Sports News of the Week: NCAA Final Four Lives up to the Hype, Denny Hamlin Wins in Richmond, and Tiger Woods Is in Augusta

by Chris Haney
sports-news-of-the-week-ncaa-final-four-lives-up-hype-denny-hamlin-wins-richmond-tiger-woods-augusta

We’ve got another week of sports in the books and plenty of storylines to catch up on in case you missed them. Both the men’s and women’s 2022 NCAA Tournament Final Four were played and they did not disappoint. Kansas held on to a dominant first half lead against Villanova to earn their spot in tonight’s National Championship. On the other side of the bracket, North Carolina upset Duke once again in Coach K’s last game ever to join Kansas in the title game. Plus, South Carolina’s women’s team avenged last year’s Final Four loss and would go on to win it all against UConn on Sunday night.

In addition to a huge week in college basketball, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin got his first victory of the new season. On Wednesday, the U.S. men’s national soccer team officially qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. And PGA legend Tiger Woods was seen in Augusta preparing for The Masters, which would be his first major tournament since sustaining severe leg injuries in a car crash last year. We’ve got that and much more as we revisit the last week in sports.

What to Watch For This Week

  • The 2022 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship between North Carolina and Kansas tips off Monday night.
  • The Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 400 at Martinsville Speedway is up next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule on Saturday night.
  • The 2022 Masters Tournament at Augusta National tees off on Thursday and runs through the weekend.
  • The 2022 Major League Baseball season is upon us with Opening Day beginning on Thursday, April 7.
  • UFC 273 is Saturday night, including the main event between featherweights Alexander Volkanovski and Jung “The Korean Zombie” Chan-sung.

In Case You Missed It

  • March Madness continued this past weekend with a historic Final Four on Saturday, including UNC taking down Duke in Coach K’s last game before retirement and Kansas running over Villanova.
  • Driver Denny Hamlin earned his first NASCAR Cup Series win of the season at the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway on Sunday.
  • PGA legend Tiger Woods is in Augusta preparing to possibly compete at The Masters.
  • The U.S. men’s national soccer team officially qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
  • South Carolina topped UConn for the 2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship.
  • NFL News: Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Bruce Arians abruptly retires, QB Colin Kaepernick threw in front of scouts as he once again attempts an NFL comeback.

NCAA Final Four: UNC Retires Duke, Kansas Dominates Villanova

Somehow after all the hype over the last week, North Carolina and Duke actually lived up to it and then some on Saturday night. College basketball analysts and fans alike knew they were in for a treat as UNC and Duke met for the first time ever in the NCAA Tournament. Not only was it their first meeting in the tourney in their more than 100-year rivalry, but they’d play in the Final Four with a trip to the National Championship on the line.

In what would be an instant classic, UNC and Duke went toe-to-toe throughout the game. The two blue blood schools went back and forth the whole competition, which included 18 lead changes. However, late game heroics from Carolina would be the difference. Armando Bacot left the game with an ankle injury but returned to put up a 21-rebound performance. Also, his teammate Caleb Love would hit one of the biggest 3-pointers in tournament history with less than 30 seconds left to put the Tar Heels ahead for good. The Final Four game brought an end to Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s storied career, but earned Carolina a shot at their 7th national championship.

Earlier on Saturday, the first Final Four game took place in New Orleans. Any other year and the Kansas-Villanova matchup would’ve been talked about much more. Yet it got overshadowed by UNC-Duke, and the Jayhawks dominant win didn’t help. As close as the late game would be, Kansas and Villanova’s game was the exact opposite. Nova made things interesting in the second half, but never got closer than six points of Kansas. The Jayhawks won easily 81-65 to punch their ticket to the National Championship. North Carolina and Kansas will face off later tonight to decide the 2022 NCAA Tournament champion.

Denny Hamlin Takes the Checkered Flag in Richmond

On Sunday, the NASCAR Cup Series brought their Next Gen cars to Richmond for the Toyota Owners 400. Ironically, it would be a Toyota team that would take the checkered flag at Richmond Raceway. Veteran driver Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry came out victorious in the classic short track race.

During the seventh race of the new Cup Series season, multiple drivers had strong runs in the front of the pack. Drivers Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Briscoe, and Kevin Harvick kept up the pressure. Martin Truex Jr. ran in the top-5 basically the whole race. Larson and Blaney turned in some of the fastest laps of the day, but Hamlin took over in the last five laps and didn’t look back.

It’s early in the season, but Denny Hamlin hadn’t finished in the top-10 in any previous race so far this year. Considering the 41-year-old grew up in Chesterfield, VA, it was a welcomed win in Richmond in his home state. In his post-race interview, Hamlin addressed his team’s huge first place finish.

“Yeah, just great strategy there. Just drove as hard as I could,” Hamlin said in the interview. “There was no doubt in my mind – maybe just a little. But they got this car right there towards the end. Wow, unbelievable.”

Will Tiger Woods Compete at the 2022 Masters Tournament?

Early this past week, rumors spread about PGA legend Tiger Woods showing up in Augusta, GA. It wouldn’t take long to confirm the rumors as true as Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava also arrived in town. The news spread like wildfire, especially considering Woods hasn’t played in a major tournament since sustaining horrific leg injuries last year.

Tiger Woods sustained the injuries in a single-car rollover crash in California in February 2021. Many speculated if the accident would ruin his career or if he’d even be able to play golf again. Slowly but surely we’ve seen Tiger swing clubs and even play in a father-son tourney. Yet competing in The Masters at Augusta National is a whole different story.

The 15-time major champion has a long and storied history with the famous tournament. So it’s no surprise he’s doing everything he can to get back out there and compete against the world’s best golfers. After being in the Augusta area for days, Woods shared an update on his Masters status on Sunday. The first round of the tournament begins on Thursday, but Woods admitted he won’t know if he’s going to play until the last second.

“I will be heading up to Augusta today to continue my preparation and practice. It will be a game-time decision on whether I compete,” Tiger Woods tweeted Sunday morning.

We’ll have to wait and see if Woods decides to give it a shot only 13 months after such a serious accident. The golfer won’t return if he thinks he doesn’t have a chance to win it all. Woods isn’t the type to go out and compete just for the heck of it. He’s one of the fiercest competitors around, so if he gives himself the green light, expectations will be as high as ever.

Outsider.com