Spring is here, and with it come the final acts of the college and professional basketball seasons, along with the start of America's pastime. March Madness will go from 16 to four teams by the end of the week, and ballparks across the country will be filled with fans and the aromas of peanuts and Cracker Jacks.
Oh, and that famous golf tournament in Augusta is right around the corner, with a star-studded final tune-up tournament beginning this Wednesday.
All of those events, plus the NBA's regular-season stretch run and a marquee event in the martial arts world, highlight quite the diverse week in the sports world. Here's what you'll want to watch.
Must Watch: Baseball is Back
The 2019 MLB Opening Day is Thursday. All 30 teams will play on what should be a national holiday, a week after the Mariners and A's officially started the season in Tokyo. Games begin at 1 p.m. and run all the way through the final game of the night (7 p.m., ESPN), when the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox begin their quest for a repeat in a matchup with the Seattle Mariners.
According to Odds Shark, Boston is tied with the Houston Astros and New York Yankees with the best odds (+600; bet $100 to win $600) to win it all in 2019.
Other notable Opening Day games include Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s first games with their new teams after signing monster free-agent contracts, as well as Mike Trout’s first game with the Angels since signing his even-more-monstrous 12-year, $430 million extension.
Atlanta Braves at Philadelphia Phillies, 3:05 p.m.: Harper and the Phillies host the reigning National League East Champions. After his breakout 2018, Aaron Nola starts for Philadelphia against Julio Teheran for Atlanta, making his sixth consecutive Opening Day start for the Braves. Harper’s career numbers against Teheran are extremely good (18-40, 8 HRs), setting up an ideal first regular-season at-bat in a Phillies uniform. The signing of Harper bumped the Phils' title odds from +1200 to +850 practically overnight.
Los Angeles Angels at Oakland Athletics, 4:07 p.m.: Trout begins his season on the road hoping to lead the Angels back to the Postseason for the first time since 2014. LA has only made the playoffs that single time during Trout’s illustrious career with the team so far, and the Angels got swept in that series. Baseball fans would love to see the sport's best player’s team be good, especially as Trout sets new performance and statistical records on the field seemingly every season.
San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres, 4:10 p.m.: Bruce Bochy’s last Opening Day as Giants’ manager before retirement intersects with Machado’s first with the Padres. San Francisco hopes to send Bochy out on top as the Giants look to make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons (albeit in 2019, an odd year). In the other dugout, Machado’s hot-and-cold 2018 playoff run with the Los Angeles Dodgers may have made some people forget just how good he is. Machado has been an All-Star four times and won two Gold Gloves, and his move to southern California puts the two best third basemen in MLB, him and the Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado, in the same NL West division.
Watch This: March Madness Sweet 16
The NCAA tournament resumes on Thursday with the start of the Sweet 16. Three conferences dominate the remaining field of 16, as the ACC (5), SEC (4), and Big Ten (3) combine to have 12 teams still dancing. Here’s a look at the bracket as it stands.
There will be four games each Thursday and Friday for the Sweet 16. Here’s the schedule, with all times Eastern:
West Region, from Anaheim, Calif.
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 1 Gonzaga; 7:09 p.m., CBS
No. 3 Texas Tech vs. No. 2 Michigan; Approx. 9:39 p.m., CBS
South Region, from Louisville, Ky.
No. 3 Purdue vs. No. 2 Tennessee; 7:29 p.m., TBS
No. 12 Oregon vs. No. 1 Virginia; Approx 9:59 p.m., TBS
East Region, from Washington D.C.
No. 3 LSU vs. No. 2 Michigan State; 7:09 p.m., CBS
No. 4 Virginia Tech vs. No. 1 Duke; Approx 9:39 p.m., CBS
Midwest Region, from Kansas City, Mo.
No. 5 Auburn vs. No. 1 North Carolina; 7:29 p.m., TBS
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 3 Houston; Approx 9:59 p.m., TBS
You can also watch every game with March Madness Live on NCAA.com and/or the March Madness Live app.
And remember to keep an eye on your brackets with the Capital One Bracket Challenge. There is ONE perfect bracket left after the first four days of tournament play for the first time ever.
The Elite 8 will be played on Saturday and Sunday.
More to Watch This Week
1. WGC Match Play
In the biggest remaining event before The Masters in April, a stacked field of golfers will go head to head in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play this week at Austin Country Club in the capital of Texas.
The 64-player field is made up almost entirely of the top 64 players in the world, including No. 1-ranked Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy fresh off his Players Championship title, World No. 2 and 2018 FedEx Cup Champion Justin Rose, hometown favorite Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth, and three-time event winner Tiger Woods, playing at the Austin tournament for the first time since 2013. Here’s a look at the full field.
