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Saturday Sports: Shohei Ohtani's interpreter fired, March Madness begins


And now it's time for sports.


SIMON: Madness in college basketball. The biggest name in baseball drawn into a gambling scandal, while an NBA coach says that professional gamblers have his number. Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media joins us. Howard, thanks so much for being with us.

HOWARD BRYANT: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: So Oakland University of Michigan beats Kentucky. Yale's stunned - Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Auburn. And last night, I mean, Grand Canyon University over Saint Mary's - I want my daughters to go to Grand Canyon now. Second round starts today. Did the first round have enough madness for you?

BRYANT: It had plenty of madness, and I feel bad for all of those folks that made their brackets and bet on Kentucky, although it's been an interesting year, Scott. This has been one of those years - we've been talking about this for several years now about how March Madness has turned into, you know, sensation and buzzer beaters...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...And not a whole lot of great teams because a lot of players are going to the NBA because the talent has been diluted, etc., etc. And obviously when that happens, the gap between the one and the 16 and the three and the 14 aren't that big anymore. And so now you see the 12th seeds winning. Where is Grand - I mean, I think Grand Canyon University kind of gives it away, but who?

SIMON: Phoenix - I had to look it up. Yeah.

BRYANT: I had to look up where Grand Canyon University is. But this is what we're going to get. And I think that the more you see these teams come out of nowhere, we knew that a 16-seed eventually was going to win, and that has happened. And nobody is safe, and March Madness has become even more mad than ever before.

SIMON: Women's tournament started yesterday. Really, only Middle Tennessee's win over Louisville has a lower-seeded team won. What are you looking forward to seeing today?

BRYANT: Well, that's the traditional part of it, when it comes to the men and the women. The men are really volatile, but the women's great teams are still really, really great. Obviously, we're looking for one thing where we want to see Caitlin Clark. Is she going to go out and end her college career with a championship? Is LSU going to repeat? Obviously, South Carolina is the best team in the country. I also like Texas and Stanford. There are a lot of good teams there, but I think that when it's go time, we're going to be looking at Iowa. We're going to be looking at LSU. We're going to be looking at South Carolina.

SIMON: Shohei Ohtani, biggest star in baseball, had an interpreter who borrowed or stole $4.5 million to cover the interpreter's gambling debts. Major League Baseball has opened an investigation. What are the stakes?

BRYANT: The stakes are enormous. The stakes are very, very high. Obviously, it's a developing story. They have to tread very lightly, just don't have nearly enough information in terms of what is - what we know. But what we do know is that this is what is happening in sports, that sports has been asking for this in terms of opening up the gambling. The argument had been that, well, you know, these players make so much money that...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...They would never risk their millions. But it's all the action. It's always about more. Look at what's happening in baseball. Shohei Ohtani is risking being banned for life if any of this...

SIMON: Yeah.

BRYANT: ...Goes the wrong way. You have Bernie...

SIMON: Bickerstaff.

BRYANT: ...JB Bickerstaff talking about the gamblers having his phone number. Temple University, my school, was involved in a gambling issue this year. And don't forget the NFL. This is what sports is asking for, and it could be really, really bad.

SIMON: Howard Bryant of Meadowlark Media, thanks so much, my friend. Talk to you soon.

BRYANT: My pleasure. Thanks, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.