Mitch's Sports Report: NCAA Women's Final Four Features Familiar Faces
The women's bracket of the NCAA basketball tournament has been whittled down to the Final Four and with UConn included in that quartet, the Huskies now hold the record for most appearances in an NCAA semi-final at 19, one more than Tennessee.
Last night the Huskies rolled over South Carolina 94-65, getting 23 points from Gabby Williams and 21 from Crystal Dangerfield, and next up is a tilt against Notre Dame for a berth in the National Championship game.
The Fighting Irish booked their Final Four ticket with an 84-74 win over the Oregon Ducks and a big game from Kathryn Westbeld, who scored 20 points despite playing with an injured ankle.
Mississippi State and Louisville round out the rest of the field and will tip off against each Friday night.
In the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs had already set a franchise record for consecutive wins at home with 13 straight victories but an unlikely opponent made sure the string was halted at a baker's dozen. The last place Buffalo Sabres rode two goals by former Boston University stand-out Jack Eichel to a 3-2 victory at Air Canada Centre last night, a win that also prevented the Leafs from recording the most regular season victories in club history. Toronto will easily pass that mark of 46 wins before the season is over, and the only record Leafs fans really care to have broken is their run without a Stanley Cup championship dating back to 1967, the longest drought of any Original Six hockey franchise by far.
The Montreal Canadiens haven't won the Cup since 1993, but that might as well be 1967 for fans of the most storied franchise in the league, and the lack of Lord Stanley's presence in Quebec will be felt this year as well, with Montreal well out of the playoff picture. But the Habs did pick up a win against another fallen Original Six team, the Detroit Red Wings, winning 4-2 at the Bell Centre last night. Brendan Gallagher has been one of the few bright lights in a dark Montreal season and he scored twice in the win last night to give him 30 goals on the season.
Meanwhile the Red Wings will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive year after rattling off a string of 25 years in a row with post-season hockey in the Motor City.
Continuing our theme of Original Six teams that won't get a shot at the Cup this season, the NY Rangers are in that misery loves company club. The Blueshirts trace their last Stanley Cup to 1994, when Mark Messier and company captured the Cup for Rangers fans for the first time since 1940. The Rangers lost 4-2 to the Washington Capitals last night and while the Caps are no Original Six franchise, having entered the league in 1974, they have their own post-season woes to wail about, having never won a Stanley Cup despite having one of the top 3 players on the planet in Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 45th goal of the season last night in the win over New York.
The Boston Bruins join the Maple Leafs as the only Original Six clubs vying for the Stanley Cup this season, the Chicago Blackhawks being the other old-timey squad out of the playoff picture. The Bruins are hoping for good health and perhaps to catch the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the eastern conference as they head into Winnipeg tonight to take on the high-flying Jets, a team having a great season and one that could do a lot of damage in the playoffs, as good a dark horse pick as you could make if you're looking for one.
In the NBA the Boston Celtics won their fourth straight game, topping the Phoenix Suns 102-94 in Arizona last night. Two of the marquee players from last year's draft showed off their stuff in this one, with Boston's Jayson Tatum, the number three pick, scoring 23 points, while the number four pick in the draft, Josh Jackson, also scored 23 for the Suns.
Marcus Morris added 20 points in just three quarters for the Celtics, and certainly would have had more but for leaving the game with injury, and that's something Boston can ill afford with Kyrie Irving out for at least the next three weeks with a knee injury. But with the win the Celtics moved within three games of idle Toronto for first place in the eastern conference.
A little baseball news with opening day just 48 hours away, and while the NY Yankees will open the season as the odds on favorite to win the AL East, the pennant, and probably the World Series, too, they will be without first baseman Greg Bird for the early part of the season. The heavy hitting Bird will miss six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery to remove a bone spur in his foot, but the Yankees have more than enough firepower to make up for Bird's absence.