Tonight in the Sweet 16, the Villanova men’s basketball team faces Michigan as well as a familiar foe in Wolverines associate head coach Phil Martelli.

For so many years, Martelli’s St. Joseph’s teams squared off against Villanova in the Holy War. Martelli and Jay Wright are friends, and so in San Antonio, Mike Jensen has a look at the relationship and matchup that has fans fired up — and banging on Wright’s car window.

There’s so much mutual respect that after Wright’s Villanova team won the national championship in 2016, Martelli stuck a sticky note on his own Big 5 coach of the year award to declare Wright the true winner. Martelli did end up taking home the trophy after all. Is the post-it note still there?

“There was for a long time,” Martelli said. “But I’m sure Judy took it off.”

Judy Marra Martelli, Phil’s wife, is a legend as well. She was a player for Immaculata’s pioneering national championship teams in the 1970s that are in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and the 50th anniversary of the first of those teams was recently celebrated with a reunion last week.

“I remember saying to someone when we were going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the men in the room grew up hitting the shot to win the national championship in their minds and dreams,” she told Mike Sielski. “No woman ever thought that back in the ‘70s.”

Sielski looks back at the Mighty Macs, who launched the modern era of women’s college basketball.

— Inquirer Sports Staff, @phillysport

How’s your bracket doing, and how far do you have Villanova going?:

While Villanova is in San Antonio for the NCAA’s South Regional, the East Regional is coming to Philly and The Inquirer will be in both locations every step of the way. Join Jensen and Sielski as they offer an insider’s look at Villanova’s tournament run and break down the rest of the field during a special edition of Gameday Central. Tune in Friday, March 25 at 4:15 p.m. as Jensen and Sielski chat with Inquirer columnist David Murphy on Inquirer LIVE.

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Extra Innings

Nick Castellanos saw some familiar faces when he was introduced by his new team on Wednesday. There was Bryce Harper, whom he played with on the U.S. national team when they were teenagers. Dave Dombrowski, who signed Castellanos to a $100 million deal, and drafted him out of high school in 2010. And of course, there was “Landon’s mom” — Dombrowski’s wife, Karie, whose son became friends with a young Castellanos early in his Tigers days. But there’s one new thing he’d like to experience with the Phillies — winning in the playoffs.

The competition in center field took a hit after an MRI showed Odúbel Herrera has a mild strain in his right oblique that likely will keep him out four to six weeks.

Next: The Phillies play the Pittsburgh Pirates at 1:10 p.m. on Thursday in Bradenton, Fla. The game will be streamed on

Off the Dribble

The NCAA Tournament returns to television on Thursday with Sweet 16 action taking place across the country. While most college basketball fans in Philly will have their attention turned toward Villanova’s game against Michigan in San Antonio, another local story will take place right at the Wells Fargo Center.

That’s where Kelvin Sampson will lead Houston in its matchup against Arizona. Sampson has close ties with the 76ers as he worked as an assistant under Brett Brown and was hired by Daryl Morey and the Houston Rockets. There, he captained the defense. The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey talked to Morey and James Harden about Sampson, whom they raved about. Neither is surprised by the success he has found at Houston.

On Wednesday night, the Sixers got a scare when James Harden limped off the court and into the locker room. He returned to the game later, though, and the Sixers pulled out a 126-121 victory against the Lakers in Los Angeles.

Next: The Sixers play against the Clippers at 10:30 p.m. Friday in the second part of a three-game West Coast trip (NBCSP).

On the Fly

The Flyers lost again on Tuesday night, but there are some reasons for hope. That’s because four of the team’s top prospects will be playing in the NCAA Tournament this weekend.

Olivia Reiner tells you what you need to know about each and where and when you can watch them.

Next: The Flyers are back on the road Thursday night for their second of five straight games. They will take on the Blues at 8 p.m. (ESPN+, Hulu).

Fleet Street

In soccer, U.S. vs. Mexico is a rivalry for the ages and it has been for a long, long time. The U.S. denied Mexico a chance to play in the 1934 World Cup by defeating its regional foe in a play-in game for that privilege.

Now, 88 years later, it’s the U.S. still feeling the sting of having missed out on the World Cup in 2018 and desperate for redemption. However, Mexico is actually behind the U.S. in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings, so it is also hungry for points, plus eager for a measure of revenge after ending up on the losing end of recent clashes with the Americans.

The Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald got the scoop from a former Union and USMNT star who managed the nearly impossible feat of beating Mexico in its fortress of Azteca Stadium.

Next: Mexico vs. United States, Thursday at 10 p.m. (CBS Sports Network, Univision 65, TUDN, Paramount+)

Worth a Look

We compiled today’s newsletter using reporting from Mike Jensen, Mike Sielski, Alex Coffey, Keith Pompey, Gina Mizell, Olivia Reiner, Jonathan Tannenwald, Matt Breen and Joey Piatt.