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The Pulse: College basketball and NFL free agency

3/13/2006

Welcome to The Pulse, the place to find out what the sports world is thinking. Every day on ESPN.com, SportsNation registers its opinion on a wide range of topics by casting votes and offering opinions. We'll collect the daily highlights and create a running file throughout the week to measure The Pulse of SportsNation on a wide variety of issues. Check this page every day for an update of what the 'Nation is saying.

Friday's Big Questions
1. What's your take on college basketball's Championship Week?
2. What do you foresee in NFL free agency?

Early-round struggles in conference tournaments? No problem for Connecticut but maybe for Duke, according to SportsNation. Despite the Huskies losing to Syracuse in their Big East tournament opener 71 percent of the 'Nation say they are not worried about UConn's NCAA chances. With Connecticut out of the way, though it looks like Villanova is the favorite to win the Big East and guarantee itself a top seed. Duke's nail-biter against Miami in the ACC quarter finals gives SN pause, though. More than half think the Blue Devils need to win at least one more game to lock up a No. 1 seed.

While college hoops teams are moving on and off the bubble some big-name NFL players may start changing addresses this weekend. NFL free agency is slated to begin at 12:01 a.m. ET on Saturday, meaning the quarterback carousel could start spinning and two of the best running backs in the game might be packing their bags. Drew Brees has blown past Edgerrin James as SportsNation's best available free agent and there are plenty of fans who want Brees wearing their favorite team's jersey next season.

There is very little doubt Terrell Owens will be playing in Week 1 and the 'Nation thinks Denver would do well to sign him, but things are decidedly different when it comes to Daunte Culpepper and whichever team he ends up with after his trade demand.

  • 71% Not worried about UConn heading into the NCAA Tournament.

  • 63% Villanova will win the Big East tournament.

  • 55% Duke needs to win at least the ACC semifinals to lock up a No. 1 seed.

  • 46% Drew Brees is the best available NFL free agent.

  • 95% Terrell Owens will be in an NFL uniform in Week 1.

  • 70% Signing Owens would be a good move for the Broncos

  • 20% Daunte Culpepper will ever lead a team to the Super Bowl

    DC (Altoona, PA): UConn is still a solid #1 and so is Duke even with a loss today (which I doubt happens after 6 days off). Don't let your Duke hatred cloud your judgement. They won the ACC regular season title, beat UNC, Texas, Temple, and Memphis away from Cameron. That is as good a resume as a team can have to get a #1 Seed. And no, I'm not a Duke fan. I'm just trying to be objective.

    Brian (Baltimore, MD): You sayin' Duke doesn't deserve a 1 seed? If not, tell me who does? If you say Memphis or the 'Zags I'm gonna throw up!

    Scott (Jackson, MS): 1 seeds - Villanova, Memphis, Texas, Ohio State

    Reggie (Orlando): UConn may seem like a dud but this could give them the chance to rest and be focused on the tourney.

    Collin (Framingham, MA): As a Miami fan, Drew Brees or Patrick Ramsey. Frerotte minded the store, but they need a better QB.

    Andrew (RI): I would like to see a Brees-y Miami next season. How many offseasons can you land a franchise quarterback? This kind of move could pay off for the next decade.

    JL (NY): Miami should avoid Daunte like the plague. He fits too well in Oakland. The Moss reunion is like a fantasy bonanza.

    Mike (Cohoes): As a Titans fan I would love someone like Julian Peterson. The Titans need help at linebacker and if you pair him with Bullock that would be outstanding.

    Jon (Malvern): If I'm the Houston Texans GM I make a play for Mawae and Hutchinson. Get some protection for Carr and Bush.

    John (NY): The Giants need Adam Vinatieri, we haven't had a clutch field goal kicker since probably Matt Bahr, that was 16 years ago.

    Tim (San Antonio): Broncos apparently are looking at Terrell Owens, John Abraham and Jamal Lewis. I'm not sure how I feel about ANY of the three, given the character issues, but I guess there's no debating they would add production on the field. I wouldn't empty my bank account for any of them, however.


    Thursday's Big Questions
    1. Labor peace in hand, what's next in the NFL?
    2. Did Syracuse save its season in the Big Apple?
    3. Is the United States in trouble at the World Baseball Classic?

    Perhaps the best thing about Wednesday night's labor agreement in the NFL is it had nothing at all to do with Barry Bonds.

