Saturday Sports: March Madness, Baseball Begins

Originally published on April 4, 2018 9:58 am
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And I can't wait for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Thrills, chills, OTs and a huge upset in the women's Final Four. The men play, too, this weekend. Howard Bryant of ESPN joins us now. Morning, Howard.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott. How are you?

SIMON: Fine, thanks. You don't get too more exciting games than what we saw last night in the women's tourney. Mississippi State beat Louisville in overtime, the game that changed - the lead changed 15 times.

BRYANT: Fifteen times, yes. It's supposed to. It's an unbelievable tournament. This is what we love about it all. And last year, Mississippi State - who did they beat in the last seconds last year? They beat UConn. And now they're going back to the championship to try to win the title they didn't win last year against South Carolina. This is fantastic. And I think that everyone's talking. Can we once and for all finally leave the women alone? Can we do this? This is two great years in a row that UConn has been defeated - the great UConn. They won one of their games in this tournament by 82 points. And they lost last night on a last-second jumper.

And so all of this conversation has been about whether UConn is bad for women's basketball because they win all the time - because they were 11-0 in championships. But look at Notre Dame. Notre Dame had four players on their roster on the bench because they had torn ACLs. They played with six players. And they went out and beat the greatest women's team of all time. This is why we watch the game. Every great team, every great - every sport in its growth years has had a dominant team.

The New York Yankees between 1921 and 1964, Scott - how many times do they go to the World Series? Twenty-nine times. And nobody said that it was - that the sport was imbalanced. Of course, it was. And now UConn - look at them. For all the talk, two years in a row, they haven't gotten to the championship. The other teams are getting better. And this is exactly what the sport needs.

SIMON: Arike Ogunbowale of Milwaukee. Nothing but net in that last-second clutch. It was a great shot, wasn't it?

BRYANT: One, it's a beautiful shot, as well. You can see the confidence. She wanted to clear out. She's like, I'm taking this, and I'm making it. And Kobe Bryant called her to say congratulations because she said she had the mamba mentality when she took that shot.

SIMON: Men are playing, too, as we note. Speaking of Loyola Chicago, (laughter) and I know there are three other teams. Can Sister Jean bring them home?

BRYANT: I think so. Michigan plays great defense, and Michigan is phenomenal.

SIMON: Loyola plays Michigan. Kansas plays Villanova.

BRYANT: Kansas plays Villanova. And Michigan plays outstanding defense. And you watch them play, and they can stretch out. And they're going to make life difficult. But this is not a fluke because in any sort a tournament, you can win. This is why they - you love the short tournament. Can you win seven games in a row? If you can, you can be the champion. You don't have to be great for eight months in the NCAA tournament. And they're doing this. Loyola is doing this by - they get so many layups. They pressure the defense. They do - they are shooting 40 percent from three, and they are attacking every defense they play. And I think a little late, they look - the opposition is going, wait a minute. We're not supposed to be losing to these guys. We're losing to these guys. And then panic sets in, too.

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: As for Villanova, Scott, I think - even as a Temple University guy, I think Villanova is going to be the best team. I think they're gonna win the championship, even though Kansas is really, really good. Wouldn't surprise me if Kansas won. But for some reason, there's just something about Villanova and Jalen Brunson that I like.

SIMON: We'll see. Howard Bryant of ESPN, thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.