Good morning to everyone but especially to…
THE NATIONAL-CHAMPION UCONN HUSKIES
Sometimes, the greatness of a team is in its ability to dominate — to overwhelm on both ends with top-end talent and terrific balance. Other times, the greatness of a team is in its ability to win when things aren’t going great — when the shots aren’t falling and when the opponent is making things messy.
For so much of the 2023 NCAA Tournament, we saw UConn do the former. In the championship, though, we saw it do the latter and pull away from a slugfest against San Diego State with a 76-59 victory that gives the Huskies their fifth national championship.
- Tristen Newton (19 points, 10 rebounds) and Adama Sanogo (17 points, 10 rebounds) led the way. Sanogo earned Most Outstanding Player honors. He’s the first national champion with double-doubles in the Elite Eight, Final Four and championship since Carmelo Anthony in 2003.
- The Huskies are the fifth team to win all of their Tournament games by at least 13 points. The last team to do it was Isiah Thomas-led Indiana in 1981. Overall, the Huskies’ +120 Tournament point differential is fourth all-time.
- UConn is the seventh team to win it all after starting the season unranked and the first since the Huskies did it in 2011.
- Only UCLA (11), Kentucky (eight) and North Carolina (six) have more titles than the Huskies’ five. Moreover, UConn is a perfect 5-0 in title games, the most wins without a loss of any program.
All of those impressive numbers put UConn firmly among the blue bloods, writes our Matt Norlander.
- Norlander: “It was debatable heading into the Final Four. It’s undeniable now. The Huskies have as many national championships as Duke. And Indiana. They have more than Kansas, Villanova, Louisville and on and on. This is a blue blood program. If you needed a fifth title and a 5-0 record in national championship games to believe it, then believe it. No program has a better record on the ultimate stage — no one is even close. When UConn gets to the first Monday in April, it wins.”
As for everything else…
And finally, before we depart into the offseason, I’ll leave you with this: Last night was Jim Nantz’s last NCAA Tournament game. Matt had a wonderful story on the man who produced so many iconic calls, and here’s Nantz’s final sign off. Both are worth your time and then some.
And not such a good morning for…
THE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
We’ll make this quick: After an 8-1 loss to the Yankees, the Phillies are the first team to start 0-4 one season after making the World Series since the 1985 Cardinals. The reasons why are obvious:
- The Phillies have allowed 37 runs in those four games. Standouts Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler both got rocked in the first two games, and Taijuan Walker struggled Monday.
- A loaded offense combining for two runs over the past two games doesn’t help, either.
Yes, we’re four games into a 162-game season, but this isn’t the start Philly envisioned. It’s not even close.
Not so honorable mentions
Never-too-early Top 25 And 1 for next season 🏀
You’ll probably see plenty of way-too-early Top 25 ranks for next season. But Gary Parrish’s is the best. Why? Because his is appropriately titled: never-too-early. And he’s right. It is never too early.
Here’s Gary’s top five… for now:
- 1. UConn
- 2. Purdue
- 3. Marquette
- 4. Miami
- 5. FAU
You can see the full Top 25 And 1 here.
Of course, there will be plenty of changes between now and the season’s start. There are stay-or-go NBA decisions, and the transfer portal is brimming with talent. For now, though, the Huskies are on top — and staying that way.
Sleepers, storylines and players to root for at Augusta National ⛳
Sure, the week technically starts on Monday, but now that college basketball is over, it’s officially Masters Week in my book. And our team of golf writers is already delivering the goods.
Let’s start with the biggest storylines of the tournament, courtesy of our Kyle Porter. My personal favorite: Is this Rory McIlroy’s best chance to complete the career Grand Slam?
- Porter: “McIlroy is playing much better than last year (when he finished second), better than in 2018 (when he played in the last pairing with Patrick Reed) and even better than either 2015 or 2016 (when he finished in the top 10). Perhaps more importantly, he hasn’t peaked yet like he did in 2019 when he won the Players Championship. If you’re going to talk yourself into a Rory narrative (and who among us hasn’t?), that is probably the reason why.”
Our Patrick McDonald took a look at trends from the last decade to narrow the 88-player field to six potential winners, and McIlroy is one of those six. He’s also on Patrick’s list of players to root for.
But what about the names you might not know? Kyle has eight sleepers who could don a green jacket come Sunday afternoon, including…
- Porter: “Cameron Young (30-1): A total menace who has two top-fives in his last three major championship starts and was the best player for the first four days at the WGC-Dell Match Play two weeks ago, Young is sixth in the world this year in ball-striking among Masters participants. He might actually be the best driver on the planet. That wouldn’t mean much if he couldn’t back it up with iron play… but he’s seventh in that category as well.”
Andrew Wiggins expected to return to Warriors this week 🏀
Just days shy of the NBA playoffs, the Warriors are getting a huge boost as they look to defend their title: Andrew Wiggins is expected to rejoin the team this week after his absence due to a personal matter that stretched back to mid-February.
- Wiggins, 28, has missed the Warriors’ last 22 games, and he has missed 42 games overall this season. He is averaging 17.1 points this season while shooting a career-high 39.6% from 3.
- The Warriors (41-38) are sixth in the West, a half-game up on the Lakers and Pelicans. The No. 7 through No. 10 seeds have to go through the play-in tournament to make the playoffs, so Wiggins’ return could pay huge, immediate dividends.
- It’s unclear exactly when Wiggins will return to game action and how long it will take for him to get into game shape: The Warriors have three regular-season games left: against the Thunder (tonight), at the Kings (Friday) and at the Trail Blazers (Sunday).
- According to coach Steve Kerr, Wiggins was working out “on a daily basis” during his absence.
Wiggins’ return makes the Warriors a championship contender once again, writes our Brad Botkin. I thoroughly agree. We know what Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green bring on a relatively consistent basis, and their roles are clear defined. Wiggins provides crucial versatility on both ends. He can be a scorer, a stopper, a rebounder, a glue guy… or all of the above.
It’s no coincidence the Curry/Thompson/Wiggins/Green/Kevon Looney lineup has a preposterous +21.9 net rating, by far the best of any NBA lineup that’s played at least 300 minutes together this season.
What we’re watching Tuesday 📺
⚾ Phillies at Yankees, 7:05 p.m. on TBS
🏀 Celtics at 76ers, 8 p.m. on TNT
🏒 Oilers at Kings, 10:30 p.m. on ESPN
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Publish Date:2023-04-04 21:20:28