April 2, 2004
L.A. Lakers:
Here's why the Lakers rule: All that turmoil, all year long -- yet they moved into a tie for the best-in-the-West record Thursday night.
 
 
 
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:
FINAL.  TWO.

If the Duke-UConn Final Four game really is the de facto national championship, then congratulations Huskies.

Chris Duhon might be a lock-down defender (and, apparently, ready for canonization, if you ask the media), but Ben Gordon is playing better right now than anyone else Duhon has ever matched up with.

Sheldon Williams may be emerging as the next coming of Carlos Boozer, but Emeka Okafor is as healthy as he's been in weeks, which makes him the best big man on the floor.

Duke has a terrific first five, but -- as usual -- no real depth. UConn has depth inside (super-sub Charlie Villanueva) and shooters outside (scorching Rashad Anderson) to wear out Duke's starters.

Funny: Everyone is jumping to conclusions with this semi, but here's the catch: Oklahoma State will beat UConn on Monday night.

Adu's Debut
Freddy Adu's debut is make or break for MLS: There are more people in the "curious about Adu" psychographic than there are total number of MLS fans.

These casual fans are willing to tune in (4 p.m., Saturday, ABC), but probably just once. Not to put too much pressure on the kid, but he needs to do something -- anything -- spectacular. Just one telegenic play: Sweet pass, nifty juke... a goal will do nicely.

Just enough to tantalize those who tune in (and to make a nice SportsCenter clip for those who don't).

Opening Day II
It's Opening Day: The Sequel!
Boston at Baltimore (8, ESPN2)

Pedro got shelled in his final spring tune-up, so this is going to go one of two ways for him (both entertaining):

Racked by the revamped O's O:
Red Sox Nation in hysterics.

Displays his usual dominance:
Red Sox Nation in hysterics.

CHECK OUT THE QUICKIE EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING!
WHO'S GOT THE MOMENTUM ...
Red Wings: Win Prez Trophy, looking unbeatable for Cup
76ers G Willie Green: 22 Thursday. Pushing AI out door...
Matt Doherty: UNC outcast first to apply for Johnnies job
... AND WHO'S GOT NO MO'
Glen Grunwald: Raps axe GM; Laimbeer a replacement option?
Lions-Pats draft trade: Execs deny rumor of swap of firsts
Duhon-doubters: Drowned out by the roar of overhyped love
 
Women's FF
Watch Tennessee-LSU (Sunday, 7 p.m., ESPN) to see how crazy the New Orleans crowd gets, either for LSU (or against the Vols).

Watch UConn-Minnesota afterward to see one of the top 5 women's college hoops players ever (UConn's Diana Taurasi), plus Minnesota's under-radar star of their own (Lindsay Whalen).

But sorry, underdogs: Root like crazy for the Tennessee-UConn title game that will be the biggest event in women's college hoops in this (or possibly any) generation.

NBA Minor League
ESPN.com Insider Chad Ford has the NBA must-read of the week: A sit-down with David Stern about this expanded NBA minor-league idea that has everyone talking. (See "Q It Up," right)

Race forward, Mr. Commish:
The "Have-Cake/Eat-Too" League:
The LeBrons go straight to the big League, while the NBA develops the rest of the Top 50 preps while making money in emerging small markets.

And the NCAA gets to reinforce their "amateur" facade: Wait...so why is the NCAA balled up in the corner... rocking back and forth... crying?

Milton Bradley-Gate
Indians OF Milton Bradley is a good case study to explore tension between the SABR camp and "gut" guys:

SABR woo! Stellar .421 on-base percentage last season (third-best in the AL). So when his head's on straight, he's an asset.

"Gut" boo!" When's it's not, he's just an ass. Latest run-in: Wednesday, when he freaked out on cherubic manager Eric Wedge, finally leading the team to hang a "Trade" shingle.

Verdict: You just know the data-driven GMs are saying "I can change him... I can change him..." SABR guys secretly love the "bad boys."

Willingham's Reax
Been waiting for ND coach Ty Willingham's reaction to this week's Hornung debacle. Here it is: It has "no merit" and "deserves no real comment... Let's move forward."

How'd he do?
I give it an "8" for defusing,
but only a "2" for spice.

Final Four refs:
Just have this gut feeling that a controversial call by a ref is going to significantly affect the outcome of one of the semis Saturday night.
 
 
Today on ESPN.com
Page 2
NCAA Tournament coverage
Fantasy baseball coverage
 
Weekend Must-Sees:
UConn-Duke
Titanic battle of new rivals
 
GTech-OK St
Underrated, unpredictable
 
Adu's Debut
Is he worthy of the hype?
 
Women's FF
Sport's biggest wknd yet
 
BoSox/O's
Start of Series season?
 

You know I love a good "best-ever" label: How about India's cricket team being called "best ever" -- by Pakistani media, no less...

As predicted here Tuesday, G-Tech's Paul Hewitt got a contract extension. Not 10 years, but through 2010. Close enough...

Michigan wins the NIT. In a game between Michigan and the Top 12 from the McD's All-Americas game this week, I'd take the preps...

Have you checked out the "Fab Four" in ESPN.com's Cheerleader Challenge? (L'ville, GTech, LSU, Texas)...

'Cause you forgot to TiVo: In-state star Andre Emmett (TX Tech) won the dunk title at Thursday's dunk/3pt festivities in San Antonio...

Who else can't take anything about Milton Bradley seriously because of the whole name thing?...



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