Take out the dog, make sure the recliner is in proper position and have plenty of cold refreshments and snacks handy.

The greatest three days of the sports year are upon us.

That's no April Fools, either.

Thanks to The Final Four and beginning of the MLB season occurring at the same time, there is no other 53-hour stretch of television viewing quite like this for sports fans. When do such significant events happen in two different sports?

Never.

There is plenty of time to do other things on Saturday before settling down at 5 p.m. to watch the first NCAA Tournament semifinal game between Gonzaga and South Carolina on CBS.

Expect to see plenty of shots of South Carolina coach Frank Martin scowling and famous Gonzaga alum John Stockton in the crowd. This being the first Final Four for the Zags and Gamecocks, their crowds should be ultra-passionate.

The second semifinal pits North Carolina and Oregon. This stuff is nothing new to the Tar Heels, but the Oregon trail (get it?) is much different. The Ducks won the first NCAA title in 1939 and haven't been back since. 

The championship game is set for 8 p.m. Monday on CBS.

In between college hoops comes the return of the boys of summer. Exactly 150 days after the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year drought, baseball is back. Can it get any better than the Cubs squaring off with the rival St. Louis Cardinals at 7:30 p.m. Sunday on ESPN?

Actually, it can. The season starts 7½ hours earlier when the New York Yankees visit Tampa Bay on ESPN, followed by San Francisco at Arizona at 3 p.m. on ESPN2. 

ESPN also has a quadruple-header on Monday (late game on ESPN2) starting at noon, while the Chicago White Sox are home at Guaranteed Rate Field (sad, but true) against Detroit at 3:10 p.m. on Comcast.

Play ball!

NASCAR: STP 500 (Fox Sports 1, 1 p.m. Sunday): An extremely slow start to the season for Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who are 17th and 21st, respectively, in the standings. Martinsville could change that. 

NCAA Women's Tournament: Championship game (ESPN, 5 p.m. Sunday): Mississippi State's stunning upset halted a Connecticut juggernaut to a fifth title. Can the Bulldogs continue their magic against South Carolina?

NBA: Cavaliers at Celtics (ESPN, 7 p.m. Wednesday): As we all know, the regular season doesn't mean much in the NBA. However, Boston suddenly has caught LeBron & Co. for top spot in Eastern Conference.

Contact Jim Benson at jbenson@pantagraph.com.

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Sports Writer

Sports Writer for The Pantagraph.

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