Will we witness history tonight in Gonzaga vs. Baylor?

Good morning and welcome to men’s national championship Monday, friend! Today’s a bittersweet day because it brings us the biggest game of the men’s college basketball season, but it also means that March Madness will come to an end … and I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Fortunately, it promises to be a pretty great game between the two best teams this year. We’ll go over the Gonzaga-Baylor matchup (and touch on this weekend’s iconic Final Four moment) as we prepare for tonight’s showdown. We’ll take some time to recap last night’s women’s national championship as well — congratulations to the ladies from Stanford!

We’re also coming off a big opening weekend for baseball, capped last night by an incredible (but unfortunately abbreviated) two-way show from Shohei Ohtani. And you know what might help your college basketball scaries? A reminder that we’re just days away from the start of the Masters — one of the best events on the annual sports calendar.

So yeah, you could say it’s a busy morning. Let’s not waste any more time.

📰 What you need to know

1. It all comes down to Gonzaga vs. Baylor 🏀

And then there were two. Saturday’s Final Four doubleheader on the men’s side got off to a lackluster start when Baylor dummied Houston with relative ease but boy oh boy did we ever get our entertainment value on the back end. Despite Gonzaga entering Saturday’s game as double-digit favorites, UCLA put up an incredible fight and forced overtime. Unfortunately for the Bruins, their dreams of a historic upset came to an end when Jalen Suggs hit one of the biggest shots in March Madness history.

We’d been waiting for a pulse-pounding buzzer-beater for pretty much the entire tournament. Somehow, Saturday’s was worth the wait and then some. That was arguably one of the greatest college hoops games of all time

So, now here we are … Gonzaga-Baylor for the ‘ship, just as we all expected. How do the they match up? That’s a great question, and it’s one that David Cobb answers by providing a position-by-position breakdown between the two.

  • Both teams are even at the lead guard and small forward position
  • Baylor’s Davion Mitchell holds the edge over Gonzaga’s Andrew Nembhard at off guard. Mitchell leads the Bears in assists, is the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year and an excellent three-point shooter
  • Gonzaga has the edge at both the 4 and the 5. Zags center Drew Timme is one of the best offensive big men in college basketball and he’s capable of taking over a game, as was proven in overtime this weekend  
  • Baylor has the bench edge — the bench is coming off a 32-point showing in Saturday’s win over the Cougars

Gonzaga is entering tonight as 4.5-point favorites and they’ve got a perfect season on the line. They’d be the first undefeated team in men’s college basketball to win a natty since the 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers, so we’ve got a real shot at witnessing history tonight. But what do we love more … witnessing history, or witnessing a historic upset on the biggest stage?

2. Winners and losers from MLB’s opening weekend ⚾

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It felt good to have a full weekend of meaningful baseball back in our lives, didn’t it? Being able to kick the feet up, relax and enjoy some day baseball over the weekend is one of life’s great pleasures and I thoroughly enjoyed the past couple of days. That’s saying something too, considering I’m a Red Sox fan and almost NOTHING positive happened for the Sox in their season-opening series. 

It was an eventful weekend so what do you say we hit some winners and losers from this weekend’s series?

  • Winner: Trey Mancini and the Orioles — Did I mention that I’m a Red Sox fan and nothing good happened this weekend? Yeah, well that was even more painful considering the Sox were going up against the Orioles. Baltimore swept the three-game series and it was rather embarrassing, but the silver lining is that Trey Mancini (3 RBI) had a strong series in his return from Stage 3 colon cancer
  • Loser: Mets and Nats — Technically neither of these teams lost because they didn’t play, but that’s also exactly why they lost. Having all three of your season-opening games delayed due to COVID is a major tease buzzkill, even if it’s the right move to be cautious. The postponements also left MLB fans without a single primetime Thursday night game
  • Winner: Yermin Mercedes — 28-year-old rookie Yermin Mercedes had just one MLB at-bat heading into this season but he earned a spot on the White Sox’s Opening Day roster and made the most of his opportunities in the early going. Mercedes went 8-for-8 and hit his first career home run before finally being retired in Chicago’s second game of the year. Five of his eight hits came with two strikes

