This weekend officially welcomes the start of April, as well as a jam-packed few days for some of the biggest events in sports. Here’s what’s going down in weekend sports action.
The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament wraps up in what is sure to be exciting fashion. An eclectic and unlikely Final Four will battle for a spot in the championship game starting Saturday April 1 with the first game tipping off just after 6 p.m. EST. As the top seed of the West region, Gonzaga has been a steady force flying swiftly under the radar, and quickly became known as the country’s best team to never reach the Final Four (until now, that is). The Bulldogs have proven their worth all tournament long, though many are left wondering if they can overcome the underdog momentum that the South Carolina Gamecocks are riding on after entering the bracket without a single NCAA Tournament win in 44 years. That is no April Fools joke.
In the night’s second match-up, coach Roy Williams and the North Carolina Tar Heels find themselves back in familiar territory and are thirsty to avenge their heartbreaking last-second defeat to Villanova in last year’s championship game. They first must face the Oregon Ducks, the Midwest region’s third-seed who ousted no. 1 Kansas in top form, making them a force to be reckoned with for the Tar Heels. Will there be a battle of the Carolinas for the champion’s hardware? A clash of the Northwest schools? Don’t miss a second of Final Four action on Saturday and the culminating final game, beginning Monday night.
On the women’s side, the tournament has resulted in a different tale of the Final Four, equally balanced between no. 1 and 2 seeds. South Carolina gets a double dose of excitement this weekend with both their men’s and women’s squads being among the last few standing, with the women taking on the Stanford Cardinals (now in their 12th Final Four appearance) in the first ladies semifinal. Mississippi State is hoping to make their Final Four debut a successful one, despite facing the daunting task of dethroning college basketball’s greatest dynasty: the UConn Huskies. The Huskies, hot off the heels of a 90-52 win over Oregon in the Elite Eight and 111 games deep into their record-setting win streak, are the undeniable favorite to not only advance to the final, but take home the title to Storrs yet again. Though anything can happen in Friday’s semifinal match-ups in Dallas to determine the final two teams, the prospect of a Stanford-UConn Championship game is filled with intrigue. The Cardinals were the last team to defeat UConn back in 2014, and the game would pit UConn sophomore standout Katie Lou Samuelson against older sister Karlie for the title. The Championship game tips off Sunday at 6 p.m. EST from the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
MLB Opening Day
After weeks of spring training preparation, baseball makes its triumphant return with the start of the regular season. Sunday April 2nd kicks off the season with three games. The New York Yankees will take on the Rays in Tampa Bay, the Arizona Diamondbacks host the San Francisco Giants at Chase Field, and the reigning World Series Champs Chicago Cubs open up their 2017 campaign on the road in St. Louis. The action continues Monday, with 12 more games across the league. Be sure to grab your tickets now for the best day in baseball!
Miami Open Finals
Miami tennis fans are in for a treat, as the annual tournament wraps up the men’s and women’s singles competition. Friday afternoon kicks off the first of two men’s semifinal matches, as 4-time Miami Open finalist Rafael Nadal takes the court against Fabio Fognini, who is the first unseeded player to reach a semifinal here in a decade. The winner will face either no. 12 seed Nick Kyrgios or no. 4 seed Roger Federer, who take the court Friday night after sealing exciting three-set victories in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The potential of a Federer-Nadal matchup has fans giddy, as it would mark their third meeting this season and 37th overall since their rivalry for the ages began at this very tournament in 2004. Should they meet once again, 35-year-old Federer has the edge after pulling off an epic five-set comeback in the Australian Open final to claim his record 18th Grand Slam title, and soundly defeating Nadal again at the BNP Paribas Open just a few weeks ago. The men’s singles final begins Sunday at 1 p.m., 24 hours after Caroline Wozniacki and Johanna Konta take the court in the women’s championship match. Breakthrough player Konta ended Venus Williams’ run convincingly in the semifinals, whereas former world no. 1 Wozniacki needed three sets to overcome no. 2 seed Karolina Pliskova by a score of 5-7 6-1 6-1.