Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, March 30, 2018 at 2:13 PM
Let's face it ... the two words are just magical: Final Four.
And after a full week of the national media chatting up the likes of Sister Jean and this very special Loyola-Chicago squad, it's finally time we dig in and get you our Jim Sez preview of this Final Four bash with a quickie reminder that we'll preview the battle of the #1 seeds - that's Villanova versus Kansas in the Final Four nightcap - in our weekend edition of this column, so don't miss out.
THE FINAL FOUR
Alamodome - San Antonio, TX
#11 LOYOLA-CHICAGO (32-5) vs. #3 MICHIGAN (32-7) - 6:09 p.m. ET, TBS
First things first: The Loyola kids have won all of its games in outright upset fashion during this year's "Big Dance" and the Ramblers enter this weekend's Final Four riding a fabulous 14-game SU (straight-up) winning streak; Michigan, on the other hand, has split its four pointspread verdicts in this man's tourney but the maize-and-blue ride a 13-game SU winning streak into this clash and so we're talking two teams that are hot, hot, hot!
No question that we've seen other #11 seeds (and other long-shots) get embarrassed once they get to this big stage of the Final Four but Loyola's time-tested team has shown no signs of "stage fright" and head coach Porter Moser's crew has remained cool and calm while playing a share-the-ball offense that features guards Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson - each of whom has taken turns playing the star role in this tourney - and star-on-the-rise C Cameron Krutwig. Still, if the 5-point underdog Ramblers are gonna pull the upset here, then Donte Ingram and Marques Townes must hit some wing jumpers and make the Michigan defense work extra hard.
If John Beilein's Wolverines are gonna march in to Monday night's NCAA Championship Game, then frosh G Jordan Poole - he of the 30-foot game-winner at the buzzer against Houston in Round II - must take on more of a scoring role, especially when considering G Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman (just 9 points scored in last weekend's Elite 8 non-cover win against Florida State) has been truly inconsistent on offense this tourney. Can big man Mo Wagner nail some treys early and get the Wolverines all juiced up ... or is this merely Loyola's "year" as Sister Jean's favorite team looks to stay comfy in a game where 65 points likely wins it.
Here's the NCAA Tournament path to the Final Four for both Loyola-Chicago and Michigan:
MLB'S OPENING DAY A REAL HIT
Hey, can you remember a better Opening Day - ever - in Major-League Baseball?
Okay, so we had a couple of rainouts mar the schedule - no big deal - but consider the 2018 MLB season started with a real bang as Chicago Cubs' OF Ian Happ whacked a home run on the season's first pitch in an eventual 8-4 Cubbies win (and note three hitters in the top of the first inning were hit by Jose Urena pitches, for goodness sake);
Then there were walk-off wins in both Baltimore and Atlanta - thanks to dingers by OF Adam Jones (a solo shot) and OF Nick Markakis (a three-run blast) - respectively along with other extra-inning classics in Oakland and San Diego and, heck, we haven't even mentioned Houston RHP Justin Verlander's six shutout innings for the defending champs nor the fact Los Angeles Dodgers' LHP Clayton Kershaw was on the wrong end of a 1-0 score against San Francisco or that New York Yankees new slugger DH Giancarlo Stanton bashed two home runs and a double while driving in four runs and scoring three times in NYY's 6-1 North-of-the-Border win in Toronto.
The '18 MLB season is off to a flying start - the Jim Hurley Network cashed big with the Chicago White Sox's double-your-pleasure 14-7 win in Kansas City where Chisox DH Matt Davidson became only the fourth big-leaguer in history to homer three times in an Opening Day game - and so make sure you're all aboard for a big-time winning season on the diamond.
NOTE - Much more NCAA Tournament News in the next Jim Sez as we preview Villanova vs. Kansas.