This Week in Sport: 22nd – 28th March 2021

From the first ever major boxing event ever to be staged in Gibraltar, to all the folly of March Madness, this week in sport truly epitomises the craziness of the times we live in! All the fun and games of March Madness continue from Monday, with plenty of action from both the Men’s and Women’s tournaments. Can England salvage a consolation win from their tour of India? The 1st ODI clash of the series plays out on Tuesday. Golf fans will be kept busy with the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play this week, with play in Texas scheduled to begin on Wednesday. This week’s thrilling agenda then takes us to Los Angeles on Thursday, where the Lakers will play host to the Philadelphia 76ers in an NBA matchup of epic proportions.

This year’s Six Nations culminates in an unmissable Friday night matchup between France and Scotland with plenty of loose ends left to be tied in Saint-Denis. Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin meet in the rematch on Saturday night in the eagerly anticipated ‘Rumble on the Rock’. Finally, the first race weekend of the new Formula 1 season concludes with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit. 

Monday 22nd March 4:00PM GMT – Basketball: March Madness

Second Round ties in the Men’s NCAA Tournament and First Round ties from the Women’s Tournament are all scheduled for Monday. 

It is the most significant month in the collegiate basketball calendar, and it certainly hasn’t disappointed so far. From Oral Roberts defeating Ohio State to Gonzaga’s crushing 43-point win over Norfolk State, we have already seen plenty of the usual thrills and spills that always accompany this time of year, and all the madness of the month continues on Monday!

One of the standout clashes from the Men’s Second Round pits number four ranked Florida State against number five ranked Colorado, with their game scheduled to tip-off at 11:45PM GMT. Florida State Seminoles have been the poster boys for inconsistency in recent weeks as they headed into their First Round clash with UNCG having won three and lost three of their last six outings. Whilst their lacklustre performance against the Spartans was distinctly forgettable, the Seminoles ultimately progressed on account of a 64-54 win as they now look to make a Sweet Sixteen appearance for the third straight season. Meanwhile, Colorado have proven one of the most effective offensive units in the country of late, and head into the Second Round in a rich vein of form, having won seven of their last eight. The Buffaloes cruised past Georgetown in their initial outing to reach the Second Round for just the second time this century. Will Colorado finally leave their mark on College Basketball’s grandest stage?

There is plenty of action to keep tabs on from the Women’s bracket too, with an abundance of First Round matchups scheduled across a hectic Monday of basketball. One of the teams who will be hoping to make a statement early on is the Texas A&M Aggies, who head into their First Round tie with Troy Trojans as one of the favourites to go all the way. Despite seeing their 11-game win streak come to an end last time out against Georgia, the Aggies, who have lost just twice all season, will take some stopping as they look to add a second NCAA Championship to their trophy cabinet. Meanwhile, Troy will be looking to do more than just make up the numbers at this year’s competition, as they eye a first ever win at the NCAA Tournament. 

Tuesday 23rd March 8:00AM GMT – Cricket: India v England 1st ODI 

England will wrap up their two-month tour of India with a three-match ODI series – the 1st ODI gets underway from 8:00AM GMT on Tuesday. 

Despite leading both the Test and T20 series’, England’s trip to India has so far been largely unsuccessful. In the initial Test series, India trounced the tourists winning three straight matches to claim victory after initially losing out in the first meeting of the series. The hosts showed no signs of letting up as attentions turned to 20-over cricket, as they ran out 3-2 victors in the first white-ball series of England’s tour. India will look to round-off what has been a thoroughly impressive couple of months by overthrowing the number one ranked one-day international side in the final chapter of the tour.

With the T20 World Cup on the horizon, and the small matter of an away Ashes series later in this hectic year for England’s cricketers, their recent results on the sub-continent would have left captains and selectors alike with plenty to ponder as they look to discover their strongest line-up. It never rains but it pours on captain Eoin Morgan who will be without the inimitable Jofra Archer this week. England's paceman was emitted from the ODI squad after a recurring elbow injury was aggravated in the T20 defeat last week. The other noticeable absence of Joe Root could present an opportunity to some of the more peripheral figures in England’s squad, but can they stamp their mark in what is a monumental year in the sport for the country?

England’s last one-day meeting with India came back in the 2019 ICC World Cup when, en route to lifting the trophy, the hosts convincingly secured a 31-run victory. However, the English have notoriously struggled in this format on Indian soil throughout history having last won an ODI series there against India all the way back in 1985. 

Wednesday 24th March 1.00PM GMT – Golf: WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play

WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play returns for 2021 at the Austin Country Club in Austin, Texas on March 24th 2021 at 1:00PM GMT.

