12 Sports Moments to Look Forward to This Spring

Giancarlo Ferrari-King@@GiancarloKingFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2015

12 Sports Moments to Look Forward to This Spring

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    Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    Spring 2015 officially starts on March 20. Whether the cruel temperatures and chilling weather that's crippled much of the country subsides on that date remains to be seen.

    But for sports fans, spring is a relaxing time filled with glorious moments. Baseball returns to form, the NFL draft gets everyone riled up and most importantly, it means that summer is just a few whispers away.

    Thrusting our eyes onto all of the major sporting events penciled in for this spring, we've come up with 12 sports moments we can look forward to this spring.

    Here's all of that goodness and magic mashed up into a slideshow.

NFL Draft

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Just because the NFL's regular season doesn't start until September, doesn't mean the most popular sports league in the United States of America isn't going to make its presence felt.

    The NFL draft is one of the most important weekends of the year for the 32 franchises that make up this league. It gives teams a chance to secure high-grade talent at a fraction of the cost.

    Plus, assembling talent through the draft has proved to be the most effective team-building exercise there is.

    For viewers and fans of the NFL, watching the draft has become as important as watching all of the action on Sundays.

    According to the data The Nielsen Company dished out to the league, per NFL.com, last year's draft was watched by 45.7 million people over a three-day span.

    Because of that viewership, the festivities surrounding the draft have been almost Hollywood-like. From the red-carpet conversations that took place in New York City in 2014 to the draft moving to Chicago this year, the NFL understands how big of an event this has become.

The NCAA Final Four

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    There's nothing quite like March Madness. Each round and corresponding matchup is filled with a proper dosage of drama and intrigue.

    But where things really start to get wild is during the Final Four. That's when the four best teams in the country duel for collegiate supremacy.

    College basketball's lengthy season can become tedious after a while. However, when the NCAA tournament comes knocking at your door, you can't help but get fixated with the whole phenomenon.

    According to Nielsen (via TV by the Numbers' Sara Bibel), the 2014 Men's NCAA Final Four broke viewership records. The digital trend that taken over the broadcast world has opened the doors for people to not only enjoy the games on their TV sets, but also online.

    Spring is the official start of great basketball. After the NCAA tournament concludes, the NBA begins to turn its attention toward the playoffs.

Baseball in April

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    Baseball season jumps off in the spring. Of all the major sporting bodies and leagues around, nothing says spring quite like baseball in April.

    April is a great month to watch all things MLB. Every team starts out with a clean slate, there's still that scent of freshness surrounding the sport and because of the good weather, we get to enjoy a lovely slate of day games.

    As the season forges on things tend to get cluttered. But in the beginning, baseball is spared of that mess. Because of that, when April comes around, the return of baseball is a spring pastime like no other.

The French Open

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    One of professional tennis' biggest events goes down every spring. That's when the French Open and its clay court arrive toward the end of May—this year, the event is scheduled to start on May 24 and run through June 7.

    On the men's side of things, the French Open usually means tennis enthusiasts get to watch the incomparable Rafael Nadal destroy his foes like some sort of racket-wielding tennis warrior. Since 2005, Nadal has won nine out of a possible 10 times.

    That degree of dominance is unheard of in sports.

    Even with Nadal's brilliance out there dancing upon the crumbling chunks of clay, the French Open still makes for some awesome springtime viewing.

    Seeing the best players in the world take to the court is a nice primer for Wimbledon and the U.S. Open later on during the summer.

The Masters

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    Green jacket season in Georgia is a glorious spring tradition. When the Masters come to town, everything else stops.

    At it's allergy-ridden core, spring is all about nice weather. Of all the events played during the spring, nothing looks nearly as beautiful as the Masters. There's something about the razor-cut grass and ocean-blue skies that make the event look like a dream on TV.

    Set during the first half of April, watching the Masters is a perfect escape from the stresses of real life. Of all the PGA Tour events, this is the one where you don't even have to be a dedicated golf supporter to rigorously enjoy it.

NHL Playoffs

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    Hockey is at its very best when the playoffs begin. That's when 16 teams from the Eastern and Western Conferences put on their skates and begin a strategic clash for glory.

    The playoffs don't wash away the worth of the regular season, but when you get teams in a series format, it makes the games so much more compelling. Weaknesses start to get exposed and some of the league's top performers begin to step up.

    Lord Stanley's Cup is the prize all of these clubs are vying tooth and nail for. After all of the blood, sweat and tears is poured out onto the polar ice, only one franchise can celebrate.

