MAYBE VILLANOVA WILL MISFIRE...BUT DON’T COUNT ON IT
Can Michigan upset 7-point favored Villanova in Monday night’s in the NCAA men’s basketball Tournament Championship game in San Antonio?
Sure – anything is possible. Ask the UConn Lady Huskies. They lost two games combined in the last two seasons – each one on a buzzer-beater in the NCAA women’s semifinals.
Michigan enters Monday night on a 14-game winning streak. The Wolverines were underdogs nine previous times this season and won five of those games.
Michigan is an extremely resourceful team and superbly coached by John Beilein, who guided Nazareth to a 20-6 record in the 1982-83 season – en route to LeMoyne to Canisius to Richmond to West Virginia to Ann Arbor.
Both teams like to play at a fast pace and that usually helps the team with the better offense. That would be Villanova.
Michigan is a solid outside shooting team (despite often struggling at the foul line). Villanova is an elite shooting team and has more deep shooters.
Here’s how they measure up this season (including the NCAA Tournament; rank among the 351 NCAA Division I teams in parentheses):
Records – Villanova 35-4...Michigan 33-7
Points per game – Villanova 86.8 (1st)...Michigan 73.9 (167th)
Points allowed per game – Villanova 70.4 (125th)...Michigan 62.9 (8th)
Scoring margin – Villanova +16.4 (2nd)...Michigan +11.0 (17th)
Field-goal percentage – Villanova .501 (5th)...Michigan .468 (61st)
3-Point FG percentage – Villanova .401 (12th)...Michigan .362 (105th)
3-Point FGs made per game – Villanova 11.6 (3rd)...Michigan 9.0 (64th)
Free-throw percentage – Villanova .779 (8th)...Michigan .662 (321st).
In this NCAA Tournament, Villanova is 66-for-136 (.423) from 3-point range (including 4-for-24 in the 71-59 win over Texas Tech). Michigan is 38-for-120 (.317) from 3-point range (including 4-for-22 in the 58-54 win over Florida State).
The team with the most success from the three-point stripe figures to win Monday night. It might be Michigan. But is considerably more likely to be Villanova.
The Wildcats have won their five tournament games by 26, 23, 12, 11 and 16 points. Why expect a tighter game here? My pick: Villanova 82, Michigan 73.
THUMBS UP TO THE WOMEN’S NCAA FINAL FOUR AND FINAL
Let’s face it. There still aren’t nearly enough high-quality NCAA Division women’s basketball programs to have a reasonably competitive 64-team tournament field – but they’re making progress.
And the men’s NCAA Tournament never has had -- and probably never will have -- a three-game Final Four and championship game package as exciting and competitive as the women produced Friday night in the semifinals (Notre Dame 91, UConn 89 in overtime; Mississippi State 73, Louisville 63 in overtime), and Notre Dame 61, Mississippi 58 on a last-second shot in the title game late Sunday afternoon.
Arike Ogunbowale made the clutch jump shots to win both games. She’s my leader in the clubhouse for Female Athlete of the Year. Do you disagree?
SPRAYING BASEBALL HITS TO ALL FIELDS
New York Yankees (2-2 record) Home Run PaceMeter: 6 home runs in 4 games (Giancarlo Stanton 2, Tyler Austin 2, Brett Gardner 1, Brandon Drury 1)...On pace for 242 HRs (team record is 245 hit in 2012).
Gerrit Cole went from Opening Day starter for Pittsburgh last season to No. 4 starter for Houston this year. He probably doesn’t mind. The Pirates are sinking. The Astros are loaded. Cole had 11 strikeouts in seven innings in Sunday’s 0-2 win over Texas. It didn’t take long to sort out the best MLB team in Texas: The Astros won the season-opening series 3-1 over the Rangers. It was no fluke. Does any team have four better starting pitchers than Houston’s Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr., and Cole?
Joe Panik (San Francisco) was the unlikely player to become the first batter ever to hit a home run in back-to-back 1-0 games.
The Rochester-Minnesota shuttle probably is history for Jose Barrios. He pitched a 3-hit complete-game shutout Sunday to beat Baltimore 7-0. But he and teammate Brian Dozier didn’t show much class ripping the Orioles catcher Chance Sisco for his one-out bunt against the shift in the bottom of the ninth inning. Why shouldn’t the O’s try to start a rally? In fact, they went on to loads the bases. It wasn’t like trying to break up a no-hitter.
Japanese 23-year-old pitcher-hitter Shohei Ohtani had a 20.00 ERA this spring for the Los Angeles Angels. In his MLB debut Sunday, he retired 15 of the last 16 batters he faced to earn a 7-4 victory over Oakland.
Adam Eaton (Washington) is off to a torrid start (8-for-13, 2 doubles, 2HRs, 5 RBI) leading off. I believe Eaton/Trea Turner could be MLB’s best 1-2 table-setters this season. Eaton takes then roster spot of 38-year-old Jayson Werth, who signed a minor-league deal with Seattle.
Byron Buxton (Minnesota) is 2-for-2 stealing bases this season and 44-for-49 fort his 280-game MLB career...Ryan LaMarre who earned a spot on the Twins with a hot spring training is 2-for-2.
HUGE WINNING EFFORT BY THE KNIGHTHAWKS
Remember when the National Lacrosse League Rochester Knighthawks opened this season with two straight impressive wins and then lost six straight games? They looked thoroughly discombobulated.