Excitement is beginning to build in and around the Austin Country Club as it prepares to host 64 of the world’s top 69 ranked golfers for another thrilling edition of the WGC - Match Play. Of the four WGC events contested on Tour each year, this particular competition is the only one to adopt the match play format, making it one of the most fascinating weeks in the golfing calendar. 

Initially, the players will compete in a round-robin format, with the 64 contenders split into 16 groups of four, with those matches playing out from Wednesday to Friday. We then turn our attentions to the knockout phase at the weekend, starting with the Round of 16 on Saturday, and concluding with Sunday’s first-place and consolation matches. Which players can you expect to see still in the mix on Sunday afternoon? 

After last year’s edition fell foul to the pandemic, 2019 champion Kevin Kisner will travel to Texas as the competition’s defending champion. The American will be looking to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2003/04 to successfully defend his Match Play title, but there will be plenty of contenders looking to dethrone the world number 30. Within the chasing pack will be Justin Thomas, who will journey to Austin in high spirits, fresh off his stunning win at the Players earlier this month. That win placed Thomas in an exclusive club, becoming just the fourth player to win the Players Championship, a major championship, a WGC event and the FedEx Cup. Having claimed two WGC titles in 2018 and 2020, can Thomas add a third to his illustrious collection in Austin? 

Thursday 25th March 2:00AM GMT (Friday 26th) – Basketball: Los Angeles Lakers v Philadelphia 76ers 

In the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers host the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia 76ers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Friday 26th March 2021 at 2:00AM GMT.

Both the Lakers and 76ers will have designs of forging a deep run at the playoffs this term, and both have certainly proved their title credentials with similarly impressive recent runs of form. 

LA have won four of their last five outings, overcoming two of Philadelphia’s Eastern rivals in the shape of Charlotte and Indiana during that run. With the Lakers going well in the West, their playoff hopes were dealt a serious blow last week, as the news of LeBron James’ ankle injury sent shockwaves around the league. James’ injury, which will keep him out ‘indefinitely’, means the defending NBA champs will be without their two star men in LBJ and Anthony Davis for at least several weeks. The four-time NBA champion has only missed one game this term, sitting out the 123-120 loss against the Sacramento Kings earlier this month. The question on everyone’s lips remains, can Frank Vogel keep Lakers’ championship dreams alive in the absence of his best player?

Philadelphia will be hoping to take advantage of an undermanned LA side, against whom they have enjoyed great success in recent matchups. In fact, since the start of the 2018/19 season, 76ers have beaten the Lakers in four of their five meetings, though just one of those victories came at the Staples Center. Their most recent matchup came back in January, when Philly found themselves on the right side of the 107-106 score line in what was a thrilling affair. Needless to say that LA’s deadly duo of LBJ and AD were highly influential in that game, combining for 57 of their side’s 106 points that day. The Lakers faithful’s misery will be compounded further when they learn that Philadelphia are one of the league’s form teams just now, having won seven of their last eight games and three in a row away from home.

Will Philadelphia’s destructive defence overpower their Western counterparts, or can the short-staffed Lakers lay down a marker with a statement win on home court? 

Friday 26th March 8:00PM GMT – Rugby Union: France v Scotland 

This year’s thrilling Six Nations will draw to a close on Friday – kick-off in the final fixture comes at 8:00PM GMT. 

Wales supporters would have hoped to spend this week celebrating their Grand Slam victory after their meeting with France on Saturday night. However, the French, and Brice Dulin in particular, clearly didn’t read the script, as the full-back scurried over the line with the game clock in the red to bring Wales’ Grand Slam hopes grinding to a halt. Fortunately for Rugby Union fans across the world, that isn’t the last of the drama at this year’s Six Nations, with Friday night’s showpiece clash left to determine which side will reign supreme. 

Whilst Wales’ defeat in France left their Grand Slam hopes in tatters, the damage to their championship chances is far from terminal, with Wayne Pivac’s men still the most likely team to come out on top. However, as is so often the case at this grand sporting occasion, fans will be left to wait until the very last whistle on Friday night to find out which side will be crowned champions. After their heroic victory last weekend, the equation has changed for France. With Wales sitting five points clear in first place, France must now overcome Scotland with a bonus point win and by at least 21 points in order to take the title on points difference - any other result will see the title head to Millennium Stadium. 

The sub-plot to Friday’s final act concerns Scotland, who will be looking to secure their highest finish at this competition since its rebranding in 2000. A bonus-point victory for the Scots would move them onto 16 points and more importantly into second place. Though the title is out of reach for Scotland this time around, can they finish with a flourish in Saint-Denis?