    Moving the embattled slugger to the shadows for a bit, sports fans woke up Thursday morning to an NFL that looked remarkably similar to the league they've known for almost two decades. And that's a very good thing for fans. With salary-cap parity safely secured for this season and seasons to come, voters passed over the owners and players, overwhelmingly rating themselves as the big winners in the protracted negotiations. Now on to free agency, where Edgerrin James looks like the prize of the offseason.

    Bud Selig might take a little labor strife at the moment; anything to distract from what's happening in baseball. Still mired in the steroids fiasco, Selig had to watch the United States lose to Canada in pool play at the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. International parity might be good for the sport long term, but the tournament could probably use the ticket draw of Team USA this time around. But even though it's far from a sure thing now, 70 percent of voters expect the United States to advance to the next round.

    On the basketball court, Syracuse proved March doesn't wait for the NCAA Tournament to get crazy. By stunning top-ranked Connecticut in the Big East quarterfinals, the Orange may have gone from way out to way in, all in the span of 24 hours.

  • 62% Fans were the winners in the NFL deal.

  • 35% Edgerrin James is the top NFL free agent.

  • 88% Syracuse deserves an at-large NCAA bid after beating UConn.

  • 77% Gerry McNamara is not overrated.

  • 27% United States will not advance from pool play at the WBC.

    I know the hot topic will be to beat up the U.S. baseball team (and rightly so), but let's give a shout out to the NFL owners for approving the CBA. They realized that things are great right now and they shouldn't screw it up.
    Mike (Cohoes)

    I am a little disappointed that now ALL these NFL teams have all this cap room. The Browns were poised to go spend a lot of money that other teams didn't have. Now, since the new agreement, all these teams get instant cap relief, and there is really no reward for managing your cap well.
    Jeff (Cleveland)

    Paul Tagliabue once again proved that he's the best commish in sports. He basically whipped the owners into shape.
    Todd (Boston)

    Oh boy, I love seeing rich people arguing how they should spread billions of dollars. Well, it got done, after like 40 extensions. Big deal. I wanted to see Dan Snyder spend $200 million to miss the playoffs.
    Jonathan (Buffalo)

    Watching All-Star hitters struggle against career minor leaguers shows me that the USA just doesn't have any emotion invested in this tournament. I will admit though, watching the best second baseman in the league, Chase Utley, nearly capping the game with that potential three-run blast had me on the edge of my seat.
    Josh (Philly)

    The best part of the game was when they started going through the mercy rules scenario because Canada was up 8-0.
    Phil (Cleveland)

    If Roger Clemens loses to South Africa, can we take away his right to be in the Hall of Fame? That would be worse than Pete Rose gambling on baseball.
    Craig (Chapel Hill)

    I want to see the United States get bounced. The backlash would be great, and I'm for anything that makes Selig's life more difficult.
    Keith (Pennsylvania)

    Seriously, If I'm Canada and Mexico I'm making sure the game is 2-1 today, or whatever it has to be to make sure the USA stays home. Talk about putting the squeeze on the country between them.
    DC (Altoona, Pa.)

    The Big East will get eight NCAA bids. It should get eight. And either Cincy or Syracuse could make eight. So if 'Cuse beats UConn, I put them in. If not, I put Cincy in.
    Troy (Gainesville, Fla.)

    I would give Cincinnati a bid and definitely leave Syracuse out, even if the beat UConn. No team can lose nine of 13 and still get a bid. It's the name on the front of the jersey which gives Syracuse the name "bubble team" instead of "bad team."
    Brian (Newburyport, Mass.)

    No team who gets SLAUGHTERED by DePaul by 39 points when they REALLY needed a victory advances to the Dance. Cincinnati over Syracuse.
    Wes (California)


    Wednesday's Big Questions
    1. Will the NFL finally find labor peace?
    2. Are you tired of Barry Bonds yet?

    On Thursday morning, half of SportsNation is going to be surprised about the state of affairs in the NFL. The deadline (and this time, they supposedly really mean that) for the owners to approve the final proposal from the players' union was Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. And to illustrate exactly how up in the air the whole affair is, 50 percent of voters expect approval ... and 50 percent don't.

    There was no such divide on baseball's biggest story. Not many folks were surprised to find out there is more evidence that Barry Bonds knowingly used steroids, but that doesn't mean the story is going away anytime soon. On Wednesday, we even started to hear a few SportsNation voices sticking up for Bonds, even as the majority of voters said Cooperstown can do without him.

