The Pulse: One more look at the Final Four

Updated: April 3, 2006, 11:30 AM ET
Friday, March 31

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.

The weekend is upon us and there is no doubt the Final Four is at the forefront of the sporting schedule.

Friday's Big Questions

1. Feel the same about the Final Four?
2. Should the NBA ban tights?

 Billy Donovan
SportsNation wants Billy Donovan.
The weekend is upon us and there is no question what SportsNation is looking forward to: exactly 69 percent of voters are looking forward to the men's Final Four more than baseball's opening day, the NBA playoff races or the women's Final Four.

As the week has gone on, though, little has changed in terms of the 'Nation's predictions for Indianapolis. The percentage of respondents who think Florida will beat George Mason and LSU will beat UCLA has stayed the same, while the UF-GMU game increased its lead as the game fans are most looking forward to.

LSU has moved further ahead of the field in SN's national championship prediction, but that doesn't mean Tigers coach John Brady inspires the most confidence. When asked which Final Four coach they would want leading their team SportsNation puts Billy Donovan at the top of the class. And Joakim Noah has inched ahead of Glen Davis as the leading candidate for Most Outstanding Player.

In other hoops related news Friday, the NBA announced it will seek to ban players from wearing tights under their uniform shorts. The news was met less than enthusiastically across the 'Nation.

  • 59% Florida will beat George Mason.
  • 67% LSU will beat UCLA.
  • 56% Are most looking forward to the UF-GMU matchup.
  • 37% LSU will win the national title.

  • 36% Would want prefer Billy Donovan coaching their team in the Final Four
  • 22% Noah will be named MOP.
  • 20% Davis will be the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.

  • 76% See no reason to ban NBA players from wearing tights.

    As usual, Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie hit on all the big topics. Florida got plenty of love and David Stern got little:

    Florida is playing better than any team in the tournament but they are playing the team that destiny has deemed worthy of the glass slipper. Ill take reality over fantasy Florida in a rout.
    Nick (St Johns Campus (Jamaica, NY))

    I think I just saw the a crushed pumpkin on the streets of Indy. The dream is over for our Cinderella. Florida is too long and athletic. Plus they have the most energy and desire of any team in the tournament. It's hard to see them not cutting down the nets on Monday night.
    Jon (Malvern)

    I don't see Florida having anything that distinguishes them as invincible. If GMU can beat MSU, UNC and UConn, I don't see any reason why Florida can't become victim No. 5
    Clinton (Indianapolis)

    UCLA is going to have to foul "Big Baby" a lot, but UCLA can't hit its own free throws. LSU by 10.
    Geoff (Amherst, MA)

    All-SEC final? Has anyone talked about the possibility of this? The SEC was ridiculed all year and they have two teams in the Final Four and the NIT champion.
    Josh (Lexington, KY)

    Farmar is a solid point guard at both ends. It will be close and he is the man you want to see have the ball at the end of the game. He makes some big plays to help UCLA win down the stretch.
    Brian (Newburyport,MA)

    FASHION POLICE ALERT!!! Okay, David Stern and his oligarchy have gone too far. Banning tights?!?! I think Emperor Stern has done a fantastic job performing his duties as the Commish, but this is just stupid. Is the NBA really in that good of shape that THIS is what constitutes an issue in need of fixing?
    Reggie (Orlando)

    Stern should pick his battles. What's next, wristbands and headbands?
    Brian (Newburyport,MA):


    Thursday's Big Questions

    1. Is MLB's steroid investigation a PR move?
    2. Who will win the NIT championship game?

     Bud Selig
    Bud Selig and George Mitchell.
    On Thursday, another chapter was added to the already long and sordid story of steroids in Major League Baseball. Following detailed claims of steroid use in the book ''Game of Shadows'', Commissioner Bud Selig enlisted former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell to head up an investigation. The probe will be limited to events since September 2002, when the sport agreed to test for performance-enhancing drugs.

    Selig was immediately questioned by analysts and fans alike about both the timing of the investigation (so close to Opening Day) and what exactly we could expect to come out of it. But overall, SportsNation thinks the investigation is a good idea. A solid half think it will result in the suspension of a current player and a majority think the investigation needed to start as soon as possible.

