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In days of yore, Opening Day of the baseball season was special, signifying that spring had come at last.

Today, however, Opening Day sort of dribbles into existence, and the spiritual start of spring now belongs to the Masters golf tournament, where the azaleas and magnolias and dogwood bloom. And if they dare look like they're gonna bloom too soon, in March the groundskeepers are rumored to pack them with ice to make sure spring comes as God intended it, which this year is on Thursday.

The NCAA is bringing sporting events back to North Carolina after state lawmakers repealed large portions of the controversial "Bathroom Bill" — although the collegiate sports organization isn't exactly enthused about the deal.

In a statement on Monday, the group says its governors reached their decision "reluctantly."

That law, which was passed more than a year ago, required transgender people to use bathrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate and blocked cities and counties from passing protections for LGBT people, among other things.

Monday night's national title game was expected to be a fast-paced, competitive showcase for North Carolina forward Justin Jackson and Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss, two of the best players in college this season.

It was certainly competitive, but with both teams' tough defenses locking up the main offensive options, the game turned into a foul-laden slog rather than a shootout. The Tar Heels were able to pin their opponent in the end, 71-65, winning the school's sixth national title.

The NHL won't be pausing its season to allow players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, officials announced on Monday.

Many pro players have expressed a desire to compete in the Games at Pyeongchang, South Korea. But the league says it doesn't see a benefit to the sport — and does see a risk of injuries.

The NHL has allowed players to participate in every Olympic Games since 1998.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, disputes over money played a role in the decision not to continue.

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Updated at 9:30 p.m. ET

By now, it's fair to say South Carolina is a better team than Mississippi State. The Gamecocks' 67-55 win in the national title game Sunday was South Carolina's third — and most convincing — win over the Bulldogs this season.

The women's first basketball championship is all the more impressive since the team lost senior center Alaina Coates to an ankle injury before the tournament started.

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Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins is known for his activism off the field and in the community.

For runners of road races, spring is a busy season. As temperatures rise, weekend racing ramps up — especially for those training for this month's Boston Marathon.

It's also crunch time for the sleuths sniffing out runners who cheat to get to that crown jewel of races.

In a hectic finish, the North Carolina Tar Heels were able to hold off the Oregon Ducks, 77-76.

North Carolina now advances one step closer to a redemptive title after losing at the buzzer in last season's championship game. This time they'll play Gonzaga Monday night.

Down the stretch, with the Tar Heels holding a slim lead, the semifinal didn't have the feel of a game that close. Perhaps because a series of timeouts disrupted the rhythm; perhaps because there wasn't a sense that the Ducks could make a final push to get past the Tar Heels.

The Gonzaga Bulldogs will advance to their first national championship game, after the Final Four newcomers outlasted the South Carolina Gamecocks with a 77-73 win.

But considering Saturday night's neck-and-neck finish, there wasn't a whole lot of excitement in the University of Phoenix stadium until after halftime.

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Here's a quick roundup of some of the mini-moments you may have missed on this week's Morning Edition.

Add this to your reading list

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And, boy, do we have a sports story today.

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Before Friday night's national semifinal game, the Mississippi State women's basketball coach gave an unusual motivational speech.

"I will not be scared," Vic Schaefer told his players. "There is no reason to be scared. You are one heck of a basketball team."

The tactic makes more sense in light of the opponent: 36-0 University of Connecticut, riding a 111-game winning streak that included a 60-point thrashing of Mississippi State in last year's Sweet 16. At the time, it was the worst defeat in tournament history.

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The University of Connecticut women's basketball team is just a juggernaut.

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The Huskies are in their 10th consecutive Final Four and going for their 12th national championship overall.

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Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the world's most recognizable people.

An international soccer superstar, blessed with good looks and a golden foot, Ronaldo indisputably stands as one of the greatest to take the pitch. He's so beloved, in fact, that he just got an international airport named after him in his native Madeira Islands in Portugal — plus a bust fashioned in his likeness.

When it broadcasts the Winter Olympics from South Korea next year, NBC will do so with live programming across the U.S., bringing an end to the network's decades-old strategy of delaying coverage according to U.S. time zones.

Who To Watch In 2017 As Baseball Returns

Mar 29, 2017

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Ah, spring - flowers bloom, the sun shines, and hope springs eternal for baseball fans everywhere. I mean, come on, the Chicago Cubs won last year. Anything can happen. Games start this Sunday, so we called up Jessica Mendoza. And she is a baseball analyst for ESPN.

A New Kind Of March Madness Hits Schools

Mar 29, 2017

It's a little after 8 a.m. at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., and Michelle Harris' AP Environmental Science class is getting right to it.

"All right, you guys got your brackets out?" Harris asks.

The class of mostly juniors and seniors ruffle through folders and pull out pieces of paper with brackets — 64 slots, four quadrants, and one central box to predict the championship. But there's something a little different about these brackets ...

"We're going to jump down to the fourth-seeded spider monkey against the 12th-seeded antelope squirrel," Harris says.

USA Hockey says it has a pay deal with players on the women's team, averting a threatened boycott of the world championships, which start Friday near Detroit.

Before the agreement team captain Meghan Duggan told NPR's All Things Considered that she and her teammates were paid poorly:

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KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Let's face it. When sports fans think of Carolina and March Madness, they are thinking about North Carolina. And, yeah, North Carolina is in the Final Four this year, but there's also another Carolina that is still alive and well.

Fans are embracing a San Diego group's effort to bring a Major League Soccer team to the city — or at least, they're embracing the most unlikely name for the squad. With the final round of an online vote set to close Friday, Footy McFooty Face has more than twice the votes of any other potential name.

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Good morning, I'm David Greene with some bizarre sports highlights.

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ERIC ALVAREZ: Before you ask, yes, I did make this segment with things I found lying around my desk.

By an overwhelming 31-1 vote, NFL owners have approved the Raiders' move from Oakland to Las Vegas — though the team will still remain in the Bay Area for at least the 2017 season and possibly longer.

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Stare hard at your March Madness brackets because the weekend is over and we are down to the Final Four.

When South Carolina faces Gonzaga in the NCAA final four playoffs in Arizona on Saturday, it will be the first time both the seventh-seeded Gamecocks and the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs have played their way into the semifinals.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

With college basketball in its March frenzy, a new angle on the old question of whether NCAA players should get paid.

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