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Tom Goldman

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And I wait all week to say, and now it's time for sports.

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Basketball fans love two types of March Madness matchups.

David vs Goliath. The classic little school against big school with the hope that little prevails.

And then there's power vs power. While we may lose the shock of an underdog win, we gain the potential awesomeness of two complete, deep basketball teams going at each other and seeing who's left standing.

In other words, Gonzaga vs Baylor 2021.

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For college basketball fans, March Madness is back and a historic wait is over. Last year, for the first time ever, the wildly popular men's and women's Division 1 basketball tournaments were canceled because of the pandemic. Play starts today in the main draw of the men's tournament; the women start Sunday.

A year's worth of pent up excitement is about to burst, although still muted somewhat by the coronavirus.

Here to help guide, an A – Z of March Madness.

March Madness Gears Up

Mar 17, 2021

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The head coach for the top-ranked team in women's college basketball has tested positive for the coronavirus. Geno Auriemma of the University of Connecticut confirmed the diagnosis just days before the NCAA championship tournament is set to begin. UConn is a number one seed.

Auriemma is isolating at home. "I feel great – I don't have any symptoms so it came as a complete shock to me and my medical staff. We've been testing every day," Auriemma told reporters Monday evening via teleconference.

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And now, as they say on T-shirts all over America, it's time for sports.

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It appears, with less than five months to go, the Tokyo Olympics will happen.

Organizers continue to insist the Games that were postponed last year, are on, despite lingering uncertainty.

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Across the country, coal-burning power plants are closing. Wind turbines and solar farms are expanding. This transition cleans the air. It reduces greenhouse emissions. But it can also be painful. In North Dakota, some local officials are trying to keep a coal plant alive by blocking construction of new wind power. NPR's Dan Charles has more.

When Tiger Woods conquered the golf world a couple of decades ago, it spurred a wave of minority participation in a game historically closed to people of color.

That wave still hasn't hit the sport's highest levels.

But some are making inroads, including African American golfer Kamaiu Johnson.

When the 27-year-old tees off on Thursday, in the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, it'll mark his debut on the PGA Tour.

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Sunday, the Super Bowl will offer up history when the Kansas City Chiefs play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa.

That alone is historic. It's the first time a team has played a Super Bowl in its home stadium.

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No matter what happens during the week, I love to say it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And now it's time for sports.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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John Thompson, Georgetown University's Hall of Fame former basketball coach, died in August.

I got the call most reporters (be honest, reporters) hate: "Can you give us a few minutes on his life? In about three hours?"

When you have the time, obituaries can be wonderful stories to write. New York Times obits are legendary for their beautiful prose and storytelling. But a few minutes on air? To capture a man's life? His highs, his lows, the good, the bad?

For more than 50 years, the NCAA has imposed academic rules to make sure college athletes aren't just athletes, and the decades-long process has generated plenty of controversy.

Critics claim the academic standards, and the penalties for not meeting them, discriminate against Black college athletes and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Life has become more challenging, and potentially dangerous, as winter weather forces more people inside during the coronavirus pandemic.

And the concerns extend to the world of sports.

A new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll with the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College reveals 56% of American sports fans believe people should not be participating in indoor team sports such as basketball.

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