/Houston, Baylor make Final Four on men’s side | UConn heads to 13th straight Final Four with controversial win
NCAA Tournament scores, winners and losers: Texas well-represented in Final Four as Baylor, Houston advance

Houston, Baylor make Final Four on men’s side | UConn heads to 13th straight Final Four with controversial win

Well, well, well … look who’s back (it’s me. I’m back.) I decided to take a couple of days off and give myself an extended weekend during which I did nothing but play video games, catch up on movies and watch sports. It was glorious. I may have had a few drinks, too … can’t confirm or deny.

Thanks to my pal and colleague Shanna McCarriston for holding it down while I was gone … I’ll just assume you didn’t even miss me. But whether you like it or not, I’m back behind the wheel this morning!

There’s a whole lot to go over this morning. It was a big night for Texas (the state, not the school…*sigh*) in the Elite Eight, as both Houston and Baylor will be moving on to the Final Four in the men’s bracket. And speaking of Baylor, did the Bears get screwed in the women’s bracket last night? (Spoiler: I think so!) We’ll also go over some MLB Power Rankings ahead of Opening Day, and there’s a chance that Francisco Lindor could be a very, VERY rich man before even playing his first official game with the Mets.

Also, the Buffalo Sabres still haven’t won a hockey game since February 23. They blew a 3-0 third period lead over the Flyers last night to lose their 18th straight game. One more loss and they’ll set the NHL record for longest winless streak. Not great!


📰 What you need to know

1. Texas has big night in Elite Eight 🏀

Half of this year’s Final Four will be comprised of teams from Texas and at least one of them is going to get a spot in the national championship. We found out that much yesterday when Houston and Baylor both came away victorious in their Elite Eight showdowns, and now they’re set to meet one another later this week with a ticket to the title game on the line.

Let’s jump into some takeaways from Monday’s action:

  • Baylor guards prove it again: Baylor’s trio of Davion Mitchell, MaCio Teague and Jared Butler combined for 48 points to carry the Bears to a 81-72 win over Arkansas. Adam Flager also had 10 points and that group of four guys went 7-of-12 from beyond the arc
  • JD Notae sees a swift demise: JD Notae had a strong first half for Arkansas, picking up 12 points and helping the Razorbacks climb out of a big hole early. But he picked up three fouls in less than four minutes in the second half and fouled out of the game. That was a huge turning point for Arkansas
  • Oregon State falls short after comeback: The Beavers looked like they were going to get crushed in the first half, but they erased a 17-point deficit and made it an entertaining game in the second half, tying the game 55-55 with just under four minutes left to play. Unfortunately, they couldn’t seal the deal and came up short, 67-61
  • Kelvin Sampson is back in the Final Four: After a show-cause penalty that amounted to a five-year ban stemming from violations at Indiana, Sampson has found redemption at Houston. He has turned the Cougars into a strong college program, and now they’ve got a spot in the Final Four

To expand on that last bullet point, our Matt Norlander has more on Sampson simultaneously resurrecting Houston and his own career. Also, can anybody explain to me how the heck this is Baylor’s first Final Four appearance in 71 years? For a program that seemingly always hung around as a respectable basketball destination, that’s a stunningly large gap between Final Four appearances.

In exciting news, we’ve got two more Elite Eight showdowns to get to later today. Gonzaga will try to keep dreams of a perfect season alive as they take on USC, and then Michigan will go head-to-head with UCLA. You can find picks for those games right here.

2. UConn makes 13th straight Final Four after controversial ending vs. Baylor 🏀

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We’ve covered the men’s side of the tournament, but we still haven’t gotten to the best college basketball game on the schedule yesterday. That honor goes to the thrilling UConn-Baylor matchup on the Elite Eight side of the women’s bracket, one that came down to the wire and featured a pretty controversial sequence late in the fourth quarter.

Unfortunately for the Baylor, they didn’t have as much luck on this side.

  • On Baylor’s final possession, DiJonai Carrington went up for a potential game-winning bucket and was swarmed by several UConn defenders. There appeared to be contact on the shot attempt, which fell short, but no foul was called
  • As a result, the Huskies came away with a 69-67 victory to clinch a 13th straight Final Four appearance
  • UConn erased a 10-point deficit and went on a 19-0 run
  • Paige Bueckers was the game’s biggest standout, dropping 28 points for the Huskies

Bueckers was unreal and UConn locking up a 13th straight Final Four appearance is an incredible continuation of one of the most impressive dynasties college basketball has ever seen … but it’s hard not to feel like Baylor deserved a little better. There seemed to be a split opinion on the officiating decision at the end of the game but it clearly looked like a foul to me and you always hate to see a game come down to a questionable call (or non-call) like that.

