The Play by Play
For the second time in three years (University of North Carolina – eliminated in the second round this season – won in 2017) Villanova reigns as the NCAA basketball champion. Despite a tournament of upsets and the unpredictable, the Wildcats stayed the course and emerged victorious. Behind the unexpected performance of Donte DiVincenzo, who came in off the bench and scored the most points by a non-starter in NCAA finals history, Villanova defeated Michigan state 79-62 on Monday night. While the Wildcats are the only team to claim the championship trophy, a handful of others can also walk away tournament winners. University of Maryland – Baltimore County handedly beat the University of Virginia, becoming the first 16-seed to beat a 1-seed in tournament history. Then there’s Syracuse who, after earning the final spot in the tournament, made it to the Sweet 16 where they had the unfortunate luck of facing, and losing to, Duke.
Houston. We Have a Problem.
During Monday night’s home opener, the Houston Astros planned to unveil the team’s 2017 World Series banner. However, following the announcement, with music blaring and fans filming, rather than a smooth reveal, what ensued was a minute of pure hilarity. The black sheet covering said banner just did not want to come down. It took three men – one with a leaf blower, one with a pole, and one on a ladder – to finally pull it down. Cameras caught Jose Altuve, last year’s MVP, barely keeping it together as he watched the ordeal unfold. Hopefully it’s a practice makes perfect situation (this is the first championship banner to fly at the stadium) and the Astros approach this season looking to add another.
The Faces and Facts
Featured Female – Arike Ogunbowale (Basketball): Buzzer-beater extraordinaire. Not only did Arike hit one clutch shot for the Fighting Irish (Notre Dame), she hit two. The first came in the NCAA Women’s Basketball semifinals, when Ogunbowale’s last second shot handed the women of UConn their first loss of the season and propelled Notre Dame to the Finals. UConn had been hoping for a rematch against Mississippi State, since it was Bulldogs who snapped UConn’s 111 game winning-streak in last year’s finals (the longest in college basketball history, in both men’s and women’s). Then, as if that game-winning performance wasn’t enough (she actually got a shoutout from Kobe Bryant), Arike struck again on Sunday night. Tied 58-58 with time winding down, Ogunbowale hit a three-point shot with 0.1 left on the clock, bringing Notre Dame its second national title! Needless to say, Arike can now officially tweet #lifecomplete.
Scott Foster (Hockey): A 36 year old accountant who, last Friday, served as an emergency backup goalie (EBUG) for the Chicago Blackhawks. Apparently each NHL team has a crew of EBUGs (most of whom claim experience as coaches, former college competitors or as members of beer leagues) on call for the rare moment when both rostered goalies are unable to play. These men are on rotation, required to show up to the stadium for his assigned games on the off-chance he needs to suit up. Turns out, Foster would not only make his way into the locker room and onto the ice, he’d see 14 minutes of playing time and make 7 saves. The crowd grew louder with each play Foster made and Scott received the team’s championship belt at game’s end (each NHL team presents some sort of object to the player that is acknowledged to be that’s game’s top performer). Not many accountants crunch numbers during the day and then realize a life-long dream of playing in the NHL at night.
Nigel Talton (Baseball): Otherwise known as The Freeze. A sprinter in college, Nigel (a security guard and member of the Atlanta Braves’ ground crew) came into his new position after participating and excelling at the Braves’ stolen base challenge. His speed gave Atlanta’s promotion team an idea. They approached Talton, asking if he’d be willing to race fans between innings, giving the opponent a massive head start. He agreed and thus was born “The Freeze,” a character loved by fans and teams alike. It was one particular race against a particularly cocky opponent that launched him into super stardom, with athletes beyond baseball tweeting at/about him. A week into the 2018 season, you can rest assured he’s won every race so far.
Despite the completion of the NCAA, the NBA is still in full swing and the WNBA is set to start in May. So let’s cover the last of the important basketball infractions- the foul. There are three levels, or degrees, of fouling in basketball, and they can be called on both an offensive and defensive player.
- Personal Foul: The most minor infraction within the foul family. It is called on an offensive player when he/she charges into a defender who is in a stationary defensive position (feet planted firmly on the ground). More often a personal foul is called on a defensive player when he/she makes any unnecessary or illegal contact with an opposing player (check out this link for a snapshot of the most common personal fouls called). The result of a foul can be: loss of possession (when committed by an offensive player), shooting free throws (when an offensive player is fouled in the act of shooting), or inbounding the ball from the nearest sideline or baseline (when an offensive player is fouled while not shooting).
- Flagrant Foul: Essentially a more violent personal foul, called when a referee deems the contact to be egregious and entirely intentional. Examples of a flagrant foul are hitting, kicking and punching. This type of foul results in free throws and the team retaining possession of the ball following the shots. If extreme enough, the player who committed the flagrant foul can be ejected from the game.
- Technical Foul: A foul that does not involve illegal contact at all but rather player/coach attitude and manners. Foul language or gestures, along with arguing, can result in a technical foul. Similar to a flagrant foul, a technical results in free throws and the team retaining possession of the ball following the shots.
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Vancouver Canucks v. Arizona Coyotes OR Vancouver Canucks v. Edmonton Oilers (Hockey): Don’t miss your last two opportunities to watch two of hockey’s best players (and individuals) in their final NHL games. Henrik and and Daniel Sedin, 38-year old identical twin brothers, who’ve been in the league for 17 years recently announced they’re set to retire at the end of this season. Selected third and fourth in the 1999 draft, they both spent their entire careers in Vancouver, with Henrik becoming (and remaining) captain in 2010 and Daniel earning alternate captaincy that same year. Since their retirement news broke, players and fans alike have sent an outpouring of messages commemorating both Henrik and Daniel- for their play on the ice and conduct off of it. Tonight’s game (at 10pm EST) will be the last played in their home stadium so there’s bound to be wonderful tributes throughout (the Sedins have already penned a thank you to Canuck fans). If you can’t catch that game, Saturday (again at 10pm EST) will be the last time they lace up their skates in the NHL. Ever. Worth staying up late to watch.
Houston Rockets v. Oklahoma City Thunder (Basketball): Last year’s most valuable player (Russell Wilson) versus this year’s likely MVP (James Harden). Should make for a strong offensive showing. Tip off is at 8:30pm EST on Sunday and it looks like Harden is certainly hyped….