    In other news, Michigan (2004 NIT champions) and South Carolina (2005 NIT champions) will meet tonight to determine the ... you guessed it ... 2006 NIT champion! SportsNation likes the Gamecocks by the slightest of margins.

  • 78% MLB made the right decision to investigate steroid use.
  • 66% Not surprised by timing of investigation as steroids needed to be addressed ASAP.
  • 50% No current players will be suspended or banned as a result of investigation.

  • 51% South Carolina will beat Michigan to win 2006 NIT Championship.

    As usual, Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie hit on all the big topics. If Bud Selig was looking for a pat on the back for his attack on steroids, he wouldn't have found it in chat:

    Not sure what this says about my integrity, but the first thing I thought was: hmmm ... I wonder how this is going to affect my fantasy baseball team (drafted Barry Bonds in the 10th round).
    Todd (Boston)

    Who cares, I was as up in arms as everyone when the steroid news first came out but it wasn't illegal in the sport at the time. If there was a crime let the government handle it and move on, Bud.
    Greg (Boston)

    Why doesn't baseball investigate itself for turning a blind eye to this for 10 years!!! Just because the media and the government on put some pressure, now they want to get self righteous. If baseball had stepped up 10 years ago, this would've never happened.
    Charles (SuperBurgh)

    This is a stupid move by MLB! Let the season play on! Are they going to investigate every single player in the league and the previous players? What are they trying to get accomplished? If you believe Barry Bonds took steroids, then you will continue to believe so! He has said he didn't take them and let it go on that. No matter what, people are stuck in their ways and are going to believe what they want to believe. Dumb move by MLB on this one!
    Brian (Richmond, VA)

    I sort of wonder what the point is. I mean, they'll conclude that guys did things which weren't banned at the time. Then what?
    Steve (Ithaca)

    We already know the evidence from the book. I doubt it will turn up anything new. More likely, it will put an air of officiality on a bunch of stuff we knew already. This would have been a great move two years ago.
    Ephraim R. (Maple Shade, NJ)


    Wednesday's Big Questions

    1. Did Indiana get the right coach?
    2. Will Amare Stoudemire be ready for the playoffs?
    3. Are the Cleveland Indians building a champion?

     Kelvin Sampson
    Now if Sampson can just recruit Jimmy Chitwood ...
    Gene Hackman wasn't available?

    With Mike Davis moving on after a tumultuous run as Bob Knight's successor, Indiana University needed a new coach for one of college basketball's signature programs. Some observers, including Davis, though the Hoosiers needed one of their own to appease the state's basketball-crazy fans, but the school surprised most of SportsNation by hiring former Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson.

    Voters are torn over whether Sampson is the right man to lead Indiana back to annually contending for the national title, but there seems to be more unanimous consent that the job is still one of the best in the college game.

    Amare Stoudemire wasn't tempted to wear the candy-stripe shooting pants favored by the Hoosiers, or any other college duds for that matter. A star almost from the moment he stepped on the court in the NBA after skipping college, Stoudemire continues to battle injuries this season for the Suns. He looked good in his recent season debut, but now he's on the shelf again. And in bad news for the Suns, most of SportsNation expects him to be a non-factor in the playoffs.

    Sticking with the theme of youth, the Cleveland Indians hope to unseat the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central by relying on players who were barely alive when the likes of Cory Snyder and Greg Swindell failed to live up to their promise in Cleveland. The news on Wednesday was Grady Sizemore's new deal, the richest ever guaranteed deal for a player with as little big-league experience as Sizemore. But SportsNation thinks he's worth it.

  • 89% Indiana's hiring of Kelvin Sampson was a surprising decision.
  • 57% Hiring Sampson was a good move for the Hoosiers.
  • 56% The Indiana job is still the Big Ten's most prestigious basketball coaching gig.
  • 37% Sampson wll lead the Hoosiers to the Final Four within the next five years.

  • 75% The Suns can't reach the NBA Finals without Amare Stoudemire.
  • 65% Amare Stoudemire will not be a major contributor for the Suns in the playoffs.

  • 63% Grady Sizemore has brighter future than teammates Cliff Lee, Jhonny Peralta and Victor Martinez.
  • 53% A team other than the White Sox will win the AL Central this season.

    Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie had a substitute host with Dan gone on Wednesday morning, but talk still turned to Indiana hiring Kelvin Sampson:

    I'm definitely surprised at the Sampson hire. But unifying the IU fan base was not a possibility. Even if you pick Alford, you have half the fans who are upset because he wasn't the best coach available.
    Curtis (Indianapolis)

    A bombshell would have been hiring John Calipari. Sampson is a decent hire, but boring.
    Jon (Malvern)

    I was very surprised by the Sampson hiring, but I think it's a great move. If he can do that well at a football school, he should clean up at a basketball school.
    Tom (Parkville, Md.)

    Kelvin Sampson wins the award for a name that sounds like it should be another name, like Calvin Simpson.
    Ephraim R. (Maple Shade, N.J.)

    He's a big name, recruits pretty well (considering the comp in the South), and I like him. That being said, his teams seem to underperform come tourney time.
    Hende (Ohio)

    It's an interesting hire. I thought they would want to keep it more in the family. Wasn't that one of the problems Indiana had with Mike Davis?
    Collin (Framingham, Mass.)


    Tuesday's Big Questions

    1. Where does George Mason fit among history's biggest upsets?
    2. Should the NFL crack down on TD celebrations?
    3. What do you think of the NFL's Kickoff Weekend?

     Folarin Campbell
    Folarin Campbell and GMU had not won an NCAA tourney game before this year.
    Now that the shock of George Mason making the Final Four is starting to wear off it's time to consider where the Patriots rank among the all-time Cinderella stories.

    SportsNation seems pretty sure where GMU fits with more than half of voters saying Mason is a bigger Cinderella than the 1985 Villanova team, '83 NC State or '90 Loyola-Marymount. The 'Nation has definitely embraced this year's darlings, as more than a third of users have embraced the Patriots most among a list of eight of the biggest Cinderella stories of all time.

    Is George Mason good for the Final Four and does this mean more success for mid-majors in the future? Yes, says SportsNation. More than half want good storylines regardless of the seeds involved and 37 percent want at least one Cinderella to root for, while 60 percent think we'll see another mid-major in the Final Four very soon.

    But what about a historical perspective across all sports? Is this run, as ESPN's own Dick Vitale said, as big as the U.S. Hockey team's "Miracle on Ice" victory over the Soviet Union in 1980? Not so much. Only 19 percent of voters think so and more than 40 percent of SN says it's not even close.

    On other fronts, the NFL is considering a crackdown on touchdown celebrations and SN doesn't agree: three-fourths of voters do not belive the league should worry about TD celebrations. And after the announcement of the five games that make up NFL Kickoff Weekend SportsNation is most looking forward to Peyton Manning and the Colts heading to New York to face Eli Manning and the Giants.

  • 56% George Mason is the biggest Cinderella since 1983.
  • 36% Have embraced GMU most among eight recent Cinderella teams.
  • 52% Want good Final Four stories regardless of how the teams are seeded.
  • 60% Another mid-major will make the Final Four in the next five years.

  • 43% GMU is not even close to the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic Hockey victory.
  • 37% GMU is almost as big as the MOI.
  • 19% The Patriots making the Final Four is as big as the MOI.

  • 75% The NFL should not crack down on touchdown celebrations.
  • 32% Are most looking forward to Colts at Giants on NFL Kickoff Weekend.

    Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie touched on all the big issues:

    It's George Mason Mania!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Charles (SuperBurgh)

    I think it is UN-American NOT to root for the Patriots!
    Tim (ATL)

    To borrow a gambling phrase, (GMU) is playing with house money. NO ONE expected them to get this far so they have absolutely nothing to lose and can come out and play their game to perfection and win.
    Brian (Pittsburgh)

    The Patriots have been flying under the radar this whole time so they never had the pressures of expectation. Now everyone is expecting them to show up and put up a good game and I just don't see them handling that kind of pressure.
    Kev Wash (Richmond, VA)

     Chad Johnson
    Chad Johnson might be needing this sign again in 2006.
    The Miracle on Ice was bigger (than GMU over UConn). There is just so much more parity in NCAA hoops. Still, no team has ever knocked out so many top teams on their way to the Final Four
    Neil (GMU student)

    I am happy about the endzone thing. I don't need to see all that crap. As the saying goes, act like you have been there before not like you will never get back.
    Jeff (Cleveland)

