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The Week In Sports: Final Four; Baseball Season Arrives

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: Talk about an earthquake. This weekend, we're down to the Final Four in college basketball, and tomorrow, I've missed you, baseball begins. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom. I think perhaps we don't have Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, I'm here. Scott, I'm so sorry. Good morning. I was just observing a moment of silence for Canadian hockey.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: Did you know that this year for the first time since 1970 there will be no Canadian teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs? It's their sport. It's very sad.

SIMON: You know, that hadn't occurred to me. I just, you know, I just - I just watch for the Blackhawks and I know they're going to be in the playoffs - oh, my word. Well, all right. Thank you for - thank you for bringing that out.

GOLDMAN: My pleasure.

SIMON: And we do hands over our hearts. Tonight, college basketball - Wildcats versus the Sooners, the Tar Heels against the Orange. What do you see?

GOLDMAN: I see a lot of things. I see some great players. Oklahoma's Buddy Hield, born in the Bahamas, is the best player at the Final Four - very exciting offensively. He's drawing comparisons to Steph Curry with his long-range shooting. If you like your guards gritty, Scott, with lots of floor burns, there's Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono. There's the surprise of the 10th seed Syracuse Orange, the most maligned Final Four team.

People said the Orange shouldn't have even gotten in the tournament, but here they are, with some taint, mind you. Head coach Jim Boeheim served a nine-game suspension this season for overseeing a program that broke a number of rules. North Carolina is waiting to hear if it'll serve some punishment as well. So for fans and cynics alike, plenty to watch, but you know what, Scott? The one thing that will be missing is an, oh, my God, moment, which comes when you have an upset of a dominant team. There's not that one team that really stands out. So whoever wins today and then Monday night, you know, won't really be a shock.

SIMON: But there's potentially OMG moments in the women's tournament because UConn, which I don't believe has lost a game since 1831, is playing Oregon State in its first Final Four. UConn is so dominant. People wonder, is that good for women's basketball year after year?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, you know, this is the question that's been bandied about all week. I think...

SIMON: You don't have to answer it for real, just for this show, OK?

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) OK. I agree with Geno Auriemma, the great UConn coach. You know, if you think they're bad for basketball and you don't want to watch, don't watch. And for those who do want to watch, do, and you'll get treated to an excellent basketball team.

SIMON: Can anyone beat UConn, though?

GOLDMAN: Maybe. The Huskies are human beings after all, and what the heck? Golden State lost at home last night for the first time in over a year.

SIMON: Last night, I saw. Steph Curry only scored, like, you know, 70 points or something, and they still lost.

GOLDMAN: So crazy things can happen. They just don't happen very often with UConn. You know, it would help Oregon State considerably if, say, Breanna Stewart, the senior do everything player for the Huskies, had early foul trouble and sat for a long stretch. Look, Scott, teams have played the Huskies close. Maryland was behind by four with a minute left, but then came the punch. UConn always has that punch, and the question is OS - Oregon State with a good defense and they rebound well and they've got really good players, can they control the pace, keep UConn from busting out? Can they do it? No one's done it since November 2014, last time UConn lost.

SIMON: Oh, I'm so glad baseball's starting. Kansas City, the Mets and the Royals...

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

SIMON: ...Have a little old business, don't they?

GOLDMAN: Tomorrow, showdown, rematch of last season's World Series. Can the Royals continue their winning formula of great defense, baserunning, relief pitching? Can the Mets' best in the majors pitching staff, especially the starters of course, continue to dominate? We'll be looking for answers, Scott, even though it's only game one of 162.

SIMON: You know, we've got an extra 15 seconds at the end of the segment. I am already worried, OK, not a day goes by when two or three people don't stop me on the streets of New York or in an airport or a restaurant and say, hey, Scooter, things looking good for the Cubs, aren't they? Now, you know how that invites a curse.

GOLDMAN: Nerve-racking, isn't it? I've got good news for you, though. It's new baseball preview issue, Sports Illustrated owned up to the fact that it is horrible, like everyone, at predicting championship teams. The magazine noted since the mid-90s, the start of the wild-card era, it's been right once out of 20 titles.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Here's the good - here's the good news. Sports Illustrated is picking Houston over the Cubs.

SIMON: Oh, oh.

GOLDMAN: Cubs win. Cubs win.

SIMON: Cubs win. Cubs win. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks very much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

SIMON: Talk to you later. You've given me the heart to go on.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.