Saturday sports: UConn and S.C. in women's NCAA final; men's Final Four tonight
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Let me collect myself. And now it's time for sports.
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SIMON: It's Final Fours weekend in the women's tournament. South Carolina and Connecticut will go on. The men's semifinal is tonight. Do you think anyone will be watching? And matchups for men's soccer in the World Cup announced. We're joined now by NPR's Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks so much for being with us.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.
SIMON: And, of course, the women's tournament games were last night. South Carolina defeated Louisville. They'll play Connecticut in the final. Connecticut defeated Stanford. What did you see in the games last night?
GOLDMAN: Yeah, I saw a really good South Carolina team in control the whole game versus the other No. 1 seed, Louisville. South Carolina has this one-woman wrecking crew, 6-5 post player Aliyah Boston - named Associated Press Player of the Year this week. She had 23 points, eight rebounds and - but it's not just her. The Gamecocks have great guards. They played great defense. And you can see why they're the tournament's overall No. 1 seed.
What I saw with UConn - you know, head coach Geno Auriemma called this a trying season with injuries and the most regular season losses in 17 years. But during the tournament, the Huskies are looking like the team that year after year wins in March - remember, 11 national titles against defending champion Stanford. UConn star guard Paige Bueckers was good. But really, all the Huskies on the court did enough good things to offset some mistakes near the end, and solid defense was part of the reason Stanford's usually dominant offense was way off last night.
Huskies are rolling. They are undefeated in championship games. But South Carolina is a very good and very well-coached team.
SIMON: I have to ask. Stanford, of course, suffered a defeat. Was it also an expensive night for their coach, Tara VanDerveer?
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Well, had her...
SIMON: We should explain her three-point challenge for charity (unintelligible), yeah.
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Yeah. Had her players hit more three-pointers - they were a dreadful four for 23 - it would have been more expensive for Tara VanDerveer, but...
SIMON: You think they're trying to save the coach money?
SIMON: No, no.
GOLDMAN: Probably not. But, you know, VanDerveer would have been happy to pay up. For every made three-pointer in the women's tournament, she is donating $10 to charities...
GOLDMAN: ...Helping in Ukraine - a nice gesture by a coach who's always been a leader on social and political issues. And she's encouraged others to join the challenge at whatever dollar amount, and they have. Heading into the title game, there have been a total of 765 made three-pointers, not many of them last night. And the money raised so far is over $200,000.
SIMON: Yeah. All right. The men's tournament - Final Four tonight, Kansas versus Villanova. And, of course, you couldn't script this better.
SIMON: One final battle for Coach K between Duke and the University of North Carolina - his record at Duke against UNC is 50 wins versus 47 losses.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) I'm calling it the three-Rs game. Rivalry - and it's one of the all-time greats in sport. Revenge - North Carolina beat Duke in Coach K's last...
GOLDMAN: ...Regular season home game this season.
GOLDMAN: And, of course, the third R, Scott - retirement. Coach K's amazing career ends either tonight or Monday, whenever the last Duke game is. A sixth title would be a storybook sendoff. But, you know, as well as Duke's been playing, it's not guaranteed. North Carolina looked dominant in beating St Peter's.
GOLDMAN: Kansas is the only No. 1 seed left. And Villanova lost a key player to injury, but the Wildcats have come up with March magic in recent years. They won the title in 2016 and 2018.
SIMON: Matchups for one of the most popular sporting events in the world are set - the men's soccer World Cup. It'll take place in Qatar later this year - controversial in each and every respect.
GOLDMAN: Oh, it certainly is. And as it approaches in November, we'll be hearing a lot about human rights violations in the host country, about alleged bribery that brought the World Cup to Qatar. But yesterday was all about football and the draw and how the 32 teams were put into eight groups.
The U.S. men who qualified for this World Cup after missing the last one, they're in Group B, which includes England, fourth place finisher in the last World Cup in 2018. It also includes Iran. That should be an interesting match for the U.S. Lots more to talk about and we've got eight months to do it, Scott, 'cause we're going to wait that long until they play.
SIMON: Oh, I tell you what. We'll book, like, 30 seconds every week, OK?
SIMON: ...For the next eight months. NPR's Tom Goldman - I don't care what everybody else says. I find it always nice to speak with you. Thanks very much, Tom.
GOLDMAN: (Laughter) You bet.
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