    All great sports leagues need riveting storylines in order to thrive. Last year's Stanley Cup Final between the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers was proof of that. Two of the most prominent media markets in the country going head-to-head was huge.

    According to The Nielsen Company (via Amanda Kondolojy of TV By the Numbers), the 2014 Stanley Cup Final was "the fifth Stanley Cup Final on record (since data 1994) to average at least 5.0 million viewers."

    This year's playoffs should serve as a wonderful encore.

WrestleMania 31

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    WrestleMania is the one WWE event that has been able to stand the test of time. Even if you've strayed away from wrestling, you can still tune into WrestleMania and love every minute of it.

    This year's version of the sports-entertainment extravaganza will include Sting. The WCW patriarch made his long-awaited WWE debut during the 2014 Survivor Series and since then, he's stalked Triple H.

    A potential WrestleMania duel between Sting and Triple H is exactly the type of big-name contests we expect from this type of event.

    March 29 is the date you need to jot down in your calendar. Because folks, that’s when WrestleMania 31 is headed straight for Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California, per WWE.com.

The Triple Crown

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    Horse racing's Triple Crown is still one of the most spectacular events around.

    The Kentucky Derby kicks off this fiesta on May 3. That's when we find out what horse has a shot to conquer the coveted trio of events.

    What's so great about the Kentucky Derby is the big hats, lavish drinks and Southern fun that comes along with it. Those vibes spread across the country, dominating living rooms and bars everywhere.

    After the Kentucky Derby ends, it's onto the Preakness Stakes on May 17. Hosted in Baltimore, the Preakness is the second leg of the Triple Crown. It doesn't have the cultural allure of the Kentucky Derby, but it's still important.

    The Triple Crown concludes on June 7 with the Belmont Stakes. That's when the New York welcomes the final installment to its great state.

    All three parts of the Triple Crown are riveting—especially when the same horse wins the first two races. It's difficult to imagine a time when these races will lose their luster.

NBA Playoffs

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    Basketball in playoff form is a glorious, glorious sight. The big shots, the Game 7s, the dunks, the back-and-forth war of attrition. All of that makes the NBA playoffs a great spring elixir for sports junkies.

    LeBron James' decision to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers—effectively ending the Big Three's run in Miami—has removed the villain aspect from this year's installment of the playoffs.

    Now, a lot of people could actually see themselves rooting for James to win a title for his hometown.

    Even without the Heat, there are tons of storylines to go around. Can Stephen Curry and the hot-shooting Golden State Warriors emerge from the battle-tested Western Conference? Will James and his group of Cavs make a serious title push?

    How about the Atlanta Hawks? Are they ready to move into the championship conversation?

    These questions will be answered starting on April 19.

NCAA Men's College World Series

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    The NCAA men's College World Series sometimes gets overlooked in the grand scheme of collegiate sports. But that ping sound coming from the aluminum bats as they shatter the covers off the ball is music to many sports fans' ears.

    A staple of Omaha, Nebraska, the College World Series is a place where the best programs in the nation battle in a tournament to see who truly is the top dog.

    The best part about this tournament is the parity that comes along with it. If we travel back to 2001, since that year, there have been 11 different champions.

    The 2015 College World Series is set to start on June 13 and run through June 24. Even though spring officially ends on June 20, this tournament still counts as a classic springtime sports moment.

UEFA Champions League Final

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    The way professional soccer lays out is completely different than anything we're used to in the United States.

    There are countless leagues consisting of professional clubs. Because of that, some of the top players in the world are scattered across the globe.

    In order to truly find out who the best club is every year, the UEFA Champions League was formed.

    Despite being a bit of a complicated process, if you follow the guidelines set by UEFA's official website, you can learn how said champion is crowned each season.

    This year, the Champions League final will be played at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 6. That's the date when we find out what club will conquer the world of soccer.

U.S. Open

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    USA TODAY Sports

    We conclude this list of springtime sports moments with another excellent tournament: the U.S. Open.

    Not to be confused with its tennis counterpart, the PGA Tour's version of the U.S. Open follows the Masters. This year, the event will be held in University Place, Washington, at the Chambers Bay golf course on June 15, per USGA.org.

    Unlike the Masters, this event keeps rotating between different locations, which makes it a traveling show worth attending.

    We talk about parity making sporting events great. The U.S. Open is full of it. Since 2000, Tiger Woods is the only guy to win the event more than once—he's won it three times. Other than that, there's been a bevy of different names who have taken home the hardware.

    Unless noted otherwise, all stats, dates, scores and information provided by ESPN.com.