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The Week In Sports: March Basketball, December World Cup

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Boy, I look forward all week to saying time for sports.

(MUSIC)

SIMON: And it's March Madness, the time in college basketball when small schools with double-digit seeds upset huge university athletic factories - but not last night. And FIFA reschedules the 2022 World Cup so that it practically competes with Hanukah. NPR's Tom Goldman has been courtside in Portlandia. He joins us now.

Good morning, Tom.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: I hope you didn't pull something in that intro.

SIMON: (Laughter). You probably hope I did, Tom. Where's the madness?

GOLDMAN: Replaced by sadness.

SIMON: (Laughter).

GOLDMAN: At least yesterday - in 16 games, only one had a lower seed beat a higher seed. Come on. We want upsets. That's not what CBS and Turner Broadcasting paid $10.8 billion for.

SIMON: Boy, absolutely. But Dayton did defeat Providence, right?

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Dayton.

SIMON: Oh, wait - spoiler alert. Go ahead.

GOLDMAN: It's over, Scott, yeah.

SIMON: OK. Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Thank you, Dayton. The Flyers won a First Four game, a play-in game into the main draw earlier this week, a game played in its hometown, and then it's second round, also in Ohio, last night against Providence. The Flyers get one more game in Ohio and if they win that they'll have to venture out into the world and see if they can sustain the magic away from home.

SIMON: A little more madness, possibly, in today's lineup?

GOLDMAN: There's always hope, Scott. You've got number-one seeds Kentucky and Villanova playing teams seeded eighth, so a little more danger for the big guys. A lot of fans will be paying attention to the Georgia State-Xavier game. Georgia State is the feel-good story of the tournament so far. When Georgia State's RJ Hunter hit the winning three-pointer in the upset of number-three seed Baylor, his head coach and dad, Ron Hunter, fell off the rolling chair he'd been coaching on because he had tore his Achilles tendon in an earlier victory.

SIMON: I've seen the video, yes.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, it went viral, of Hunter's shot and then his dad falling to the court in ecstasy. I'm excited about getting to watch in-person the Ohio State-Arizona game. Not necessarily for madness, but for sheer beauty. Two dazzling freshmen - six-seven Arizona forward Stanley Johnson, who threw down a vicious dunk in the Wildcats opening win and earned comparisons to LeBron James, and Ohio State left-handed guard D'Angelo Russell. He scored 28 points against a very good VCU defense two days ago. Russell and Johnson are projected as top NBA picks and it should be very entertaining to watch.

SIMON: Pro basketball - Kevin Durant might be lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the rest of the season. Is their season effectively over?

GOLDMAN: You'd think so, losing the reigning league MVP. But his sidekick guard, Russell Westbrook, has gone stark-raving mad on the court - seven triple-doubles since last month's All-Star break. The latest last night - 36 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists in an Oklahoma City win over Atlanta, which has the second-best record in the NBA. So they still might be dangerous come playoff time.

SIMON: FIFA confirmed this week - 2022 World Cup will be rescheduled for winter to avoid the skillet that is Qatar in the summer. Some countries are put out. Nothing a check can't smooth over?

GOLDMAN: A big check. FIFA's going to pay $209 million to soccer clubs whose seasons are interrupted by the switch from summer to winter in World Cup 2022. That triples the pot of money paid to clubs for last summer's World Cup in Brazil. Now almost everyone's happy, except those who still think putting the World Cup in Qatar was about the most boneheaded and underhanded thing FIFA could do.

SIMON: We'll get to that later. NPR's Tom Goldman, thanks so much.

GOLDMAN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.