But the K-hawks are the nine-team NLL’s hottest team since (6-1 in their last seven games). They rallied from a 10-5 deficit last Saturday at Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial to beat the Colorado Mammoth 16-14, despite seven goals by former K-Hawk mainstay Stephen Keogh.
The two brightest stars for Rochester were veteran reserve goalie Angus Goodleaf – all 6-foot-2 and a listed 274 pounds of him – and rookie faceoff specialist Jake Withers.
K-hawks star goalie Matt Vinc was off form early and coach Mike Hasen called on seldom-used Goodleaf, who entered the game with a 9-15 career record in nine NLL seasons with Buffalo and Rochester. He stopped 31 of 37 shots in 40:30 for the victory.
Withers, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2018 NLL draft out of Ohio State, completely frustrated Colorado by winning 25 of 32 faceoffs. In his first pro season, he is easily the best faceoff man in the league.
Joe Resetarits (3 goals + 3 assists), Cory Vitarelli (3G + 2A), Cody Jamieson (2 goals + 4 assists), rookies Austin Shanks and Eric Fannell (each 2G + 3A) and Kyle Jackson (1G + 2A) paced the scoring. Defenders Ian Llord and Graeme Hossack each contributed a timely goal. Hossack has to be among the favorites for NLL Defender of the Year.
The only disappointing item on Mike Accursi Hall of Fame Night was the modest crowd of 6,228. Meanwhile, in Buffalo, the Bandits drew 13,709 for a win over New England.
The K-hawks are tied for first place with Buffalo at 8-7 with three games left in the regular season. Rochester next plays at Toronto (7-7 record) April 13. The final home game will be April 21 against the New England Black Wolves. The season finale will be at Buffalo April 28.
FINALLY A CAN’T MISS HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE FIGHT
British-born Anthony Joshua defeated New Zealand’s Joseph Parker last Saturday in Cardiff, Wales, to become the WBA, IBF and WBO world heavyweight boxing champion.
It was the first non-knockout victory for the 28-year-old Joshua, who is 21-0. He won the unanimous decision 118-110, 118-110 and 119-109. There were no knockdowns. Joshua was the 1-to-6 favorite. Parker was the 9-to-2 underdog.
Parker, who was defending his WBO belt, is 24-1, with 18 knockouts.
Boxing never has had a four-belt world heavyweight champion and Joshua’s next target is WBC champion Deontay Wilder. The American is 40-0, with 39 knockouts.
Former Rochester heavyweight favorite Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller wants the winner of the a Joshua-Wilder unification title fight. I don’t blame him.
One problem is that Joshua wants to fight Wilder in London or Cardiff and Wilder wants to stay in the United States.
Miller is 20-0-1 (including 1-0 at Capelli Sport Stadium) and will fight Johann Duhaupas (37-4, with 24 knockouts) in a WBA title elimination fight April 28 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center on HBO World Championship Boxing. Miller currently is the #3 challenger for WBO, WBA and IBF. His size, colorful personality and the fact that he is American make him a valuable commodity if he beats Duhaupas.
Tiger Woods is the early 9-to-1 favorite at Sportsbook.ag., to win The Masters this week. I find the 28-to-1 odds on defending champion Sergio Garcia far more tempting.
The latest NFL draft quarterback hot rumor is Cleveland selecting Josh Allen No. 1 overall. I wonder if Josh Rosen hoping he isn’t taken by the Browns is a factor.
ON THIS DATE IN SPORTS...
1908 (110 years ago), the Mills Committee declared baseball was invented by Abner Doubleday (it was not)...1969 (49 years ago), the NBA Milwaukee Bucks signed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...1976 (42 years ago), the Oakland’s A’s traded soon-to-be-free agents Reggie Jackson and Ken Holtzman to Baltimore for Don Baylor, Mike Torrez and Paul Mitchell...1984 (34 years ago), Georgetown beat Houston 84-75 in the NCAA men’s championship basketball game...1986 (32 years ago), the NCAA adopted the 3-point basketball shot...1995 (23 years ago), Lawrence Taylor defeated Bam Bam Bigelow in Wrestlemania X!.
1982 (36 years ago), Gilbert Perreault of the Buffalo Sabres scored his 1,000th NHL point...1987 (31 years ago), the Chicago Cubs traded Dennis Eckersley to the Oakland A’s for three minor-leaguers...1988 (30 years ago), Mario Lemieux snapped Wayne Gretzky’s run of seven straight NHL scoring titles.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO...
Ricky Hendrick (38)...Rory Sabbatini (42)...Bill Romanowski (52)...Andrei Kovalev (52)...Bruce Kozerski (56)... Drew (60)...Ayako Okamoto (67)...Marlene Floyd (70)...Don Sutton (73)...Reggie Smith (73). iHeart Radio’s Bobby Bones (38). Michael Fassbender (41) and Linda Hunt (73) are invited to the birthday party. Carmen Basilio was born on this date 91 years ago (1927) and died in 2012 at age 85.
Jamaal Williams (23)....Frank Mason (24)...T. J. Brennan (29)...Kam Chancellor (30)...Brandon Graham (30)...Jay Bruce (31)...Jared Allen (36)...Picabo Street (47)...Rodney Hampton (49)...Pervis Ellison (51)...Shane Conlan (54)...Steve Ludzik (57)...Leslie Frazier (59)...Mike Pruitt (64)...Russ Francis (65)...Eddie Murphy (57), Alec Baldwin (60) and Doris Day (96) are invited to the birthday party.