Saturday 27th March 10:00PM GMT (approx.) – Boxing: Alexander Povetkin v Dillian Whyte II 

Can Dillian Whyte get his career back on track in his long-awaited rematch with Povetkin? 

Just over seven months ago, Dillian Whyte’s world title aspirations were dealt a serious blow by the left hand of Alexander Povetkin, as the Russian heavyweight left Whyte out cold in the thrilling denouement of Matchroom’s trailblazing Fight Camp. In one of the most shocking and captivating bouts of 2020, the Brixton-born boxer seemed largely in control, twice putting his opponent on the canvas. However, the volatile nature of heavyweight boxing was as evident in this fight than in any to come before, as a beat-up and bruised Povetkin landed a perfectly timed left hook in the fifth round to send shockwaves through the heavyweight division, and tee up Saturday’s rematch, affectionately named the ‘Rumble on the Rock’. 

The ambitious Whyte would have had designs of being involved in a far more significant fight to start his 2021, with his title shot against Tyson Fury seemingly one step away seven months ago. However, much has changed in the world of boxing since Whyte first faced Povetkin, and with Tyson Fury seemingly agreeing to a two-fight deal with Anthony Joshua, the ‘Body Snatcher’s’ career has very much been put on hold, with the 32-year-old left to contemplate whether he will ever get his opportunity to become a world champion. Before Whyte concerns himself with the prospect of title fights though, he must first get his own back on a man he thoroughly outboxed in the first meeting, yet still fell short. With the Englishman promising to be more ruthless this time round, will it be repeat or revenge in Gibraltar?

After becoming the first boxer to defeat Dillian Whyte by way of straight knockout, Povetkin will be full of confidence heading into Saturday’s rematch. He will be well aware that even if Whyte gains the upper hand, as he did in the initial meeting, the 41-year-old still has the power in his well-worn gloves to overcome the plucky Brit. Though Povetkin will be the underdog before a punch is thrown on Saturday night, the experienced heavyweight has only tasted defeat twice, but as he enters the twilight of a distinguished professional career, can he produce one more minor upset? 

Sunday 28th March 3:00PM GMT – Motorsport: F1 Bahrain Grand Prix 

F1 returns for 2021 with the Bahrain Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on Sunday 28th March at 3:00PM GMT.

It’s lights out on the 2021 Formula 1 campaign, and it all gets underway on the archipelago of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. It will come as little surprise to anyone that Lewis Hamilton has dominated this particular race in recent years, winning back-to-back editions in 2019 and 2020. Before a flag is waved this season, Hamilton will be firm favourite to regain the Drivers Championship after what was another record-breaking season for the 36-year-old. Not only did Hamilton take his win tally to 95, surpassing Michael Schumacher’s long-standing record of 91, he also tied the German for Championship wins after notching his seventh, and is now eyeing an historic eighth to move clear of Schumacher. Will Mercedes’ main man make the perfect start in the Middle East this weekend?

Snapping at his heels all season long will be a revived Ferrari team who have bolstered their already star-studded ranks in the off-season. Joining Charles Leclerc on the Prancing Horse will be Carlos Sainz, formerly of McLaren where he has impressed across the past couple of seasons. After what was a disastrous campaign for Ferrari last time out, fans would have been expecting a response, and the acquisition of the Spaniard certainly sends out a statement to their closest rivals. After finishing second behind Mercedes in three straight seasons between 2017 and 2019, Ferrari recorded their lowest finish since 1980 in the 2020 campaign, ending the season in sixth spot. Will a revitalised Ferrari outfit lay down an early marker in their quest to put an end to Hamilton and Mercedes’ reign? 

Other sporting highlights from around the globe

Honourable mentions around the globe go to the football, as the World Cup qualifiers take centre stage on the international scene. There’s a fascinating Group G game on Wednesday which pits the young superstars of Turkey against an experienced Netherlands side. Belgium’s first away trip in this year’s qualifiers takes them to the Czech Republic – the Group E rivals will lock horns at Sinobo Stadium in Prague on Saturday. The highly anticipated Under-21 European Championships begin on Wednesday – which side are you backing to go all the way? Meanwhile in the Women’s game, all eyes are on the Champions League Quarterfinals, with three ties headlining Wednesday’s packed schedule. Paris Saint-Germain will play host to the defending champions Lyon, whilst Barcelona face Manchester City and Chelsea meet VFL Wolfsburg in Budapest. 

