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March Madness is coming down to the wire. Champions will be crowned in April

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

March Madness is coming down to the wire. The Final Four in the men's Division 1 college basketball tournament is now set. Although for those who love unknowns and underdogs - a little disappointment. Now, the women are halfway to their Final Four, and so far it's power teams as well in that area, as well - No. 1 seed South Carolina and Stanford qualifying last night. Here to talk some hoops and a little bit more - NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, so the men's Final Four - really a big four in the sport - Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Villanova. What do we really want to know? Because here's the thing - Saint Peter's is not in that Final Four, and I'm wondering why.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Boohoo.

MARTINEZ: I know.

GOLDMAN: The team we fell in love with as it ruined our brackets lost, convincingly, 69-49 to North Carolina yesterday in the Elite Eight. To recap, A, the Saint Peter's Peacocks were a 15 seed with three big upset wins, starting with that first-round stunner over No. 2 Kentucky. The Peacocks were a bunch of scrappy kids from New York, New Jersey and several African countries. But against North Carolina, they barely put up a fight. The Tar Heels opened the game with a 9-0 run, never trailed, and the Saint Peter's dream was no more. Still, the Peacocks will be remembered for making history - first 15 seed to make the men's Elite Eight.

MARTINEZ: Yeah, an amazing run. All right, so we're just left with Goliaths, no Davids. There still is a good story next weekend with two major rivals going at it, isn't there?

GOLDMAN: You know, it's hard to believe that in all the years Duke and North Carolina have played against and hated each other, they have never met in an NCAA tournament. They will next Saturday. And there's a juicy element of revenge, too. This, of course, is Duke Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski's last season. He's retiring when it's over. Now, about three weeks ago, N.C. spoiled his last regular season home game by beating Duke. At the time, Coach K worried that his young players were thinking too much about him, trying too hard to give him the great finish. Now, they've refocused and have played great basketball during this tournament, but Coach K still sounds worried about the whole win-it-for-Coach thing. A reporter asked a Duke player about it after Duke beat Arkansas Saturday to move Krzyzewski into his record 13th Final Four, and Coach K answered before his player could.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE KRZYZEWSKI: Enough about, you know, doing it for the old man here. And we're not going to do it unless we all own it. We all own this moment together. That's what we're playing for.

MARTINEZ: All right, now turning to the women. What should we know about the two teams so far that have made it to the Final Four?

GOLDMAN: That they're really good and they showed it last night. South Carolina thumped Creighton - 80-50. Stanford won a battle against a tough and physical Texas team - 59-50. Two more teams have to fill out the Final Four. Those trying to qualify today include No. 1 seeds Louisville and North Carolina State and perennial power UConn. But South Carolina and Stanford appear to be the cream. A, this past weekend, I was at the regional where Stanford was playing and saw up close a team that's so talented and big and deeper than any of the top teams. They've got 10, 11 players Coach Tara VanDerveer uses in games. They - I think they've got a good chance to defend their title.

MARTINEZ: I'm going to squeeze in one more sports topic while I got the chance. The U.S. men's national soccer team is this close to qualifying for the World Cup - big win yesterday. Tell us about them.

GOLDMAN: Five to one over Panama. Now, the U.S. didn't quite clinch, but piling on the goals is good because it gives the Americans a good cushion called goal differential. So when they play Costa Rica this week, they don't even have to win. Just don't lose by six goals or more and they're in, which would be a giant step away from the embarrassment of not qualifying for the last World Cup.

MARTINEZ: Ecuador got in last week. I'm good. I'm good. I'd like it if the U.S. got in, too. But Ecuador has it made.

GOLDMAN: (Laughter) Go Ecuador.

MARTINEZ: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.