  • 91% NFL needs the salary cap.

  • 76% NFL is my favorite professional sport.

  • 58% Without a salary cap, my favorite team wouldn't qualify as big market.

  • 50% NFL owners will approve the final proposal from the players' union..

  • 80% Ken Griffey Jr. deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

  • 30% Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire should both be in the Hall of Fame.

  • 18% Sammy Sosa should be in the Hall of Fame.

    Wake me when there is actually NEWS about Barry Bonds.
    Pete (Albany, N.Y.)

    This still smacks of a witch hunt. We all know it's more than that, but it still tends to LOOK like one when something like this book is jumped on immediately as the key we need to finally put Barry down.
    Troy (Gainesville, Fla.)

    I am not much of a fan of Barry Bonds, but the guy has never tested positive for steroids, so he's innocent until proven guilty in my book. That is the way America runs, isn't it?
    Kevin (Atlanta)

    I think the most telling sign that the public doesn't care as much as the media thinks is the poll showing about 75 percent of people don't plan on reading the book. When Canseco's book came out, everyone was looking for names, now it's just another day.
    Keith (Pennsylvania)

    MLB knew what was happening and didn't do anything to stop it. Everyone was juiced at the time, so the level was practically the same for everyone. Let it go. Personally, I don't care if Bonds was juiced or not. I love to see him hit homers, and I hope he passes Aaron.
    Juan Luis (Colombia)

    The witch hunt begins. Let the man be. At the time of his supposed use, there were no rules set up against it. This is the media attacking Bonds. I love Barry and his swagger.
    Derron (Philadelphia)

    Barry is a bitter, bitter man who didn't endear himself to fans. Couple that with his use of performance-enhancing drugs and that just makes him a bitter bum. His records should be stricken from the books.
    Tom (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

    How can Barry Bonds live under his umbrella of denials and look his godfather, the great Willie Mays, in the eyes and lie to his face about a conspiracy? You're a jerk Barry, always have been.
    Craig

    In a week when we mourn the passing of one of the greatest players in baseball history, Kirby Puckett, we have to deal with Barry Bonds and his filthy lifestyle and outrageous lies yet again.
    Greg (Hanahan, S.C.)

    Bonds' biggest crime is he has a poor relationship with the media. It has turned into a witch hunt. He could come out tomorrow and state that he knowingly shot himself full of steroids, but it does not change the fact that he is one of the greatest to ever play the game.
    Skip (Evansdale, Iowa)


    Tuesday's Big Questions
    1. What is your take on the latest Barry Bonds allegations?
    2. How will you remember Kirby Puckett?
    3. Do you care that World Baseball Classic is starting?

    Tuesday was a busy day in the baseball world. Fuel was added to the Barry Bonds steroids debate by excerpts from a new book detailing Bonds' alleged performance-enhancing regimen, and the morning began with fans from all over the country reacting to the passing of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, who died Monday a day after suffering a massive stroke. Both overshadowed opening-round games of the inaugural World Baseball Classic.

    Bonds got little support from the 'Nation. With an upcoming book presenting new and thorough details of the slugger's alleged steroid use nearly 80 percent of SportsNation says the authors are only confirming what most already believe is true.

    SportsNation piled praise on Puckett for his performance, his passion and his enthusiasm for the game of baseball. More than half of respondents say "Puck" is the greatest player in Minnesota Twins history, and seemingly every fan who offered their thoughts mentioned Kirby's performance in Game 6 of the 1991 World Series as one of their favorite baseball memories.


    As for the WBC, Tuesday featured the glamour matchup pitting the Dominican Republic against Venezuela and Nation users missed the boat on the pick. Venezuela got 59 percent of the vote as the favorite in Group D but the Dominicans put an 11-5 drubbing on the Venezuelans and may have changed that in a hurry.

  • 78% say the new allegations only reaffirm their feelings about Bonds and steroids.

  • 76% will not read Game of Shadows

  • 71% would like to see him retire

  • 84% believe he knowingly used steroids

  • 40% still think he belongs in Hall of Fame

  • 55% think Kirby Puckett is the best Twins player of all-time.

  • 77% feel that Puckett's off-field issues do not taint his legacy as an all-time great.

  • 59% voted for Venezuela as the WBC favorite in Group D.

