March Madness Starts With These Five ... and Zion

March Madness Starts With These Five ... and Zion

Coby White (No. 2) of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after a play against the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Dean Smith Center on March 09, 2019, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

SourceStreeter Lecka/Getty

Why you should care

A starting five to know, meme-able coaches and the anti-Sister Jeans.

This is the latest edition of OZY’s Huddle newsletter, which brings you a smart, flavorful conversation-starter for your next game watch party. No stale takes allowed. Add The Huddle to your OZY email subscriptions here.

Three days out from Selection Sunday, madness is already at a surplus. Underdogs are 7 for 12 in conference championship games. Come tourney time, that kind of unpredictability reigns supreme. So while the regular season has been a Zion Williamson–fest, these are the other March Madness names to know before filling out a bracket. Plus, the next Sister Jean and a little game we’re calling, What Are the Odds?

  1. Coby White, UNC. With freaky handles and a flowing Afro, the slick point guard is a nightly threat to drop 30.
  2. Markus Howard, Marquette. The Big East player of the year is the first player in two decades with multiple 50-point games.
  3. Tre Jones, Duke. Jones locks down the opponents’ best player on defense, but he’ll need to shoot well for Duke to win the title.
  4. Fletcher Magee, Wofford. Magee is now two 3-pointers short of the NCAA career record, and his fearsome Terriers own the nation’s longest winning streak.
  5. Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga. A likely top-10 draft pick, the Japanese big man led No. 1 Gonzaga in scoring (20.1 ppg) this season.

What Are the Odds …

  1. That Nevada’s Eric Musselman pops his top? Hopefully not until the Sweet Sixteen. -175
  2. That Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski turns blue? The real question: What shade? -300
  3. That a coach wears a towel after splitting his pants? Unfortunately, Ed Cooley and LaVall Jordan aren’t making the dance. +425

Introducing … the Anti–Sister Jean? It’s a two-man race between corporate restaurateurs for drawing cameras to the stands this March as they cheer Final Four contenders. Houston booster and basketball arena namesake Tilman Fertitta will give it his all, but our bet is on the one, the only, Papa John Schnatter. The disgraced pizza man had his name removed from Louisville’s football stadium, so naturally he’s turned into a Kentucky fan.

What to Watch & Pick ’Em

IBF Welterweight Title, Errol Spence Jr. vs. Mikey Garcia (Saturday, 8pm ET on Fox PPV) With a 39–0 record and titles in four divisions, Garcia moves up in weight to challenge one of boxing’s fastest-rising stars.

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Megan Gustafson of the Iowa Hawkeyes shoots the ball in the Big 10 Women’s Championship Game against Maryland.

Source Justin Casterline/Getty

Ones to Watch

Megan Gustafson, Iowa Center. The nation’s leading scorer (28 points, 13.3 rebounds per game) is destroying defenses this season, leading the surging No. 8 Iowa Hawkeyes up the women’s rankings just in time for March Madness. Gustafson dropped 45 in a win over Maryland in the Big Ten championship, positioning Iowa as a likely 2-seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Final Four contender. In a couple of months, first-round WNBA draft status awaits.

Jonathan Lewis, NYCFC Winger. One week after notching an assist in NYCFC’s season-opening draw with Orlando, Lewis earned his second call-up to the U.S. Men’s National Team, getting the nod ahead of teenage phenoms Tim Weah and Josh Sargent. Lewis, 21, impressed in his USMNT debut in January, logging two assists as a reserve against Panama and Costa Rica. He’ll start this weekend against LAFC, then look to make an impact in USMNT’s fixtures against Ecuador and Chile in the coming weeks.

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Jonathan Lewis (No. 17) of New York City runs past Kamal Miller (No. 27) of Orlando City SC during a MLS soccer match at Orlando City Stadium this month.

Source Alex Menendez/Getty

Trending Up

NFL Musical Chairs. What’s the best way to make football headlines in the middle of March? Reshape the face of the league! Free agency kicked off with Pittsburgh trading Antonio Brown to Oakland and watching as Le’Veon Bell signed with the New York Jets. Onetime Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles joined Jacksonville, Detroit signed a handful of former Patriots, and Baltimore added Earl Thomas and Mark Ingram. In total, 17 of ESPN’s top 20 free agents will don new helmets next season. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, the Giants traded Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland for little more than a million Big Blue tears. Suddenly, the Browns — yes, the Browns — have an offense ready to rival the league’s best.

Trending Down

Baseball Traditionalists. It may soon be time to say goodbye to America’s pastime as you knew it. The independent Atlantic League — a regular stop for pros looking to make it back to Major League Baseball — this week announced an agreement to serve as MLB’s rule-changes test kitchen. The league will experiment with electronic umpires, larger bases and minimum batter limits for pitchers. Craziest of all, though, they’ll play games with the mound moved back 2 feet. MLB will adopt some of these changes in 2020. We’ll know soon which more drastic ones gain steam.

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Writing College Papers in Full Uniform? That’s Just One Step in Chris Woodward’s Path to Becoming Rangers Manager by Evan Grant in the Dallas Morning News

The hotshot new Texas Rangers manager earned his college degree online while still playing pro baseball, the kind of concentration needed for this rebuilding project.

Don’t Miss

After a trying season, Nebraska coach Tim Miles was understandably fired up following the Cornhuskers’ big win over Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament. Too fired up? You be the judge.

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