This week’s NBA action begins in the Golden State, where the Atlanta Hawks will conclude their two-game Los Angeles swing with a showdown at Staples Center against the Clippers. Another heavyweight clash will take place on Tuesday as the Golden State Warriors entertain the high-flying Philadelphia 76ers. Last year’s losing finalists, the Miami Heat will look to close the gap on the Eastern frontrunners as they welcome the Phoenix Suns to the American Airlines Arena. Another unmissable double header is set to play out on Wednesday as the Clippers meet the Spurs in San Antonio whilst the Brooklyn Nets travel to Salt Lake City to take on the Utah Jazz. A pivotal week for the Heat continues on home court on Thursday when they will entertain the Portland Trail Blazers. San Antonio will also hope to exploit home comforts when they play host to Western rivals, the LA Clippers. There’s a cross-Conference affair on Friday which pits the Warriors against the Atlanta Hawks. The Clippers return to action on Saturday as they prepare for a date with the 76ers, before the week’s busy schedule draws to a close in the Mile High City the following day as the Denver Nuggets do battle with the Hawks.

There is plenty of international cricket to sink your teeth into this week, starting with West Indies’ 1st Test against Sri Lanka – the sides will contest Day 2 on Monday before battling the rest of the match out through the week. India and South Africa’s Women are in action on Tuesday when the sides will hammer out the 3rd T20I in Lucknow. There’s another busy week in store for New Zealand and Bangladesh as the sides contest the 2nd and 3rd one-day internationals on Tuesday and Friday, respectively, before locking horns in the 1st T20I on Sunday. Meanwhile, India’s one-day series with England will rumble on throughout the week, with the 2nd and 3rd meetings scheduled for Friday and Sunday. Two of the best T20 sides in the Women’s game will thrash it out on Sunday as New Zealand host Australia for the 1st T20I of the series. 

It’s another busy week in the world of cycling as the UCI World Tour rolls on. The Volta Ciclista a Catalunya starts on Monday and will play out throughout the week before reaching its thrilling conclusion on Sunday. Meanwhile, another electrifying race will be contested in Belgium this week, with the Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne taking place on Wednesday. The action continues on Friday in the shape of the Saxo Bank Classic. The week’s action on the UCI World Tour concludes in Antwerp with the Gent – Wevelgem in Flanders Fields scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Three Days of Bruges – De Panne on the Women’s UCI World Tour takes place on Thursday. There is more action across the weekend from the same competition to keep up to date with as the Gent – Wevelgem plays out on Sunday. 

Snooker fans will be glued to their screens all week long as all the action from the Tour Championship in Newport unfolds from Monday. 

It’s the final week of action from the March Tournament – the unmissable Sumo Wrestling competition draws to a close on Sunday. 

The WTA World Tour rolls on to Miami this week, with the Miami Open set to get underway on Tuesday, before the ATP Tour Men’s edition gets underway the following day.

This week’s LPGA offering comes in the shape of the Kia Classic, set to play out at Aviara Golf Club from Thursday. 

Attentions turn to the NHL on Thursday when the Colorado Avalanche will face off with the Vegas Golden Knights at Ball Arena, before the two sides meet again on Saturday. Three more games headline the weekend’s schedule starting with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ meeting with the Edmonton Oilers. You can expect a tempestuous affair when the Carolina Hurricanes clash with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Raleigh – the two sides meet on Saturday and Sunday.  

There are two captivating NRL ties to watch out for this week as the Panthers do battle with the Storm on Thursday before the Eels face the Sharks on Saturday morning. 

A hectic weekend of Premiership Rugby action starts at Ashton Gate where the Bristol Bears will play host to Harlequins on Saturday, before Wasps and Sale Sharks thrash it out shortly after in Coventry. The Pro14 Rugby Final is upon us this weekend – Leinster meet with Munster at the RDS Arena in Dublin on Saturday. Meanwhile the Super Rugby Aotearoa season rumbles on this weekend as the Chiefs meet the Blues on Saturday. 

Four fixtures headline this weekend’s AFL schedule starting with the Sydney Swans’ clash with the Adelaide Crows on Saturday. Melbourne will look to extend their perfect start to the campaign as they travel to face St Kilda. Hawthorn meet Richmond at the MCG on Sunday before the Western Bulldogs face off with the West Coast Eagles at the Docklands Stadium. 

Two unbeaten Brits in the super light division go toe-to-toe on Friday night as Akeem Ennis-Brown and Sam Maxwell meet at the Copper Box Arena.

There is a heavyweight clash to look forward to in the main event at UFC 260 this weekend with Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou contesting the rematch over three years after their initial bout.

The MotoGP season begins in earnest on Sunday, when the Qatar GP is contested at the Losail International Circuit. 

A world-class week of sport awaits. Whatever you’re watching, enjoy!

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Photos by UCLA Women's Basketball, England Cricket, Dell Technologies Match Play, Philadelphia 76ers, France Rugby, Matchroom Boxing, FORMULA 1®

Written and information correct on 21st March at 9pm GMT

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