No surprise here, but Carrington thought she was fouled:

  • Carrington: “You can’t swallow your whistle when the game is on the line. Film does not lie.”

Also, in a very weird postgame twist, Baylor coach Kim Mulkey advocated for the NCAA to stop COVID-19 testing for the Final Four. Not exactly what we expected to hear after her team’s final game of the season, but she also coached the entire game with her mask pulled under her chin so it’s safe to say she’s not a beacon of COVID protocols.

In any case, congrats to UConn. They’ll move on to play Arizona later this week for a spot in the National Championship.

3. Final MLB Power Rankings before Opening Day ⚾

Ready or not, baseball season is getting ready to kick down your door later this week. Opening Day is now two days away, which means Spring Training is in the rearview and now we can start keeping score for real. And this year we’re getting a full season that will actually resemble a traditional campaign — not the 60-game freak-a-zoid season that we got last year.

So, as we approach the sweet smells, sounds and sights of Opening Day, this a good time to take stock of where every team in the league stands. Of course, a 162-game season can be a grueling, unpredictable grind but it’s important to mark a starting point … so let’s take a look at Matt Snyder’s final installment of MLB Power Rankings ahead of Opening Day.

  1. Dodgers
  2. Fathers
  3. Yankees
  4. Braves
  5. Mets
  6. Astros
  7. Blue Jays
  8. White Sox
  9. Twins
  10. Athletics

The top five remains exactly the same as when Snyder delivered rankings at the start of Spring Training, so I suppose that’s good news for all of those teams, as nothing went horribly wrong this month. Unfortunately, we can’t really say the same for the White Sox, who drop down a spot after the brutal news of Eloy Jimenez’s injury and the projected five-to-six month recovery timeline.

The Dodgers and Padres hanging out at the top of the rankings probably doesn’t come as a huge shock, and I’m so looking forward to that NL West battle throughout the season. The stacked reigning champs trying to hold court as the aggressive challengers, led by a young super star in Fernando Tatis, attempt to make their move? Sign me up. Even as an east coast baseball fan, I’m expecting to have some late nights watching those two teams.

You can check out the entire rankings right here.

4. How the Laremy Tunsil gas-mask video shaped the future of several teams 🏈

USATSI

One of the more infamous NFL Draft day stories in the history of the league came five years ago. As the 2016 NFL Draft got underway, one of the top prospects, Ole Miss guard Laremy Tunsil, saw his Twitter account get hacked. Someone posted a video of Tunsil wearing a bong attached to a gas mask, causing Tunsil to slide in the first round before he was eventually picked by the Dolphins at No. 13.

A lot has happened since then, and Tunsil has proved to be a very significant figure that has had a major impact (both directly and indirectly) on several NFL clubs. Our Chris Trapasso has done a great job of breaking down the Tunsil trade tree and some of the ripple effects of his draft day slide. What you need to know more than anything is that the Dolphins made out like absolute bandits in this whole deal:

  • The Dolphins got three years of Tunsil before then trading him to the Texans for a package of draft picks
  • One of those draft picks became the No. 3 overall selection that Miami traded to the 49ers last week for another package of draft picks
  • Essentially, the Dolphins received four first-round picks, a second-round pick and a third-round pick from the Tunsil trade
  • That arsenal of picks allowed Miami to move back up in the draft, acquiring the No. 6 overall pick from the Eagles last week

It’s pretty incredible to think about how one incident has had such a major impact on so many different teams — including the Dolphins, Texans, Eagles, 49ers, Packers and potentially more.

When you think about it, whoever hacked Tunsil’s account on draft day basically altered the entire course of the Dolphins franchise by allowing him to slide to them at No. 13. I guess you could also say that person helped derail the Texans organization, but there are a lot of signs Bill O’Brien would have effectively run Houston into the ground even without the Tunsil trade.


📝 Odds & Ends

USATSI


📺 What to watch today

🏀 NCAAM: No. 6 USC vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 7:15 p.m. | ZAGS -8.5 | TV: TBS

🏒 Hurricanes vs. Blackhawks, 7:30 p.m. | CHI +140 | TV: NBCSN

🏀 NCAAW: No. 2 Louisville vs. No. 1 Stanford, 9 p.m. | TV: ESPN

🏀 NCAAM: No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 1 Michigan, 9:57 p.m. | MICH -6.5 | TV: TBS


🥇 The best thing I saw yesterday

After misjudging the shot clock situation following a jump ball, Marcus Smart launched a hilariously terrible half-court heave during yesterday’s Celtics-Pelicans game. Making matters even funnier, he attempted to defend the decision when confronted by Kemba Walker.