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Saturday Sports: College Basketball, Baseball Begins, NFL Pass Interference Rule


Going to take a deep breath because it's time for sports.


SIMON: Spring has sprung. The flowers bloom but not in Chapel Hill this morning. Not only did UNC lose, but Duke won. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hey there, Scott.

SIMON: Auburn, seeded five, defeated the No. 1 seeded Tar Heels, and they didn't have to sweat too much either, did they?

GOLDMAN: They really didn't. And No. 1 fan and former star and March Madness broadcaster Charles Barkley - that's a lot of titles - gets happier and happier. Auburn need...

SIMON: He's also bald, too. OK. But go ahead.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Four titles.

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Auburn was the lower seed (laughter), but they were the better team, surged pass the Tar Heels in the second half for a 97-80 win. But there is a lot of concerns, Scott, about the team's best player. Forward Chuma Okeke - his knee buckled on a drive to the hoop in the second half. He had to be helped off. And it looks like a serious injury.

SIMON: And Duke won, but they barely held on against Virginia Tech.

GOLDMAN: Man, for a second straight game, Virginia Tech had a chance to tie at the end of regulation, missed a point-blank shot, I mean, from a foot. And Duke escaped - reminiscent of that second round game, a classic versus Central Florida. Remember that when Central Florida had two chances to win at the end, but the ball just would not go in?

Last night, Duke also had to deal with an injury issue. One of its star freshmen, Cam Reddish, didn't play because of a sore knee. So Duke's other super freshmen, including the superest (ph) of them all, Zion Williamson, did just enough to move this team to the Elite Eight versus Michigan State. Scott, I should say this Duke team may be a bunch of one-and-done players, you know, in college for a year before moving on to the pros, but they're getting a college career's worth of NCAA tournament experience.

SIMON: Over on the women's side, UConn got a scare against UCLA, didn't they?

GOLDMAN: Yeah, the Huskies did. UCLA's a good team, and UConn held on for an 8-point win. You know, there was some surprise going into the tournament that UConn was only a 2 seed. UConn had been a 1 seed every year since 2006, but the Huskies haven't looked as strong as this tournament's No. 1s. Louisville, Mississippi State, Baylor, Notre Dame, those teams have - they've been cruising, winning easily by double digits each game - each of their games. You know, there's no real March Madness in the women's tournament - meaning major upsets in the women's tournaments so far.

SIMON: Yes. March method it seems to be.

GOLDMAN: Right. Right. Exactly. But, you know, that just means the excitement comes in the later rounds when all of the best, the 1s and the 2s, get together and start to play each other.

SIMON: Major League Baseball started again this week on North American soil.


SIMON: Chicago Cubs are undefeated after two games. I'm willing to call it a season right now.

GOLDMAN: Sure, Scott. At 1-0, the Cubs already have a death lock on the NL Central division. Even though they're tied with Cincinnati, no way the Reds keep up as Chicago builds to its inevitable 162-0 record this season, right?

SIMON: San Diego Padres might be for real this year - right? - not just moving to Montreal or Mexico, but they might be a real factor.

GOLDMAN: The Padres are off to their best start since 2011, and here's what's to like about them. A small market team that's made it clear it wants to win now, which is not always the case with major league teams these days. In fact, it's a real sore point between management and the union. The players say a number of teams aren't spending enough on rosters. But they're doing that in San Diego. They paid Manny Machado $300 million over 10 years. They want to win now, and the Padres should be fun to watch.

SIMON: NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.