NCAA Top Seeds Make It to the Final Four

ESPN sports analyst Bill Wolff discusses the weekend's basketball action and looks ahead to another season of baseball.

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ALISON STEWART, host:

Sixty-one games played, 60 teams down, and then there were four. March Madness may signal the start of spring, but today is also a big day for the boys this summer, opening day of Major League Baseball. Who's excited about both? Bill Wolff.

BILL WOLFF: Me.

STEWART: Part-time BPP sports analyst, full-time husband to me. Hi, Bill.

WOLFF: Hello, Alison.

STEWART: So your bracket, you got two out of four right?

WOLFF: Yeah, that's great. Picked two out of, like, a 128. Yeah, pretty good.

STEWART: All right, so we watched a little bit this weekend. Kansas is going to play overall number one-seed North Carolina this Saturday. UCLA will take on Memphis. So, all four number ones? Is that a big surprise, frankly?

WOLFF: Well, yeah, it is, if the past is any indicator of future performance, because it's the first time since they started doing this seeding that all four number one-seeds have made it to the Final Four. As we talked about a couple of weeks ago with Will Leitch from Deadspin, typically, you have to try to figure out who in the next echelon below the number one-seeds is going to get really hot and be really excellent and upset the number one-seed and go to the Final Four.

The Final Four is typically, you know, a couple of number ones and a number two and a number three, or occasionally, something even more outrageous than that, and this is the first time where it has, as they say, played to the chalk, meaning all the favored teams have made it to the end. So it's significant. It's surprising, based on history, although not that surprising based on how good these four teams are.

STEWART: Although, it got really close to being even a little more interesting. We were watching last night and the final seconds of Davidson-Kansas game, a little bit heartbreaking, if you were rooting for the underdogs.

WOLFF: Which should be everyone in the world.

STEWART: Davidson lost by just a squeaker.

WOLFF: A squeaker.

STEWART: But the upside is, Stephen Curry is likely the man - he is the man at school right now.

WOLFF: He is the man at school, and, I think, for as long as he decides to continue to attend classes there in Charlotte at Davidson, he will be the man. Every final - well, every March Madness, every NCAA tournament, there seems to be some person about whom nobody knows who takes advantage of his opportunity there in the spotlight and out of nowhere it plays beautiful basketball. There was a guy called Kevin Pittsnogle. Pittsnogle played for West Virginia, and nobody had ever heard of this guy.

STEWART: My favorite name.

WOLFF: Yeah, Pittsnogle, he's fabulous. It became a verb. Anyway, Pittsnogle became famous in the spring of 2005 by carrying West Virginia a little further than they were supposed to go. This spring, it was Stephen Curry, a guy who looks like he's about 14. He's about 5'8", 130 pounds - that's an exaggeration, he's about 6'1", but maybe about 130 pounds, and he single-handedly carried Davidson through the first three rounds, and yesterday, playing a heavily favored, and justifiably favored Kansas team, he was amazing again. Just hitting every shot, coming up...

STEWART: It's in the DNA though, right?

WOLFF: Well, his father is Dell Curry. D-E-L-L, Dell Curry. Dell Curry was a pro-basketball player for many, many years, and Dell Curry was famous, famous, among the basketball cognizanti, for being able to shoot a basketball as well as anybody ever shot a basketball. It wasn't that he could dribble so well or jump so high or play defense so brilliantly. It was that he could do the one thing, shooting the basketball, as well as anybody ever did. And so Dell Curry sort of hung around for a long time by being a brilliant shooter.

And Stephen Curry is his son and showed off a lot - probably a more well-rounded game than his father ever had. And he was fabulous. I mean, he was a total genius and his name is made. No one will ever forget Stephen Curry no matter how far his basketball career goes. But in the end, Kansas, which is a great, great team, overcame the upset bid by Davidson, and there they are.

STEWART: So Kansas versus North Carolina. Then we'll have the University of Memphis versus UCLA. And I became upset with Kevin Love.

WOLFF: Yeah.

STEWART: For all the wrong reasons.

WOLFF: With that he's seven feet tall and has kind of a bad beard?

STEWART: Those were two of the reasons, and the third one is I love "God Only Knows," the song by the Beach Boys.

WOLFF: Who doesn't? I mean, not to mention "Don't Worry Baby," "Be True To Your School," "When I Grow up To Be a Man." I mean, there's all these great Beach Boys tunes and Kevin Love is the nephew of who, Alison?

STEWART: Is it Mike Love?

WOLFF: Mike Love, the lead singer of the Beach Boys, is Kevin Love's uncle. So he is...

STEWART: So we got a lot of close-ups in the stands, let's put it that way. He got a lot of close-ups off of that one.

WOLFF: Well, his old man, Kevin Love's old man is called Stan Love, and Stan Love was an NBA player, too. So Kevin Love has very interesting family reunion with guys who've had amazing experiences.

STEWART: Before - Kansas versus North Carolina or UCLA versus Memphis? Which game will be more exciting next weekend?

WOLFF: That's hard to say. They'll both be really close. They're both - they're all four, really good teams. I think the one that will be the most entertaining, to folks who aren't basketball geeks, will be North Carolina and Kansas, because both of those teams are high-flying, fast-paced basketball teams that run up and down the court and have amazing athletes at every position and they go about eight or nine deep in great athletes.

So I think that will probably be the more entertaining game in terms of being up and down, back and forth. UCLA plays a little bit slower game. They focus more on defense than on offense, so the Memphis-UCLA game has a chance to be slightly less entertaining if you're not a big basketball fan. It won't be all that running and dunking and jumping and fabulous offensive plays.

So I think probably North Carolina-Kansas will be the better game, but it's really hard to say. I also think North Carolina - my own feeling is that North Carolina-Kansas are the two best teams. Not by much, but I think if I had to choose two of those four, those would be the two I'd choose. So I guess North Carolina-Kansas may - I guess if I had to put money on it, that's the one I would put money on to be the better game.

STEWART: All right. Wait, wait, we've only got about a minute left.

WOLFF: Oh, no.

STEWART: OK, so it's a big day for baseball fans, opening day. I know where you'll be at 4:15, the Cardinals against the Rockies...

WOLFF: It's going to get rained out, but I'm still going to sit there and watch it on the Internet. I'll watch the rain on the Internet.

STEWART: But do you have any love for the Yankees, who are going to begin their 84th and final season in the house that Ruth built? There's going to be a new Yankee stadium after this year.

WOLFF: That's nice.

STEWART: Oh, OK. Bill Wolff, BPP sports guy.

WOLFF: No, it's a big day. Yankee Stadium's a big deal, but I don't have any love for them.

STEWART: I tried. I tried to make a kumbaya...

WOLFF: I have love for you.

STEWART: Baseball moment.

WOLFF: All right.

STEWART: I did not go there.

WOLFF: OK.

STEWART: Bill Wolff, BPP sports analyst, thanks.

WOLFF: I'll see you later.

STEWART: Don't go anywhere. Lots of colleges and universities sent out acceptance letters this weekend - over the weekend. So what do you do if you didn't get into the place that you wanted? Stay tuned for some advice for crestfallen college hopefuls. That's coming up next on the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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