The Pulse: Tourney excitement, Keyshawn and Amare

Updated: March 27, 2006, 2:50 PM ET
Friday, March 24

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. How do you see tonight's college hoops action?
2. Does Keyshawn = Super Bowl for Carolina?
3. What does Amare Stoudemire mean to the Suns?

 Kenton Paulino
Kenton Paulino's 3 sunk West Virginia.
Here's hoping Thursday was just an appetizer.

The last four games of the Sweet 16 take place Friday night and if the evening unfolds anything like Thursday's incredible action college hoops fans are in for another treat. The clash between top-seeded Villanova and No. 4 Boston College is far and away the game SportsNation is most looking forward to, likely because SN gives the Eagles the best chance among lower-seeded teams. In fact, nearly 80 percent of voters think 'Nova, not Connecticut, is the No. 1 most likely to fall Friday night.

But back to Thursday for a minute. When all was said and done we had seen a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer by Texas against West Virginia and a furious comeback by UCLA against Gonzaga. The heroics from the Longhorns are the 'Nation's favorite buzzer-beater so far in the NCAA Tournament and Gonzaga gets more than 20 percent of the vote.

And lest you think the ladies have been forgotten, we also asked which No. 1 seed on the women's side has the toughest Sweet 16 game ahead of it. Voters from SportsNation think Duke has its hands full with Michigan State, but North Carolina's date with Purdue is close behind.

On the NFL front, Keyshawn Johnson signed a four-year contract with the Carolina Panthers on Thursday night but SN feels quite strongly that Johnson is not the final piece of the puzzle for a team that finished one game short of the Super Bowl last season. In the NBA, Amare Stoudemire returned to the Phoenix Suns' lineup Thursday night after missing most of the season with an injury and, in the eyes of 'Nation voters, greatly increased the Suns' chances of making the NBA Finals.

  • 58% Are most looking forward to (4) Boston College vs. (1) Villanova.
  • 37% Boston College has the best chance Friday among lower-seeded teams.
  • 72% Villanova is more likely than Connecticut to lose Friday night.

  • 38% Texas over West Virginia is the top buzzer-beater so far.
  • 22% UCLA over Gonzaga is the best buzzer-beater.
  • 40% Duke has the toughest Sweet 16 matchup among women's No. 1s.

  • 72% The acquisition of Keyshawn Johnson will not get the Panthers to the Super Bowl.
  • 60% The return of Amare Stoudemire is enough to get the Suns to the NBA Finals.

    As usual, all the big topics were covered in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie chat:

    A Duke loss, a buzzer-beater and a historic choke/comeback. Can you get a better night of tournament basketball?
    John (Portland, ME)

    After that comeback, UCLA is physically and emotionally drained and will lose to Memphis by 20.
    Christian (High Point, NC)

    Zags choked. That pretty much sums it up.
    Nate (Philly)

    Texas was the better team. But, man, can WVU hit a clutch 3.
    Nate (Philly):

    Here in heartbroken Morgantown, I gotta say we're sad to see one great group of kids go.
    Matt (Pittsnogleville):

    I think that BC's height is gonna be too much for 'Nova to deal with. Dudley and Smith will have their way down low on the way to a 76-72 win. It'll be a great game.
    Russ (Dyersville)

    'Nova's guards run circles around Smith and Dudley. Too much defensive pressure for BC to handle, no ACC teams in the Elite Eight.
    Richard (Raleigh)

    UConn rolls. Too much talent inside, too many offensive rebounds, and if Brandon Ry gets cold there is no chance they lose.
    Josh (Philly)

    I guess Keyshawn's signing show's Carolina's lack of confidence in Keary Colbert, who was invisible last season. Do Steve Smith's numbers go up because he has another WR to take the double teams away or do they go down because Keyshawn wants the damn ball?
    Rob (Warwick)

    Amare is back. He won't be a 100 percent healthy until next year, but if I'm Dallas or San Antonio I'm scared of the Suns.
    James (Detroit)

    I'll fear Phoenix MUCH more when Stoudemire and Nash figure out that defense is half the game. I LOVE watching the Suns play, and they are two of my favorite players in the game, but they will not beat the Spurs unless they can at least slow down Duncan and Parker. Won't happen again this year.
    Tim (San Antonio)

    Thursday's Big Questions

    1. What's in store in the Sweet 16?
    2. Should Kansas State be excited about Bob Huggins?
    3. Did Gary Sheffield use steroids?

