🏀 Back Without Missing Embeat

Joel Embiid returns, Jokic vs. Wemby, NHL, MLB, EPL, NIT, and more...

Happy Wednesday! March Madness lays dormant with the Final Four on the horizon, but there’s still plenty of ball to go around. We’ll start in the NBA, where Joel Embiid didn’t miss a beat in his return, Wemby and the Joker exchanged blows in a big-man battle, and the Western Conference logjam got a whole lot messier. In the MLB, the Pinstripes’ quest for a perfect season fell 157 games short, while Bryce Harper went bashing at the Bank. On the ice, the Penguins are making a late playoff push. And, did I say there was no college basketball last night? Well, the NIT would like a word, as the championship for the 69th-place trophy is set. Finally, move over Barbenheimer! Iowa-LSU is the new box office king. Let’s go!

WTF Stat: Monday’s Elite Eight matchup between Iowa and LSU was the most-watched women’s basketball game ever, drawing an average of 12.3 million viewers. For reference, that’s more viewers than:

  • Every NBA game last season except for Game 5 of the NBA Finals (13.1M)

  • Every college football game last season outside of the College Football Playoff (24.8M average), Ohio State-Michigan (19.1M), and the SEC Championship (17.5M)

  • Every MLB game last season

It was also the most-watched college basketball game ever on ESPN, men’s or women’s!

Written By: Ian Dardani

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🏀 Houston G Jamal Shead, North Carolina G RJ Davis, Purdue C Zach Edey, Tennessee F Dalton Knecht, and UConn G Tristen Newton were selected as the five finalists for the men’s Wooden Award, given annually to the most outstanding player in men’s college basketball - Edey is the award’s reigning winner

🏀 Iowa G Caitlin Clark, Notre Dame G Hannah Hidalgo, Stanford F Cameron Brink, UConn G Paige Bueckers, and USC G JuJu Watkins were selected as the five finalists for the women’s Wooden Award - Clark (2023) and Bueckers (2021) are both former winners of the award, and Hidalgo and Watkins are both freshman

🏀 Former Celtics and Lakers PG Rajon Rondo, a four-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion, officially announced his retirement from the NBA after 16 seasons - Rondo, 38, last played in the 2021-22 season

Photo: Embiid’s Back | Source: USA Today

NBA - Top Games

  • Philadelphia 76ers 109, Oklahoma City Thunder 105: The reigning MVP has returned! In his first game back since suffering a meniscus injury on Jan. 30, Joel Embiid (29 MIN, 24 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST, 3 STL) showed no signs of rust and got help from Kelly Oubre Jr. (25 PTS, 6 REB) to rally the Sixers past Chet Holmgren (22 PTS, 7 REB) and the Thunder, who were without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander due to a quad contusion - Philadelphia (41-35) has won three straight games, and Embiid sank some late free throws before sealing the win with a steal

  • Denver Nuggets 110, San Antonio Spurs 105: I could certainly get used to this. In a compelling matchup between two superstar centers, Nikola Jokic (42 PTS, 16 REB, 6 AST) and Victor Wembanyama (23 PTS, 15 REB, 8 AST, 9 BLK) put on a show, combining for 27 points in the 1st quarter with some electric back-and-forth sequences. And although Wemby was unbelievable and nearly posted a quadruple-double, the Joker got the last laugh, as Denver escaped with a dub - the Nuggets (53-23) hold a half-game lead over the T-Wolves (52-23) and Thunder (52-23) atop the West

  • Golden State Warriors 104, Dallas Mavericks 100: Looking to extend the Mavs’ seven-game win streak, Luka Doncic (30 PTS, 11-22 FG, 12 REB, 11 AST) and Kyrie Irving (25 PTS, 10-18 FG, 2 AST, 3 STL) refused to go away and shaved a late eight-point deficit to two with 15 seconds remaining; however, Klay Thompson (14 PTS, 5-14 FG, 2 AST) made up for a cold shooting night with a pair of game-sealing free throws, and the Warriors survived at home for their fifth straight dub - Steph Curry (13 PTS, 5-18 FG, 7 AST) also struggled from the field, but Andrew Wiggins (23 PTS, 4 REB) picked up the slack

  • Washington Wizards 117, Milwaukee Bucks 113: That is not a typo. Giannis Antetokounmpo (35 PTS, 15 REB, 10 AST) did his part with a monster triple-double, but the Deer dropped an inexplicable game to Corey Kispert (27 PTS, 7 REB) and the 61-loss Wizards, who no longer have the worst record in the NBA thanks to four wins in their past seven outings - Damian Lillard was out with a groin strain, and second-place Milwaukee (47-28) has lost three of their past four games

See the full NBA scoreboard here and the current standings here.

