Tom Goldman

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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.

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

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Ah, time for sports.

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The NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament begins today with a game, if history holds, that will have absolutely no bearing on the ultimate tournament outcome in early April.

The University of New Orleans and Mount St. Mary's University kick things off at the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. Both teams are No. 16 seeds, the lowest, and they're playing for a shot at the highest seed. The winner moves into the main draw to play Villanova — the tournament's overall No. 1.

No 16 seed has ever beaten a 1 seed.

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At long last, time for sports.

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The world of professional sports is a revolving door – athletes come and go.

Sunday, there was an arrival in the NBA that resonated a bit more.

Twenty-three-year-old Quinn Cook signed a 10-day contract with the Dallas Mavericks. For Cook, a personable and popular player, it's his first regular season call up to the NBA. For the past season and-a-half, he's been playing in the D League — pro basketball's minor league.

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And now it's time for sports.

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Finally, today, they will play football.

The Atlanta Falcons take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51.

After an NFL season of sagging TV ratings, it's expected today's game, in Houston, will do what Super Bowls always do — turn 60 minutes of football into a national holiday.

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Now it's time for sports.

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The U.S. men's national soccer team is back in action with a game against Serbia on Sunday. It's a so-called friendly, meaning it's not part of any official competition.

But it will provide a first look at the team under its new head coach or, more precisely, its new old head coach.

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Administrations come and go, but now it's time for sports.

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And it's time for sports.

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SIMON: It's less than a month until the Super Bowl. And the NFL playoffs begin today. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us now for the first time in 2017. Good morning, Tom.

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Voters in seven more states said "yes" to marijuana this month. Pot now is legal for recreational or medicinal use in more than half the country.

It's still against federal law and classified as a Schedule 1 drug, meaning U.S. officials consider marijuana to have a high risk of abuse or harm, and no accepted medical use in treatment. Also, it's still banned in professional sports.

To say the mood at Progressive Field in Cleveland was electric the last two nights is the understatement of the baseball season.

The first two games of the World Series brought sellout crowds, mostly made up of Indians fans, totaling more than 38,000 both nights. Everywhere you turned, there were happy Clevelanders sporting Indians jerseys, jackets, hats and T-shirts.

The Cleveland Indians are hot stuff.

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The NFL's New York Giants are heading to London for a game against the Los Angeles Rams this Sunday, without their All-Pro kicker Josh Brown.

The decision to leave Brown behind comes after new information emerged in a year-and-a-half-old domestic violence case. And suddenly, there are new questions about whether the league adheres to its supposedly tougher policy against domestic violence.

In May 2015, Brown was arrested for assaulting his then-wife Molly at their home in Washington state. Brown wasn't charged.

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Finally time for sports.

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SIMON: American and National League Championship Series are underway - LA, Chi-Town, Cleveland and Toronto. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Morning, Tom.

Updated: 1:20 a.m. ET. Monday

The Los Angles Sparks won Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, 78-76, over the Minnesota Lynx at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The Sparks hold a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series. Game 2 will be played Tuesday night in Minnesota.

According to the WNBA, Minnesota's Maya Moore passed Diana Taurasi of the Phoenix Mercury, who held the record at 262 points, to become the all-time leading scorer in Finals history.

Original Post:

Golfing legend Arnold Palmer has died at 87.

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It's hard enough to race against Usain Bolt, but American sprinting star Justin Gatlin also had to deal with booing last night in Rio as well.

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We've heard a lot about Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky in this opening week of the Rio Olympics.

For good reason.

Together, they've won seven medals so far, six of them gold. But they're only part of the story about American swimming.

The U.S. traditionally has dominated the sport in the Olympics. The performance in Rio is proving to be exceptional.

A Lot Of Momentum

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