You want a guy who was simultaneously a winner AND a loser yesterday? Shohei Ohtani, who provided one heck of a thrill ride on Sunday Night BaseballOhtani got the start on the mound Sunday and hit 101 MPH on the radar gun (the fastest pitch thrown so far this season) in the first inning. Then in the bottom half of the inning, he hit a home run that traveled 451 feet. That homer had an exit velocity of 115.2 MPH, making it the hardest hit ball of the season so far

Unfortunately, he exited the game in the fifth inning after recording what should have been an inning-ending strikeout. The ball was dropped and Ohtani was injured when Jose Abreau slid into his ankle while covering home plate 

Let’s hope that Ohtani’s injury isn’t too serious because the show he put on last night was absolutely electric. If you can hit 100 MPH on the gun and 450 feet on a tape measure shot in the same inning of a MLB game, that should earn you an automatic induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in my book.

3. Stanford hangs on against Arizona to win NCAA women’s championship 🏀

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The men’s title game is tonight, but the women’s bracket played to a conclusion last night and it was one heck of a game. Stanford cemented their status as the best team in college basketball with a 54-53 win over Arizona, taking home the program’s first national championship since 1992. 

It was a game that brought plenty of entertainment value (for better and for worse) and Arizona had a chance to win with a prayer at the buzzer but the shot clanged off the rim and left the Wildcats empty-handed. Some takeaways from our Jack Maloney:

  • Stanford finally gets back to the winner’s circle: Stanford has made every NCAA Tournament since 1988, with 27 appearances in Sweet Sixteens, 21 Elite Eights, and 14 Final Fours. And yet this was their first title in 29 years. This season provided some tough tests — including a nine-week stint on the road due to COVID regulations in California but they gutted out an overdue championship
  • Aari McDonald’s heroic run comes to an end: McDonald’s decision to return to Arizona brought great returns. She was named Pac-12 Player of the Year, co-Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and an AP Second Team All-American. McDonald was brilliant in Arizona’s first tourney appearance since 2005 (and their first run past the Sweet Sixteen) but she had a tough title game. A 5-of-20 shooting performance might leave a sour taste, especially since she missed the potential game-winning bucket
  • Haley Jones wins Most Outstanding Player: Jones was Stanford’s best player all tournament long, averaging 14.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists while shooting 60 percent from the field. She led Stanford in scoring last night as well, dropping 17 points (including seven of Stanford’s 11 fourth quarter points)

Can we get as exciting a finish tonight as the one we saw last night? Please?!

4. Jordan Spieth wins first PGA event since 2017 🏌

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Jordan Spieth career has gone a bit off the rails after an incredibly promising beginning, but he managed to rediscover some glory this weekend at the 2021 Texas Open. He earned his first PGA Tour victory since 2017 and 12th overall.

  • Spieth posted a -18 on the leaderboard to clear second-place finisher Charley Hoffman by two strokes
  • He birdied three of his final six holes Sunday and shot par or better over his final 14 holes
  • He’s the fifth player in the last 40 years to win 12 or more events before age 28 (joining Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas)
  • Spieth: “I actually felt really light. I felt like I just wanted to come out and smile, try to have some fun. That’s kind of been a challenge for me on these Sundays when I’ve been in contention is really, going into the round, I’ve not come out with a real lightness to me. I just felt like today, I did … Man, it’s been a long road.”  

While this win has got to feel nice for Spieth, its true significance may lie in the fact that it comes in the days leading up to the 2021 Masters. Spieth has played great golf over the past few months and he heads to Augusta, where he’s already won a green jacket, with some confidence and a win. That could do him a whole lot of good.

He’s now charged up the leaderboard of favorites and sits at 11-1 odds to win the Masters — tied for third-best odds on the board. Are you willing to bank on him being back?

📝 Odds & Ends

📺 What to watch today

🏒 Avalanche vs. Wild, 8 p.m. | MIN +150 | TV:

🏀 Men’s National Championship: No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 9:20 p.m. | ZAGS -4.5| TV: CBS

White Sox vs. Mariners, 10:20 p.m. | SEA +110 | TV: ESPN   

🥇 The best thing I saw this weekend

The shot. Duh.

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