     Shelden Williams
    Trouble looming for Duke? Not really, says SN.
    Brackets have been busted, Cinderella is still dancing and in just a few short days the Final Four will be set. Thursday marks the beginning of the Sweet 16 and SportsNation has a few thoughts on what will happen between now and Sunday evening.

    Two No. 1 seeds are in action Thursday night and the 'Nation is pretty confident in both, but the same can't be said for No. 2 UCLA. A loss to No. 3 seed Gonzaga might not be considered a true upset but a big portion of SN thinks the 'Zags are the lower-seeded team most likely to win.

    That doesn't mean, though, that all the No. 1s are safe. More than half of voters think just two top seeds will make the Final Four, and while only a minute percentage think Memphis will fall to Bradley more than a third peg the Tigers as the No. 1 who will lose first.

    In other college hoops news, former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins is back in the game with a new five-year contract to lead Kansas State. The vast majority of 'Nation voters think it was a good hire by KSU and a similar number think the Wildcats will eventually be perennial Big 12 contenders. Only half think they're headed for top-10 finishes but 54 percent like the 'Cats to challenge for an NCAA berth next season.

    And you didn't really think we could go an entire week without more talk about steroids in baseball, did you? The tell-all book "Game of Shadows" was released Thursday, giving Barry Bonds some company among those indicted in its pages. Yankees outfielder and former Bonds workout partner Gary Sheffield is once again being accused of enhancing his performance, and SportsNation has little doubt he purposely used steroids.

  • 41% No. 3 Gonzaga (vs. No. 2 UCLA) is the lower-seeded team most likely to win Thursday night.
  • 57% Two No. 1 seeds will make the Final Four.
  • 37% Memphis will be the first No. 1 seed to lose.

  • 84% Hiring Bob Huggins is a good move for Kansas State.
  • 83% Huggins will eventually make KSU perennial Big 12 contenders.
  • 54% Kansas State will contend for an NCAA berth next season.
  • 50% Agree with Huggins that Kansas State has the potential to be a top-10 program.

  • 86% Gary Sheffield knowingly used steroids.

    Less than 20 percent of voters gave LSU the best chance to win tonight but they sounded off plenty in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie on LSU's Glen "Big Baby" Davis and his comments about the Dukies, as well as Gonzaga's chances against UCLA. Oh, and Sheffield got killed, too.

    Glen Davis is setting himself up for a Shelden Williams beat down. Shelden isn't a traditional Dukie, he doesn't wear sweaters and khakis and he isn't from the suburbs.
    Sham (WBL)

    Baby v. Landlord has to be the most intriguing matchup, because anyone who has watched Duke this season knows that Duke is vulnerable to strong inside presence where Shelden can get in foul trouble. It'll be the key matchup in all the Sweet 16.
    Todd (Boston)

    Ok, this is one of those that you have to go against what the public believes. Duke has experience in the Sweet 16, LSU does not. Duke has 2 All-Americans, LSU does not. All things considered, experience counts. Duke, 80-67.
    Mike (Cohoes)

    Not a Duke fan, but I think their defense is overlooked (lack of whistles helps) and McRoberts is playing pretty well right now. Shelden will be able to handle Big Baby.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Who besides me thinks that we will see Big Baby in foul trouble all night?
    John (Buffalo)

    Gonzaga will win, under the "Best Player on the Court" rule. Also, a UCLA win would KILL my bracket.
    Mike (Dorchester, MA)

    I'm not sold on this UCLA team and Morrison coming off the flu doesn't exactly cement my pick of the 'Zags. Still, I'm hoping for an MJ-with-the-flu game from Morrison and Gonzaga rolling on.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    I think that Gonzaga's second-round game debunked the ''one-man team'' theory. They're going to win.
    Steve (Ithaca)

