This past weekend gave us a Final Four buzzer beater basketball game for the ages, the University of Arizona women knocking off the perennial powerhouse UConn to make the championship game, Major League Baseball’s opening weekend and a healthy Suns win. Now we’re entering golf heaven because it’s Masters week. It’s a great time to be a sports fan and we’re breaking it down here on the Monday High 5 with our five biggest takeaways from the weekend.
Taylor Widener rescues the D-backs from total disaster.
The Arizona Diamondbacks offense exploded for four home runs in one inning Thursday, the first team to ever do that on an Opening Day in MLB history. Beyond that one inning, there was not a lot to root for over the weekend until Sunday afternoon. Behind six shutout innings from Taylor Widener in his first career big league start, the Snakes notched their much-needed first win of the 2021 season, 3-1 over the Padres in San Diego.
Big Takeaway: Starting pitching and an offense that can go stagnant are the two biggest problems the D-backs need to correct after this opening series of the season. Starters Madison Bumgarner, Merrill Kelly and Caleb Smith had very bad season debuts on the mound. The offense managed 12 runs over four games (6 of those were scored in the 5th inning on Opening Day). However, Widener’s outing gives this team hope as it heads to Colorado for the next series. He shut down a really good Padres offense with command and lifted up a D-Backs team that had lost 7-0 the night before and was staring at a possible 0-4 start to the season. If good starting pitching truly is contagious, the D-Backs might surprise us this season.
Suns sail to 34th win on dominant first quarter.
The Phoenix Suns won a fifth straight game Friday night by disposing of the Oklahoma City Thunder early. After a 43-13 first quarter, the Suns never looked back and cruised to a 37–point win, improving the record to 34-14 (2nd place in the NBA’s Western Conference).
Big Takeaway: As we noted in the Monday High 5 column last week, the Suns often play down to lesser competition – but that wasn’t the case here. From the opening tip to the final buzzer, this game was all Suns. Phoenix faces another very bad NBA team Monday night in Houston.
Report casts doubt about Larry Fitzgerald’s future.
Mike Sando of The Athletic broke a story on Saturday that claimed several NFL executives believe Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will opt to retire instead of signing somewhere else in free agency. The story is based on Fitzgerald’s stated desire to play for one team his whole career and the Cardinals signing of wide receiver A.J. Green.
Big Takeaway: Get rid of everything else in this story except for the part where it says this is all based on what NFL executives think will happen. This time of the off-season leading up to the NFL Draft is always a game of half-truths or outright lies for most of the big decision makers for each team. General managers, head coaches and sometimes owners throw around misdirection quotes so much, fans shouldn’t believe any rumors this time of year. Only one man knows what Larry Fitzgerald has planned. He wore number 11 in cardinal red the past 17 seasons.
UA women fall short of a national title.
The University of Arizona women’s basketball team stunned the college basketball world Friday night by knocking off legendary program Connecticut in the Final Four, but fell short in a 54-53 loss Sunday in the championship game to top–seeded Stanford.
Big Takeaway: Arizona had not made the tournament since 2005 and had never made a Final Four before this year. It’s a stunning turnaround for a program that has been at the bottom of the Pac-12 for a long time. The women’s game – which has long been controlled by the same two or three dominant programs – needs more stories like the 2021 Arizona Wildcats to grow the sport.
Coyotes getting hot at the right time.
Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun scored his first career hat trick in Sunday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Anaheim Ducks. The win was the sixth in the past 10 games for the Yotes as they sit in fourth place in the Honda West division, good enough to make the postseason in this year’s redrawn Stanley Cup Playoffs format.
Big Takeaway: With 18 games left to play in the regular season, Arizona is in position to make the playoffs for the second straight year, which is something to cheer about considering the franchise’s previous prolonged postseason drought. The Coyotes have picked up 13 points (6-3-1) in the past 10 games. No one wants to play the hockey team that’s getting hot at the right time.