The bracket for the event (it is March, after all) will be revealed today at 3 p.m. on Golf Channel. For this unique event, match-play competition begins Wednesday morning and runs through Sunday afternoon as the field whittles down from 64 to one champion.
Check out the schedule here.
For matchups Wednesday through Friday, you can watch live coverage on Golf Channel from 1-7 p.m. Saturday’s coverage on Golf Channel runs from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and then moves to NBC from 1-5 p.m. On Sunday, morning coverage on Golf Channel again airs from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. with the Championship Match beginning on NBC at 2 p.m.
2. NBA Playoff Push
We’re down to two-and-a-half weeks left in the NBA regular season, and there’s still plenty to be decided in both conferences’ playoff races. Take a look at the current standings here. In the other direction, the Los Angeles Lakers have been mathematically eliminated, meaning LeBron James will miss the playoffs for the first time since his second NBA season in 2005. Our world has changed since then:
Complex Sports @ComplexSports
Last time LeBron missed the playoffs: - The best selling phone was a Nokia 1110 - The Office was just a few weeks old - “1, 2 step” by Ciara was one of the songs dominating charts - The SuperSonics were still a thing. - There was no Twitter or Instagram. https://t.co/l4eABf732c
This week, check out these top nationally televised and NBA League Pass games of the week with implications on making the playoffs, seeding or both.
Philadelphia 76ers at Orlando Magic; 7 p.m., NBATV
Brooklyn Nets at Portland Trail Blazers; 10 p.m., NBATV
San Antonio Spurs at Charlotte Hornets; 7 p.m., Watch on B/R Live
Orlando Magic at Miami Heat; 7:30 p.m., Watch
Houston Rockets at Milwaukee Bucks; 8 p.m., TNT
Detroit Pistons at Denver Nuggets; 9 p.m., Watch
Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies; 8 p.m., Watch
Indiana Pacers at Oklahoma City Thunder; 8 p.m., ESPN
For the full NBA schedule and to watch NBA League Pass on B/R Live, go here.
3. ONE Championship: A New Era
The biggest event in ONE Championship history arrives Sunday, March 31, on B/R Live. American martial arts stars Demetrius "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and Eddie "The Underground King" Alvarez make their ONE debuts live from Tokyo, Japan.
Johnson will compete in the Flyweight World Grand Prix, and Alvarez will compete in the Lightweight World Grand Prix, both as part of the event's main card. The preliminary card for A New Era begins Sunday at 2:30 a.m., and the main card begins at 5:30 a.m. Check out the full card and a preview of the whole event here.
You can watch every ONE Championship event FREE on B/R Live. A New Era will broadcast live on B/R Live, and a replay will be available to watch on demand after the conclusion of the event. To watch ONE: A New Era on B/R Live, go here.
Two of America’s biggest sports talk shows debut on B/R Live this week. The Dan Patrick Show begins Monday and will air live every weekday morning from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. The Rich Eisen Show arrives on Tuesday and will broadcast live every weekday afternoon from 12-3 p.m. ET.
You can watch and listen to both shows free on B/R Live online as well as on the B/R Live app. To stream The Dan Patrick Show, go here. And to stream The Rich Eisen Show, go here. If you’re familiar with these shows, get excited; if you’re not, check out a taste of what’s coming:
Quick Catch-Up: March Madness Edition
The first four days of the NCAA tournament are some of the wildest days on the sports calendar. With basketball from noon until after midnight four days and nights in a row, the highlights don’t stop. A sampling of the best of the madness from the first weekend:
What began as a matchup between giant humans Zion Williamson and Tacko Fall turned into the best game of the tournament so far, as Duke and UCF went punch-for-punch in the second half. The Knights gave the No. 1-overall seed Blue Devils everything they had and then some. And the last couple of minutes were what March is all about:
The best dunk of the weekend came from Gonzaga’s Brandon Clarke, who threw down this gigantic two-handed windmill as part of his 36 points, 8 rebounds, 5 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals in the Zags’ win over Baylor to advance to the Sweet 16.
LSU game-winner: Tigers guard Tremont Waters went into the trees of Maryland’s tall front line to come through with this winning layup to send LSU to the Sweet 16.
Ja Morant bows out: Murray State’s sophomore phenom did all he could to keep the Racers in the game against Florida State, impressing the nation once again with his performance on the big stage in the big dance, even in defeat.
NBA March Madness honorable mention: