Monday High 5: March Madness Arrives Early

Matthew JohnsonFebruary 22, 2021
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College basketball enjoyed its first breakout weekend of great games since the pandemic shut down conference tournaments last March, and tickets for spring training games across the Cactus League are selling out. It’s still the last week of February but it already feels like March, one of the great sports months of the year. This tops our look at the five biggest takeaways from the weekend in sports.

Salt River Fields sells out in 24 hours.

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced Sunday all 14 spring home games at Salt River Fields are sold out. Tickets had only been on sale since Saturday morning.

Big takeaway: Selling out games where only 2,200 fans are allowed isn’t surprising when you consider Salt River Fields would see at least 10,000 per game in normal years. If you missed out on tickets, what is your willingness to buy from a ticket scalper outside the gates? Demand and prices on the secondary market could be enormous.

College basketball is back!

Although we’re still a week away from the calendar flipping from February to March, it sure felt like we entered the madness phase of the NCAA season this past weekend. No. 3 Michigan defeated No. 4 Ohio State on Sunday in what felt like a Final Four matchup. Unranked Duke got an upset win over No. 7 Virginia on Saturday. And we saw No. 13 West Virginia rally from 19 points down to knock off No. 12 Texas. Unfortunately for Arizona State University, the March bug also caught them on Saturday night when UCLA came back to beat the Sun Devils on a free throw with one second left in the game, the first time the Bruins led all game.

Big Takeaway: This past weekend gave us an appetizer of what could be a very tasty main course in March. The tournament was taken away from sports fans in 2020, which will make an already fantastic sports month of March seem even better this year. We only wish Arizona State was closer to making the Big Dance.

Suns hit record number of three-pointers.

The Phoenix Suns had a couple of blowout victories over the weekend – a 132-114 win at New Orleans on Friday and a 128-97 laughter at Memphis on Saturday. In the win over Memphis, the Suns made 24 3-point shots to set a new franchise record. In the win over New Orleans, the Suns had a 4th quarter for the ages, outscoring the Pelicans 41-12.

Big takeaway: These two laughers were the perfect antidote after the Suns blew a 24-point lead and lost to Brooklyn on Tuesday. The Suns are now 19-10 with the 4th best record in the West and have won 11 of the past 13 games. The team is headed in the right direction with a big Monday night matchup against Portland here at home.

Lyndsey Fry skates 96 miles for charity.

One day, 96 miles on roller blades. Lyndsey Fry, the Arizona Coyotes’ hockey ambassador, pulled off that feat Sunday to raise money for charity. The marathon skate also honored the memory of Leighton Accardo, a 9-year-old Coyotes fan who died from cancer in November.  Fry tweeted on Monday she was able to raise $71,869, far exceeding her goal.

Big Takeaway: The Coyotes needed this bright spot coming off a week of bad publicity. A report in The Athletic alleged dysfunction in the organization, a toxic work environment and financial troubles for the new owner Alex Meruelo. The Coyotes said the story was a harassment campaign against the owner, team and its employees. This hockey team has had more than its fair share of ownership issues, but its community outreach can still manage to tug at your heartstrings.

Cardinals still waiting on Larry Fitzgerald.

NFL free agency begins in three weeks and the closer we get to it without hearing from Larry Fitzgerald will surely lead to much speculation. Will he retire as a Cardinal? Will he look to sign somewhere else in search of a Super Bowl ring? Will the Cardinals bring him back on a smaller paycheck? The closer we get to the March 15 start of NFL free agency, these questions will get louder and put Cardinals fans more on edge. Some national media are already starting the conversation.

Big Takeaway: Fitzgerald is the greatest to ever suit up in a Cardinals uniform. He’s earned the right to take his time to decide if he’s coming back for year 18, whether its here in Arizona or with a Super Bowl contender in 2021. If I’m the Cardinals, I have to bring in the right free agents to convince him to come back for one more run.

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