Sports News of the Week: NCAA Final Four Is Set, Ross Chastain Earns First Cup Series Win, and Kyrie Irving Makes Home Game Debut

by Chris Haney
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We might not have anything as explosive as Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars for you this week, but we’ve still got plenty of storylines to revisit from the last week in sports. Per usual, the NCAA Tournament has been a doozy filled with numerous upsets. In fact, only one No. 1-seed made it to the Final Four. Plus the Saint Peter’s Peacocks became the first No. 15-seed to ever make it to the Elite 8 in tournament history.

In other sports news, NASCAR driver Ross Chastain took home his first career Cup Series victory at the Circuit of the Americas. Seven-time NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving finally made his home debut in Brooklyn after NYC Mayor Eric Adams rolled back private employer mandates. In addition, the U.S. men’s national soccer team is one step closer to qualifying for the 2022 World Cup after dominating Panama 5-1. We’ll dive into each of these in further detail as we look back at some of the biggest recent storylines in sports.

What to Watch For This Week

  • The 2022 NCAA Tournament is down to the Final Four: Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, and Villanova. That includes a historic matchup between longtime ACC rivals Duke and UNC. They’ll face off for the first time ever in the tourney on Saturday night.
  • The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway is up next on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
  • On Wednesday, the U.S. men’s national soccer team plays Costa Rica with a trip to the World Cup on the line.
  • With only 7 games left in the NBA season, the top four teams in the Eastern Conference are only separated by half a game.
  • The 2022 Major League Baseball season is almost here, but we’ve got one more week of Spring Training games before Opening Day on April 7.

In Case You Missed It

  • March Madness continued this past weekend with the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 Rounds now complete and the Final Four set. The Cinderella story of the tourney is no more as Saint Peter’s historic run has came to an end.
  • Driver Ross Chastain earned his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday.
  • NBA superstar Kyrie Irving finally played in his first home game of the 2021-22 NBA season in Brooklyn.
  • The U.S. men’s national soccer team took a big step towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup with a 5-1 rout of Panama.
  • MLB future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols is coming home to the St. Louis Cardinals on a 1-year deal.
  • The Detroit Lions will be featured on HBO’s sports documentary series Hard Knocks for the 2022 NFL season.

2022 NCAA Tournament: The Final Four Is Set, St. Peter’s Historic Run Comes To a Close

The 2022 NCAA Tournament isn’t even over yet. We still have the Final Four to play, but we’ve already been treated to a rollercoaster ride of a tourney so far. There’s a reason the tournament is called March Madness as it’s lived up to the name once again. For starters, only one No.1-seed made it to the Elite 8 – the Kansas Jayhawks. Further, only two of the No. 2 seeds made it to the Elite 8 – Duke and Villanova. As for No. 3 seeds, not a single school made it past the Sweet 16 last week.

By the end of the weekend though, all three high-seeded teams left would make the Final Four. Kansas, Duke, and Villanova will be joined by No. 8-seed North Carolina who brought an end to arguably the greatest Cinderella story in tournament history. The Saint Peter’s Peacocks out of Jersey City, NJ came into the NCAA Tournament as an afterthought for most college basketball analysts and fans. Following Sunday’s loss to UNC, they’ll go down in history for their unlikely journey to the Elite 8.

The giant killers from New Jersey had one of the toughest paths in the tourney to make it to the round of eight. The small MAAC university with an enrollment of less than 2,200 undergraduates took down some of the country’s best schools. They upset No. 2 Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State, and then No. 3 Purdue to keep dancin’ into the Elite 8.

The Peacocks were only one game away from making the Final Four, but their magical ride finally came to an end after a tough 20-point loss to UNC. Saint Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway addressed the media and summed up their phenomenal tournament run perfectly in his post-game press conference.

“A group of guys came in here [that] no one gave a chance to, no one believed in… and made history. They shocked the world,” Holloway said of his team.

The Final Four will air on Saturday night (April 2) with the National Championship game to follow on Monday night (April 4).

Ross Chastain Earns First Cup Series Win at Circuit of the Americas

The NASCAR Cup Series rolled into Austin, TX over the weekend for the sixth race of the new season. The EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas would be a special one for driver Ross Chastain who’s been chasing his first Cup Series victory for years.

Chastain lost his main sponsor in the 2018 season as his future in NASCAR looked in doubt. But three years later, the driver would get another opportunity with Trackhouse Racing. Ever since, the 29-year-old has manned the No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro as his team has steadily improved. That all culminated in Austin on the 20-turn, 3.426-mile COTA track in Austin.

After a slow start to the 2022 season, Chastain and his Trackhouse Racing team started to make progress in recent weeks. He finished the first two races of the season in the rear of the field. But he then took third place in Las Vegas and finished second in the last two races. Following an intense race in Austin that included nine cautions, he took the checkered flag in Texas. Ross Chastain officially earned his first Cup Series victory since driving on the NASCAR circuit.

Kyrie Irving Makes His Long-Awaited Home Debut In Brooklyn

It’s been an interesting season for the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving to say the least. They came into the season with expectations through the roof with three All-Stars in Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden on their roster. Fans and analysts alike expected nothing short of a championship. Yet to say the Nets’ season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan would be an understatement.

Team chemistry issues led to Brooklyn trading Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons. Additionally, since Irving chose not to get vaccinated, NYC mandates restricted him from playing any home games. With less than 10 games left in the 82-game NBA season, NYC mandates have finally softened. Therefore Irving made his season debut at home on Sunday night against the Charlotte Hornets in the Barclays Center.

The 30-year-old received a standing ovation from the sold-out home crowd last night upon his return. He hadn’t played at home in more than nine months since last season’s Eastern Conference semifinals. While fans were happy to have him back on the floor, his performance against the Hornets was subpar. Irving struggled throughout shooting only 6-for-22 from the field. He finished with 16 points and 11 assists, but went 1-for-9 on threes.

The Hornets spoiled Irving’s homecoming with a 119-110 win backed by LaMelo Ball’s stellar 33-point, 7-rebound, and 9-assist game. Brooklyn is currently sitting in ninth place (39-36) in the Eastern Conference. With only seven games left this season, the Nets should at least hold onto a play-in spot in the playoffs.

U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team On the Brink of Making the 2022 World Cup

On Thursday, the United States men’s national soccer team (USMNT) drew their biggest rival 0-0 when playing Mexico in Mexico City. That meant it was vital they put in a solid performance three days later in Orlando, FL when they faced Panama. Thankfully, head coach Greg Berhalter’s squad came ready to play on Sunday as they throttled Panama 5-1. Christian Pulisic led all scorers with a hat trick, which helped move the U.S. one step closer to qualifying for this summer’s World Cup.

If Costa Rica would’ve lost against El Salvador, the U.S. would’ve officially qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Instead, Costa Rica’s 2-1 win leaves more work to be done. However, barring a monumental collapse, the USMNT should be punching their ticket to the World Cup soon.

The United States currently controls their own destiny. It would take a six-goal loss in Costa Rica on Wednesday for the U.S. to not automatically qualify for this summer’s tournament. Barring the nearly impossible happening, the USMNT should officially make the 2022 World Cup in two days.

Outsider.com