    If Morrison is shut down by UCLA (which will happen) there is no way Gonzaga wins.
    Kev Wash (Richmond, VA)

    I still like UCLA. Farmar can handle Raivio, and Afflalo will be the X-factor with his ability to score. Morrison is in a little slump with his shooting, and I think UCLA suffocates the rest of the Zags.
    Brian (Newburyport,MA)

    I don't get why Sheffield has seemingly gotten a free pass on this (or Giambi for that matter). They clearly cheated, and I don't see how Bud Selig can't investigate them as well. I mean, everyone hates Sheff as much as Bonds right?
    Todd (Boston)


    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Will the NFL's big spenders make the playoffs?
    2. Did the Saints make the right call at QB?
    3. Who is the best available NFL free agent?

     Edgerrin James
    Playoffs for Edge? Not so much.
    Alfonso Soriano swallowed his pride (but no fly balls) and played left field for the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, so with that crisis averted, the nation took a collective breath and moved on to bigger matters.

    And these days, not much is bigger than NFL payrolls.

    With plenty of new money available under the salary cap, thanks to a labor agreement that will serve as Paul Tagliabue's parting gift to his league, all 32 teams have been busy breaking the bank while the rest of us break out NCAA Tournament brackets. In the span of just a few days, dozens of top free agents either found new homes or found new money in their old homes.

    So what's SportsNation's take on the action? Well, Daniel Snyder might not want to hear this, but voters aren't big believers in simply throwing money at problems.

  • 67% The Cardinals will not make the playoffs with Edgerrin James.
  • 65% The Browns will not make the playoffs after adding LeCharles Bentley, Willie McGinest and others.
  • 53% The Redskins will be able to win at least one playoff game after adding Antwaan Randle El, Adam Archuleta and others.

  • 51% The Saints made the right call signing Drew Brees over drafting a rookie.
  • 60% The Lions will get more starts out of Jon Kitna than Josh McCown next season.

  • 58% Either Ty Law or Charles Woodson is the best remaining unsigned free agent.

    Only six percent of voters thought the Colts made the best signing on offense by luring Adam Vinatieri away from New England, but SportsNation sounded off the local icon's defection in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie.

    I just want to see Vanderjagt go to the Patriots, so I can see Boston fans squirm.
    Phil (Cleveland)

    He's a kicker. Granted he's been clutch, but whatever. Until the Colts can improve "Longneck's" weak gag reflex, they still got troubles.
    Chris (Connecticut)

    Unless Vinatieri can run the ball for 1,500 yards and pick up the blitz, I don't see how this makes any sort of headway.
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    I think it's symbolic. Other than Vanderjagt's one glaring miss (and let's face it, pure dumb luck contributed solely to that opportunity) there isn't a whole lot of difference between these guys. If anything, Vanderjagt has better range.
    Matt (Morgantown)

    I've learned that the Patriots tend to let players go that are on the decline. Bledsoe, Milloy, Law. I'm sure they will find some younger stronger-legged kicker who will cost three times less. But will they have the confidence in that kicker?
    Jonathan (Buffalo)

    It's not news. A player went to the highest bidder, nothing else. Sensationalized New England media will make this a sign of the apocalypse, but this is the same media that has made Belichick a deity that can do no wrong.
    Hende (Ohio)

    Big mistake by the Pats. This guy won how many Super Bowls and playoff games? If there's one thing you must have in the playoffs, it is the ability to call for the FG team and believe that it's automatic. The Pats lost that skill by letting him leave.
    John (New Jersey)


    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. What should the Nationals do with Alfonso Soriano?
    2. How good is Soriano as a second baseman?
    3. Who would you rather have at 2B: Soriano or Vidro?

