Editor’s note: This is the Monday, April 3, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Good morning. Raise your hand if you knew that the most talked about basketball players in America during the Final Four were going to be Caitlin Clark and Lamont Butler. I didn’t think so.
In other sports news:
Anthony Davis’ 40 points led the Lakers to a win in Houston, putting them within a half game of the sixth-place Warriors. Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani and rookie Logan O’Hoppe homered and the Angels got more sharp starting pitching to beat the Athletics. Hard-luck hitting wasted a sharp outing by Noah Syndergaard in his Dodgers debut against Arizona. The Kings clinched a playoff spot as Alex Iafallo scored twice versus Vancouver. The Ducks lost a lead and a season-high eighth game in a row in Calgary. Angel City FC got its first NWSL victory of the season on Katie Johnson’s late header. UCLA’s third-ranked softball team swept No. 6 Stanford to move into first place in the Pac-12. Justin Ashley beat Austin Prock at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona for his second straight top-fuel win. And China’s Ruoning Yin, 20, won the L.A. Open by one stroke, her first LPGA tour victory. Back to Clark, the Associated Press national player of the year whose record-setting scoring in the tournament led Iowa to yesterday’s women’s championship game, and Butler, whose buzzer-beater on Saturday put San Diego State in tonight’s men’s title game.
The NCAA tournaments have a way of introducing us to the stars and creating new ones.
Clark’s amazing 2023 run ended with a one-sided loss to LSU in Dallas, where she was upstaged first by Jasmine Carson’s 21 first-half points off the bench and then by Final Four Most Outstanding Player Angel Reese’s all-around play.
That the game ended with Reese taunting Clark didn’t detract from either woman’s performance and gave old and new fans of women’s college basketball at least two personalities to look forward to watching next season, since neither is eligible for the WNBA draft until 2024.
Butler’s story is different, few fans having heard of the career 7.0-points-a game scorer before his heroics for San Diego State against Florida Atlantic put the Aztecs in the final against Connecticut tonight in Houston.
Few fans outside Riverside County, that is. And even at that, as columnist Mirjam Swanson says in her piece about Butler in today’s papers, the guard has a way to go to eclipse the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard as the most famous San Diego State player from Moreno Valley and a Riverside high school.
Swanson talked yesterday with Butler’s mother, Carmicha, and father, Lamont Sr., and with Tim Cook, the Life Pacific University (San Dimas) coach whose son Austin played with Butler in AAU.
Butler, from Riverside Poly, where he broke Reggie Miller’s school career scoring record, comes off as a likable person shaped by the large family and coaches and teammates who rallied around him after his older sister Asasha Lache Hall was murdered in March 2022.
“His pedigree is part of what makes it really special,” Cook said. “He’s a really special young man. He treats people the right way, he plays with a smile, he plays the right way and he’s just so easy to root for.”
None of the individuals on the men’s All-America first, second and third teams named by the Associated Press for 2023 made it to the Final Four, let alone starred there. But Lamont Butler did.
Just as nice, this isn’t the end for Butler, as it isn’t for Clark and Reese. He’s eligible to play on for San Diego State next season, because he’s a junior and not considered a candidate for the NBA draft.
The NCAA men’s and women’s tournaments were merely the introductions.
Angels and Reid Detmers visit Seattle, which the left-hander dominated in both meetings last season (6:40 p.m., BSW). Dodgers give Michael Grove a start in the first of two against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium (7:10 p.m., SNLA). San Diego State plays in its first NCAA men’s basketball final against Connecticut in Houston (6:20 p.m., Ch. 2). BETWEEN THE LINES
UConn is favored over San Diego State by 7½ points this morning. According to a list posted at betfirm.com, that matches the biggest spread for an NCAA men’s basketball title game since 1999, when, coincidentally, UConn was a 9½-point underdog and upset Duke. Since 1985, underdogs by 7 or more in the NCAA final are 6-3 against the spread (4-5 on the scoreboard).
“People hating on Angel Reese or Caitlin Clark. Stop. Unapologetically confident young women should be celebrated NOT hated. Get used to it.” – ESPN broadcaster Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) tweeting about the LSU and Iowa basketball players.
Dangerous drive-through: Driver J.R. Todd has the body explode off his funny car as he races in the opening round of eliminations in the NHRA Winternationals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona yesterday. Todd wasn’t injured. Photo is by Will Lester of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin and SCNG.
Thanks for reading. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at email@example.com and via Twitter @KevinModesti.
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