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Sports: Eyes On The Playoffs; Showdown In Ky.


Time now for sports.


LYDEN: It's the last week of the NFL season and a handful of teams are still trying to edge their way into the playoffs. The NBA season is just wrapping up its first week, but already the Miami Heat look to be steamrolling it past straight to those playoffs. And there's a playoff-worthy college basketball game today in Lexington, Kentucky. Howard Bryant of and ESPN the magazine joins us now. Howard, welcome and Happy New Year.

HOWARD BRYANT: Happy New Year, Jacki. How are you?

LYDEN: I'm just fine. So a few big games tomorrow determine which teams go to the NFL playoffs, a classic New Year's weekend. Which teams are you watching?

BRYANT: Well, obviously the big game is going to be the Cowboys and the Giants. I think that people are always waiting to find out just when Tony Romo and when DeMarcus Ware and Dez Bryant from the Dallas Cowboys are finally going to make that leap and become an elite team, when the bottom line is, is that every time they've had an opportunity to be great, they've failed. And this is going to be a huge test for them.

The Giants are home. The Giants are battle-tested. The Giants have already beaten them. But both teams are 8 and 7 and so it's a winner-take-all match up in the meadowlands.

LYDEN: Howard, let's jump to basketball and the NBA. The Miami Heat certainly off to a good start. Does any team have a chance of upsetting their title run this year?

BRYANT: Well, if anyone does, it would be an upset. They are the best team. I think they were the best team last year. This entire LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh thing was designed to win a championship. They were terrific last year. I think Dallas simply played better and Dallas ended up being the better team when it was time to win.

But eventually the Miami Heat is going to win. That franchise is going to win championships because they've got the two best finishers in the game and it's really difficult to deny that level of talent, especially when the rest of the league seems to be declining. I'm not going to say that it's a foregone conclusion because it wasn't last year either, but they are a great, great basketball team.

LYDEN: And then we have this huge rivalry game in college basketball this week. A lot of college basketball fans here. And this is the number three ranked Kentucky Wildcats hosting their in-state rival the Louisville Cardinals, a really fun game. The Cardinals lost their first game in the season earlier this week, though.

BRYANT: Yeah, they did. And it's not just the great rivalry game; it's also the two terrific franchises. But it's also Coach John Calipari again; Rick Pitino, and those two go way back as well. And I think Kentucky is just loaded. Kentucky is a team that you look at on paper and whether it's going to be Kentucky and Duke and North Carolina - Louisville is going to hang in there but I think Kentucky is really - I think they are the best team in the country.

I know Syracuse is number one, but come tournament time when we look back at this season I think Kentucky is going to be right there just as they always are.

LYDEN: So Howard, it's that time. The ball's about to drop. How about some New Year's resolutions and predictions for 2012?

BRYANT: Well, I only really have a couple. I mean, obviously one. I think that Roger Federer is going to win another tennis major. He hasn't won - didn't win one last year. He's the greatest tennis player of our time. I think he's got one more in him. I love that story where the old lion makes one last charge.

And I think on a more serious note, I would certainly like to see college sports come together over this Penn State and Syracuse and child abuse scandal. I think I would like to see the NCAAP and these universities really come together with a comprehensive plan to come out and encourage investigation and some transparency instead of waiting for the next big embarrassing headline. I think that it's time to really pay more attention to this.

LYDEN: Well, I want to wish you Happy New Year.

BRYANT: And Happy New Year to you, Jacki.

LYDEN: Howard Bryant of and ESPN the magazine joining us from the studios of New England Public Radio in Amherst, Massachusetts. Howard, thanks.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.