     Alfonso Soriano
    This could be the happiest Soriano ever looks in a Nationals uniform.
    Alfonso Soriano is suddenly being compared to Terrell Owens and Keyshawn Johnson thanks to his refusal to play left field in a spring training game last weekend. The Washington Nationals have indicated they will place him on the disqualified list -- which would cost him paychecks and service time -- if he refuses to play in the outfield in games scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday and it's shaping up as a showdown between player and team that would really have no winners.

    The Nationals would lose an All-Star second baseman and Soriano would lose a chunk of his salary as well as service time that could make him a free agent after this season. Hence, the T.O. and Keyshawn comparisons. Soriano is definitely not in SportsNation's good graces with 46 percent saying he should be traded and another 29 percent wanting him placed on the DQ list. Only 11 percent of the 'Nation says Washington should relent and allow him to play second.

    Most seem to think the Nationals would be better off without him anyway, as 38 percent say Soriano is merely "average" defensively as a second baseman and another 12 percent say he is "awful". On the flip side, only a combined 29 percent think he is "above average" or "excellent" in the field.

    A majority of voters still prefer Soriano to current Nationals second baseman Jose Vidro -- himself a former All-Star -- but despite Vidro's obvious lack of power there he still gets significant support from SportsNation. A full 42 percent of SN would still rather have Vidro in the middle of the diamond than Soriano.

  • 46% The Nationals should trade Soriano.
  • 29% Washington should place Soriano on the disqualified list.
  • 11% Soriano should be allowed to play second base

  • 38% Soriano is an average second baseman.
  • 12% Soriano is an awful second baseman.
  • 23% Soriano is an above average second baseman.
  • 6% Soriano is an excellent second baseman.

  • 42% Would rather have Jose Vidro as their team's second baseman.

    SportsNation sounded off on Soriano's refusal to play in a big way on Tuesday. Readers in Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie and users who responded to a SN mailbag came down strongly on both sides of the issue, and some had harsh words for Nationals GM Jim Bowden.

    Soriano needs a new agent. I don't think there is a team out there that wants him at second. Just make the move to left, collect your money and hit.
    Jon (Malvern)

    We could have T.O. situation here. Frank Robinson strikes me as the kind of guy that will let Soriano sit if he refuses to play left field instead of trading him to a team that will play him at second base.
    Keith (PA)

    He will play, I don't care what anyone says. He is not going to miss his $10 million in pay plus his free agency time, plain and simple.
    Jeff (Dayton)

    Soriano is being a big baby. The team will be better with him in the outfield and Vidro is a better defensive player. Besides, shouldn't it be a plus that you can play the outfield without wearing a cup?
    Bernardo (Chapel Hill, NC)

    No way should a player dictate to a manager when or where he plays. That road leads to anarchy. Sit him and punish him as much as possible for not living up to his contract.
    Chris (Bella Vista, AR)

    I'm also sick of these spoiled athletes. In what other job could you tell the boss you won't do a job they signed you for and not get fired? Put him on the DQ and get rid of him at the end of the season. See what kind of contract or fan support he gets after this.
    Brian (Washington, DC)

    Good for him. He's not a piece of meat, some indentured servant. Someone with that much talent should play where and when he wants to.
    Michael (Noblesville, IN)

    I wonder if this is a stunt by Soriano to force a trade with the Mets who obviously are shopping for a second baseman?
    John (Louisville, KY)

    Let him play second base over Vidro. You will know he will get at least 30 homers and 100 RBI, but the same can't be said of Vidro.
    Justin (New York, NY)

    This stuff about him doing what his employer wants is BS. When anyone agrees to work for someone, they do so with an understanding of what each side expects. If you are hired to build a bridge, you aren't expected to build a tunnel. Soriano made clear he would only play second, and now his employer wants him to play outfield? They should trade him or move Vidro to shortstop and let him play second.
    Eric (Greensboro, NC)

    I think Bowden should be fired for not gauging the situation before he made the trade. Everyone knew Soriano wanted to stay at second. Except for Bowden, apparently.
    Messiah (NY)

    He said before he got to Washington he wouldn't play outfield for Texas. I am not sure why the geniuses in the front office didn't explore that before trading away a popular player like Brad Wilkerson.
    Joe (Washington DC)


    Monday's Big Questions

    1. Who will advance from the Sweet 16?
    2. What will be NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's legacy?
    3. Who will win the World Baseball Classic?