NHL - Top Games

  • Pittsburgh Penguins 6, New Jersey Devils 3: With their playoff hopes hanging in the balance, the Penguins’ veteran superstars came through, as Sidney Crosby (2 G) and Evgeni Malkin (2 G, 1 A) each notched a pair of goals in the 3rd period to help Pittsburgh erase a 3-1 deficit and seal a huge win - the Penguins (34-30-11, 79 PTS) are only three points back of the Capitals (36-28-10, 82 PTS) for the final wild-card spot in the East

  • Vegas Golden Knights 6, Vancouver Canucks 3: The defending champs made a statement against the West-leading Canucks in Vegas, as Jonathan Marchessault (1 G, 2 A) and Jack Echiel (1 G, 1 A) helped build a 4-1 lead in the 1st period, and the Knights didn’t look back for their third win a row - Vegas (42-25-8, 92 PTS) hold a healthy cushion over Los Angeles (38-25-11, 87 PTS) for third place in the Pacific

  • Montreal Canadiens 5, Florida Panthers 3: In a chippy affair that featured 66 penalty minutes, including 52 in the 3rd period, Nick Suzuki (2 G) buried two straight in the 2nd period to spark a four-goal run for Montreal, and Sam Montembeault (37 SV) stood tall to help the Habs upset Alexsander Barkov (1 G) and the Cats - the Panthers (47-24-5, 99 PTS) are second in the Atlantic Division and have already clinched a playoff berth

See the full NHL scoreboard here and the current standings here.

MLB - Top Games

  • Philadelphia Phillies 9, Cincinnati Reds 4: Somebody tell Bryce Harper it’s not October yet! Harper (3-4, 3 HRs, 6 RBIs) entered Tuesday 0-for-11 at the plate this season, but went absolutely ballistic last night at the Bank, bashing three long balls capped by a lead-extending grand slam in the 7th to power the Phils past Will Benson (1-4, 1 RBI) and the Reds - Harper’s three homers went a total of 1,209 feet!

  • Arizona Diamondbacks 7, New York Yankees 0: The good news for the Yankees is they already matched last year’s season-best winning streak of five games. The bad news is their perfect season is over. Arizona’s ace Zac Gallen (6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 6 K) was dealing, and New York only recorded three hits while Christian Walker (2-4, 1 HR, 3 RBIs) and the Snakes were raking to hand the Yanks their first loss of the year - New York is now 5-1, while Arizona is 4-2

  • Tampa Bay Rays 5, Texas Rangers 2: In an AL Wild Card Series rematch, Isaac Paredes (1-3, 1 HR, 3 RBIs) doinked a three-run shot off the foul pole in the 5th inning to put the Rays up 5-0, and Zach Eflin (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 5 Ks) went six strong to help beat Jonah Heim (2-4, 2 RBIs) and the reigning champs at the Trop - the Rangers won the first game of the series, 9-3, on Monday

See the full MLB scoreboard here and the current standings here.

English Premier League - Top Match

  • Tottenham Hotspur 1, West Ham United 1: Tottenham entered the day with a chance to join Aston Villa in the final spot among the top four, and Brennan Johnson (5’) boosted their confidence with an early strike, but Kurt Zouma (19’) soon retaliated for the home side, and the Hammers staved off some late attacks to hold the Spurs to a disappointing draw at London Stadium - Tottenham (17-6-7, 57 PTS) is now two points back of Aston Villa (18-5-7, 59 PTS), who faces third-place Manchester City (19-7-3, 64 PTS) this afternoon

See the full international scoreboard here and the current EPL table here.

