February 28, 2006
Shaun White:
Rolling Stone apparently agrees with my pick of White as Wheaties Watch champ from Torino. They put him on the cover and named him "America's Coolest Kid."
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

West Virginia's 67-62 win last night over rival Pitt is a nice jumping off point for the cresting college hoops topic of how many bids each league may get.

The Big East is looking at 8 invites (9 if there's a Big East Tournament shocker). Begs the question: Should any league get so many bids? It seems so greedy, so rich-get-richer.

Given the Big East's 16-team depth -- where an imported newcomer like Louisville, fresh off a trip to the Final Four, might not even make the conference tournament -- its projected 8 bids isn't excessive.

Put it this way: If the ACC and Big 12 merged, they'd get 8 bids, too.

But between the Big East's 8 projected bids and the Big Ten's 7, the at-large spots are filling up fast, leaving little room for the little guys.

I understand it's unfair to penalize a worthy (if not great) mega-conference team simply because of volume, but everyone can agree about the real thrill of the NCAA Tournament:

It is not whether a Big 12 bubble team like Colorado or a Big East bubbler like Seton Hall can justify its bid by defying expectations and escaping the first round. (There's not much of a Cinderella factor for a double-digit seed from a power conference.)

The genuine thrill is when a true Cindy emerges from a lower-tier league. Joe Lunardi is bullish; he's got 5 invites for teams from the party-crashing Missouri Valley.

That would be a breakthrough moment for college hoops, and it's the dynamic you should be rooting for as the regular season hits the final stretch.

Let's hope the NCAA Tournament committee includes among the "best 34" at-large teams the more little-known upstarts that really make March Madness the best event in sports.

17 to Hall of Fame
The special election of 17 Negro League players and executives (nearly doubling the Negro League representation) is one of the greatest things the Baseball Hall of Fame has ever done.

The vote also includes its first woman: Effa Manley, the former co-owner of the Newark Eagles. This, too, represents a historic moment for the Hall.

Not to take anything away from Bruce Sutter, but the enshrinement ceremony this summer will be all about celebrating the legacy and influence of the Negro Leagues. As it should be.

(One problem: As usual, the lack of transparency or accountability in the voting process. How are we supposed to know who to complain to because Buck O'Neil and Minnie Minoso didn't make the cut? Travesty.)

Kevin Pittsnogle: In WVA home finale, 26 pts in W vs. Pitt
Vernon Davis: Maryland TE is combine's most impressive
Shawn Marion: Nets 30+ pts for 3rd game in a row after ASG
Cavaliers: Lose back-to-back games vs. Pistons
Michael Young: Texas SS "Jetered" into playing 2B for WBC
Olympics TV ratings: Least-watched since Calgary '88 (ouch)
Quickie Quote
"I'm worried for baseball and worried for the whole thing. Somebody's going to get hurt and hurt some team. Baseball didn't need this. It's disrupting spring training."
-- Steinbrenner on the World Baseball Classic

(Translation: If Jeter or A-Rod gets hurt while playing in some meaningless showcase, I'm going to personally break Selig's legs.)

Lance to Host ESPYs
I can't remember a major awards show in which a legendary winner turns around and hosts.

Kanye hosting the Grammys?
Gandolfini hosting the Emmys?
Jack hosting the Oscars?

That's what makes the ESPYs choice of Lance Armstrong -- the reigning three-time men's athlete of the year -- so interesting.

He's not a typical host, but he's as representative of the ESPY ethos as any athlete in sports. Plus, it's not like he's doing anything next summer (for once).

So the bigger question: Who will newly single Lance bring as his date? (How 'bout Page 2 2006 Hottest Woman Athlete Tanith Belbin? Is she available?)

Texans Trade Up?
Day 2, and while my Pats idea was laughed out of my e-mail in-box, the Morning Quickie chatters hit on a more reasonable scenario: Swapping the top pick to the Jets for the No. 4 overall pick, a few other later-round picks and, say, disgruntled DE John Abraham.

Then the Jets could pick Reggie Bush (or any of the top 3 QBs; Leinart's name has been thrown around), while the Texans could stockpile draft picks and still fill a need by drafting LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

(One problem with that: If Eric Mangini truly comes from the Belichick school, he's about hoarding picks of his own, not trading them away, even for a talent like Bush or Leinart.)

MC Tony Parker
One night after dropping 20 points in a laugher over the Knicks, Tony Parker is going to be dropping lyrics on an audience of nutty willing sycophants listeners in his live debut as a rapper, at a club in San Antonio tonight.

What better moment than to recount the various attempts by NBA players to show they have as much game on the mic as they do on the court:

*Allen Iverson ("40 Bars")
*Kobe Bryant ("Thug Poet")
*Shaq O'Neal ("Shaq Diesel")

I've heard LeBron also wants to release a rap album, and several NBA players have invested money in being producers. None have been revelations.

So will TP9 break the curse? Well, he raps in French; I just can't see that breaking into the rotation on Hot 97.

(Follow-up: I read that TP's first video, "Top of the Game," will feature cameos by Tim Duncan, Robert Horry, Nazr Mohammed and Brent Barry. It's hard to decide which guy in that bunch is the least awkward.)

Quickie Book Club
"To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever": Will Blythe has written the seminal book about college basketball fandom, exploring the reconciliation of his love for UNC with his loathing of Duke.

You don't have to like UNC. You don't have to hate Duke. You don't even have to be a college hoops fan, although for those people, this is especially a must-read.

In the same way "Fever Pitch" was more about fandom than soccer, "To Hate Like This" transcends Blythe's deep-seated feelings to wonderfully articulate the passion we all might feel about our favorite teams.

Blythe should be thrilled. Not only does his book come out today, but his Tar Heels jumped from 21st to 13th in the latest Top 25 poll. Might be a short-lived stay: They've got a date with Duke on Saturday (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).

Vince Young's Wonderlic:
More specifically, its hubbub. Rumors begat corrections begat Mack Brown teeing off. Given VY's new (presumably accurate) score, it's a nonissue.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Page 2 Index
Inside RPI Top 5
Data-crunching doesn't lie
16-3 vs. Top 100
Only 31st-best schedule
3rd-toughest schedule
Ohio State
Best team of best league

MLB Spring: Roger Clemens got taken deep by his son Koby on his first pitch of spring training, then came back and buzzed his ear, naturally.

Big East: Nova G Allan Ray's knee is sprained, not more seriously injured. Might miss a game this week, but he'll be ready to go for the NCAAs.

Who wants to bet that new Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo has the woeful Raptors in the playoffs faster than Isiah Thomas has the Knicks there?

What does $5,000 buy you these days? You could give an elbow to the face (Sheed) or toss (KG) or kick (Ricky Davis) a ball into the stands.

Who was the Bengals' mystery guy who leaked news about the fight between Chad Jackson and assistant Hue Jackson? Check Friday's free-agent wire.

The most interesting rules development of the NFL offseason will be whether the league approves that refs can review down-by-contact calls on fumbles.

Was Allen Iverson really left off of the USA hoops roster? If A.I. was interested (and he was), that's a travesty.

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