     George Mason
    George Mason is in the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
    What a weekend! The first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament produced a plethora of upsets resulting in five Cinderellas (No. 6 seeds or lower) making the Sweet 16. And better yet, two of them are playing each other! That means either Wichita State or George Mason will be headed to the Elite 8! Of the more than 80,000 people who voted in the SportsNation poll, a majority picked No. 7 seed Georgtown as the Cinderella with the best chance to reach the Final Four.

    The weekend also saw another chapter added in the ongoing saga that is Terrell Owens. The controversial wide receiver signed a three-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys. Over 100,000 strong weighed in immediately after the news broke on Saturday and 62 percent said they would not want Owens on their team. Apparently Bill Parcells was part of the 38 percent.

    On Monday, another story broke that had been speculated for some time. NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue announced he will be stepping down in July. Having served as Commissioner for 16 years, Tagliabue left an indelible mark on professional football, negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement, overseeing the building of new stadiums across the country and a whopping $8 billion television deal through 2011. An impressive 66 percent of SportsNation picked Tagliabue over David Stern (NBA), Bud Selig (MLB) and Gary Bettman (NHL) as the commissioner who had the most positive impact on his sport.

  • 58% Duke will win the Atlanta Regional.
  • 37% UCLA will win the Oakland Regional.
  • 77% Connecticut will win the Washington, D.C. Regional.
  • 37% Boston College will win the Minneapolis Regional.

  • 48% Memphis is the No. 1 seed most likely to lose before Final Four.
  • 60% B.C. vs. Villanova will be best Sweet 16 game involving No. 1 seed.
  • 48% SportsNation Tourney fans who still have Final Four teams in bracket.
  • 33% Connecticut will win 2006 NCAA Tournament.

  • 54% Terrell Owens will not co-exist peacefully with Bill Parcells.
  • 34% Owens will catch between 80-99 passes in 2006.
  • 48% Dallas Cowboys will make the playoffs in 2006.

  • 45% Paul Tagliabue's legacy will be $8 billion TV deal through 2011.
  • 66% Tagliabue has had most positive impact of "Big Four" commissioners.

    One of the biggest topics of discussion on Monday was players who stepped up during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. During Dan Shanoff's Monday Morning Quickie chat in The Show, SportsNation sounded off on their studs and duds:

    Stud: Bradley's Patrick O'Bryant. MONSTER game against Pitt. 26 points and good defense against Pitt's big man Aaron Gray.
    Klinger (Yankee Nation (Go Bradley))

    Stud: Washington's Brandon Roy. Two monster games for Washington and the player that will finally put Connecticut away.
    Nick (St Johns Campus (Jamaica, NY))

     Joakim Noah
    Joakim Noah and the Gators will face Georgetown in the Sweet 16.
    Studs: Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and Florida's Joakim Noah. That is going to be a battle next round. These guys are playing at the top of their games right now.
    Jon (Malvern)

    Stud: J.P. Batista from Gonzaga picking up the slack for the team yesterday. Nice coming out party for him nationally.
    Nicholas (Tampa)

    Stud: Roy Hibbert of Georgetown. He played out of his shoes Sunday! Driving to the hoop?!
    Nate (Philly)

    Stud: Craig Smith of Boston College. Picking up right where he left off in the ACC tourney. I've got B.C. heading to Indy.
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    Stud: Patrick Sparks of Kentucky. Dude gave it his all and played well. He hasn't played that well in his life.
    Josh (Clintwood, VA)

    Duds: The North Carolina freshmen, ugh!
    Eric (Greensboro, NC)

    Dud: Corey Brewer going 7-for-13 for 3-pointers. Sounds great, I know, but he's not a 3-point shooter. What happens when he goes 1-8 against Georgetown? Live by the three . . .
    Troy (Gainesville, FL)


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