Men’s NCAA Basketball - NIT Semifinals

  • #1 Indiana State 100, #2 Utah 90: We didn’t forget about you, NIT! Things were knotted up at 44 apiece at intermission, but fan-favorite Robbie Avila (26 PTS, 10 REB, 3 AST) and Ryan Conwell (27 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST) led Indiana State to a 56-point second half, as the Sycamores ran away from Devion Smith (28 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST) and the Utes at Hinkle Fieldhouse in their home state of Indiana - Avila has garnered several nicknames this season, including “Cream Abdul-Jabbar,” “Larry Nerd,” “Steph Blurry,” and “Milk Chamberlain.” Which one’s your favorite?

  • #1 Seton Hall 84, #4 Georgia 67: Dre Davis (19 PTS, 9 REB, 4 AST) was cooking in his hometown, and Al-Amir Dawes (20 PTS, 4-7 3PT, 6 REB, 2 AST) was feeling it as well, as Seton Hall rolled Silas Demary Jr. (19 PTS, 4 AST) and the Dawgs to return to the NIT championship game for the first time since winning the tournament in 1953 - the final will take place tomorrow night at 7:00pm ET (PS: Seton Hall should have been in the NCAA Tournament instead of Virginia)

See the full box scores here and the entire NIT bracket here.

Sunday's Elite Eight matchup between Duke and NC State is the most-watched men's NCAA Tournament game thus far this year. How many viewers did it draw?

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Photo: Pop Tossed | Source: Sports Illustrated

On April 3, 2019, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich set an NBA record for the quickest ejection in league history by getting tossed just 63 seconds into a game against the Nuggets. Known for his blunt candidness, Popp has had his fair share of run-ins with NBA officials, and it only took him one minute to boil over in Denver five years ago today. With the Spurs trailing 5-0 and 11 minutes remaining in the 1st quarter, the legendary coach became irate over a series of no-calls on LaMarcus Aldridge’s post-up, which resulted in a missed jumper. Pop quickly got T’d up by referee Mark Ayotte for voicing his displeasure, and then took a timeout to continue arguing with Ayotte, who sent him to the showers in record time with a second technical. Popovich's ejection broke the previous fastest mark set by late Wizards coach Flip Saunders, who was tossed 1:46 into a game against the Celtics in 2012.


  • Texas Rangers @ Tampa Bay Rays 1:10pm ET, ESPN+

  • New York Yankees @ Arizona Diamondbacks 3:40pm ET, Local

  • Toronto Blue Jays @ Houston Astros 8:10pm ET, Local

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  • Oklahoma City Thunder @ Boston Celtics 7:30pm ET, ESPN

  • Orlando Magic @ New Orleans Pelicans 8:00pm ET, Local

  • Cleveland Cavaliers @ Phoenix Suns 10:00pm ET, ESPN

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  • New Jersey Devils @ New York Rangers 7:00pm ET, TNT

  • Edmonton Oilers @ Dallas Stars 9:30pm ET, NHLPP / ESPN+

  • Seattle Mariners @ Los Angeles Kings 9:30pm ET, TNT

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English Premier League

Trivia Time Answer

D. 15.6 million. Monday night’s women’s matchup between Iowa and LSU wasn’t the only recent NCAA Tournament game that crushed in the ratings department, as NC State’s upset over Duke in the men’s Elite Eight averaged 15.6 million viewers, the largest audience for an Easter Sunday telecast on any network in 11 years. With the earlier game between Purdue and Tennessee averaging 10.4 million viewers, Sunday’s slate produced an average of 13.0 million viewers, making it the most-watched Elite Eight doubleheader since 2019 - overall, the men’s NCAA Tournament is averaging 9.4 million viewers per game, a 4% increase over last year.

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  • Royals @ Orioles: BAL -1.5 (+135)

UConn’s win over USC in Monday’s other women’s Elite Eight matchup drew 6.7 million viewers, more than every title game viewership since 1996 besides last year’s championship between Iowa and LSU (9.9M).

Women’s Final Four preview coming tomorrow, and then men’s on Friday!