BASKETBALL (34-0)
The Lady Warriors tore through Tennessee on the way to a second straight state title. All-American guard Anastasia Hayes scored 33 points in a state championship game win over previously unbeaten Memphis Central as Riverdale won its 43rd straight game and secured the nation’s no. 1 high school ranking at the end of the season.
2. MIDDLE TENNESSEE MEN’S BASKETBALL (31-5)
After pulling one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Tournament history, stunning favorite Michigan State in the first round in 2016, the Blue Raiders did even more last season. Led by Conference USA Player of the Year JaCorey Williams and Reggie Upshaw, Middle Tennessee won a school record 31 games while sweeping conference regular season and tournament titles. Kermit Davis’s squad then knocked off another Big Ten foe in Minnesota to open the NCAA Tournament before falling to Butler 74-65 in round two.
1. PREDATORS (41-29-12, 94 Pts.)
The 19th season in Nashville hockey history was far and away the best. After scratching and clawing just to reach the playoffs, first year captain Mike Fisher helped lead the Predators on their deepest playoff run ever. Goaltender Pekka Rinne’s back to back shutouts in round one helped the Preds sweep the top seeded Blackhawks in four games before they defeated St. Louis in six games in round two. Colton Sissons’ hat trick in game six against the Ducks led a short-handed Nashville squad to its first ever Western Conference title. More than 50,000 fans dressed in gold lined the streets around Bridgestone Arena for home games in the Stanley Cup Final against the Penguins, helping cheer the home team on to 5-1 and 4-1 wins in games three and four to even the series 2-2, but former Pred Patric Hornqvist’s goal with just 95 seconds left in game six gave Pittsburgh a second straight Stanley Cup title.
Coming Sunday: Top Games Of 2017.