    John (Cleveland): When a guy packs on 40-50 pounds of muscle at the age of 34-35 and his trainers are found guilty of producing and trafficking steroids, don't you think there might be something fishy going on? Also, Bonds' mysterious knee injury last year just happened to coincide with the first real effort to test for 'roids in MLB. And finally, Bonds withdraws from the World Baseball Classic just a day after they announce a steroid testing policy. Hmmmm. But it's just the media ganging up on poor Barry.

    ChrisB (Wilmington): The recent allegations don't change my view of Bonds. To me, he was always a cheat who deserves everything he gets. Just as I do not condone alleged steroid usage by McGwire, Giambi or Sosa, Bonds needs to be taught he is not bigger than the game.

    Charles (Lake City, FL): I'm so tired of hearing about Barry Bonds and his alleged steroid use. Barry has been tested for years and has never shown up positive. All this is at this point is a chance for the media to try to bury a player it never liked. It's gotten to a point of being ridiculous. Just let it go!

    Jeff (Dayton): He was the unquestioned star of the best World Series in the last 50 years. He played his absolute biggest when it counted the most. People can talk all they want about stats in the Hall of Fame, but if that does not prove you are a Hall of Famer I don't know what does.

    Matt (Washington, D.C.): When I was 10 years old, my hero was a man named Kirby Puckett. He was my hero not because I wanted to play baseball as well as he did, but because he wanted to play baseball as much as I did.

    Todd (Fargo): Best wishes out to Kirby's family and friends. A baseball icon was lost yesterday. Kirby had one of the best catches/home runs in post season history (in Game 6 in 1991) and should be remembered for his amazing impact on the game.

    Geoff (Detroit): Did anyone not like this guy? I have nothing but good memories of watching him play, even when he and the Twins ended the Tigers World Series hopes in '87 you couldn't dislike that guy. Sad times.

    Steve (Ithaca): Just a fun player to watch. I was rooting hard for the Twins in both of their WS (for various reasons), and they didn't disappoint. A true inspiration for anyone who was ever told they're too short, pudgy, etc.

    Kev Wash (Richmond, VA): If Puckett never played for the Twins, they probably would not exist in Minnesota. That was how important he was to the team.

    Chris (CT): Today's word is "jingoism". Previously not into the WBC, I am now fired up for the US to thrash the Mexicans. Just like we did in the '02 World Cup.

    Jason (Gainesville, FL): The U.S. is gonna get off to slow start but finish strong. Mark my words: U.S. over Venezuela in the championship 8-2. A-Rod MVP, but mostly a great team effort by the US of A.

    Jonathan (Buffalo): You know what would be better? They play the WBC games in the evening. So, you know, people can actually watch them.


    Monday's Big Questions
    1. Adam Morrison or J.J. Redick for Player of the Year?
    2. Is Gonzaga a worthy No. 1 seed?

    With losses to Florida State and North Carolina in the last week Duke is doing all it can to give away its place as a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has won 17 straight games and played itself into the top-seed debate.

    What is not up for debate, however, is the sentiment that Duke's J.J. Redick and Gonzaga's Adam Morrison are the top two players in college basketball this year. Redick is a dead-eye shooter and the ACC's all-time leading scorer while Morrison is an all-around wonder who draws comparisons to Larry Bird.

    So it's no wonder than college basketball had SportsNation's attention on Monday. March Madness has officially begun.


    What did you think of Morrison, Redick and their teams? Here's a sampler from Monday's reaction:

  • 54% would vote for J.J. Redick over Adam Morrison for Player of the Year.

  • 63% think Gonzaga is not worthy of a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

  • 61% say Duke will make it to at least the Elite Eight

    Jeff (Cleveland): Can we now dispense with the "J.J. Redick comes up big in big games" talk? Adam Morrison, your Player of the Year.

    DC (Altoona, PA): I am not a Duke fan but I actually respect Redick a little more after the UNC game. It goes to show how much they need him and the pressure he has had to play under all year.

    Dan (Philly): Gonzaga takes OT to beat San Diego? Unless Morrison goes Kobe Byrant in the tourney, they're done after the first weekend.


    Tim (San Antonio): The only concerns I would have if I was a Duke fan would be a freshman point guard and lack of depth. But if Paulus is solid and no one gets hurt or in foul trouble, Duke is still the favorite to win it all, I believe.

    Kev Wash (Richmond, Va.): The Blue Devils have a week off before the tournament, then depending on how deep they go in the ACC tournament they will have about four days before NCAA tournament. That should be enough time for them to rest and go deep.


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