    What is the NFL hoping to accomplish by taking the end zone celebration out of the end zone? Is it me or wouldn't they be better off just letting it take its course. Eventually these type of things get old and fade out on their own.
    Jeremy (Union, Kentucky)

    I think the "Manning Bowl" on the first Sunday night game is just a preview for this years Super Bowl. If that were to happen it would it be the most-hyped Super Bowl in history?
    Tim (Mason, OH)

    Ready to be tired of seven straight months of "brother vs brother matchup on the NFL's opening Sunday night"?
    Jake (VA Beach)


    Monday's Big Questions

    1. Who wins at the Final Four?
    2. Who are the best players in Indianapolis?
    3. Did anyone actually pick these matchups?

     Glen Davis
    Big Baby gets SN's vote as the best player in the Final Four.
    Now the the Final Four matchups are set SportsNation is going about the business of handicapping the field.

    George Mason's improbable run is getting most of the attention -- the win over Connecticut was voted best of the first four rounds - and the 'Nation is looking forward to the Patriots facing off against Florida, but SN picks the Gators to end the Cinderella story in the national semifinals. An even bigger margin favors LSU over UCLA and the Tigers get the most votes as eventual national champions.

    As for the players themselves, LSU's Glen "Big Baby" Davis was named to the most SN All-Final Four teams at over 80 percent and Florida's Joakim Noah was close behind. The two are co-leaders among SN's predicted winners of the Most Outstanding Player award.

    So who could have actually predicted this crazy Final Four? Four people, actually. ESPN.com's Tournament Challenge drew in 1.5 million people and 3 million entires but only four correctly picked the last teams standing. Well over 60 percent have no teams remaining in the Final Four and fewer than 10 percent predicted the national semifinals would have no No. 1 seeds.

  • 59% Florida will beat George Mason.
  • 67% LSU will beat UCLA.
  • 60% Are most looking forward to the UF-GMU matchup.
  • 37% LSU will win the national title.
  • 38% George Mason's win over Connecticut was the best game of the first four rounds.

  • 81% Have LSU's Glen Davis on their All-Final Four team.
  • 79% Have Florida's Joakim Noah on their All-Final Four team.
  • 21% Davis will be the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four.
  • 21% Noah will be named MOP.

  • 66% TC brackets with zero Final Four teams.
  • 4 Total TC brackets - among 1.5 millions users and 3 million entries - to correctly pick the Final Four.
  • 7% Brackets that predicted a Final Four with no No. 1 seeds.

    Dan Shanoff's Morning Quickie was heavy on Final Four talk and SportsNation has some strong feelings about the basketball we've witnessed so far this March:

    GREATEST. TOURNAMENT. EVER.
    Jeff (Ithaca, NY)

    "Awesome" is spelled G-e-o-r-g-e M-a-s-o-n.
    Cara (New York):

    The only thing I can come up with on the same level of GMU is the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
    Brian (Pittsburgh):

    Jon (Malvern): Breakthrough moment. All the mid majors now will have an example, something to be better than and just hope. This will just make the first 4 days of the tournament that much crazier and the selection committee's job that much harder.
    Eric (Greensboro, NC)

     Tony Skinn
    Tony Skinn has helped drive George Mason to the Final Four.
    George Mason making the Final Four is one of the all-time great upsets, but GM over UConn isn't. Anyone who watched this UConn team over the last month can't possibly be surprised that they choked and got beat by a worse team. At least I'm not.
    Reggie (Orlando)

    I find it amazing that LSU could make two of the best teams in the country look so bad. If the game is physical, LSU should win this tournament. Also, can we ask the announcers to stop with the "Big Baby" stuff already? Great player, but the nickname is nauseating.
    Jeff (Iowa)

    LSU might break UCLA in half.
    Mat (Scottsdale, AZ):

    UCLA plays defense. LSU plays defense. It will be a close game and both teams will score under 60 points.
    Neil (GMU student)

    I like the UF/GMU matchup for GMU fans. UF's history of choking makes me smell Mid-Major in the championship game, baby!
    Joey (Florida)

    Florida showed with skill and talent that they are the team to beat in the Final Four and will be National Champs. 'Nova looked liked 10 year olds playing against men.
    Alex (Dominican Republic)


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