April 4, 2005
Alex Sanchez:
D-Rays OF "suspended for 10 days," baseball's hot new euphemism for testing positive for 'roids. The system works! (He denies it.)
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

1 vs. 2: Can't ask for a better NCAA title-game pairing than that.

(Hey, why bother having a Tournament at all, when we just could have used the BCS system?)

Analysts are focusing on the sick individual matchups, but here's my favorite:

Roy Williams vs. History:
Either UNC wins and earns Roy Williams that "STFU" first title (shorthand for "satisfying") ... or, they lose and the entire season is flushed.

No, I won't Roy-bash. (I did enough of that last week.)

Rare excitement in an otherwise boring Final Four Saturday was the way Roy coached UNC to a dismantling of an excellent Michigan State team.

And I won't hold it against Roy if/when UNC loses tonight.

(If he was crazy/smart, he would start super-sub Marvin Williams, the only player Illinois has no answer for. Yes, including May.)

But I got Roy-ligion this weekend: There's no shame in not winning a college hoops title after making it to the last game.

Unsatisfying, but no shame.

Prediction: Illinois

NYY 9, BOS 2
"But we still won in 2004": Here's the first chance for Red Sox Nation to test out their brand-new "winners' mentality."

After a season-opening pummeling in New York that snapped Boston's 8-game winning streak (4 over NY), other lessons learned:

Either David Wells stinks, or he simply couldn't handle beating the Yankees (but isn't that why Boston brought him in?)

Big Unit is going to absolutely dominate on this first go-round through the AL. Save the "Cy" talk for September, though.

Hideki Matsui is still NY's designated Red Sox killer. And an MVP season may have started with 3 hits, 3 runs and a homer.

Jason Giambi's "renaissance" simply means he'll be the most expensive weak-hitting, walk-inducing, .400-OBP player in baseball.

'Roid Susp. (cont'd)
Public humiliation: It is the best deterrent. But it's not like this was a "name" player testing positive.

Who the ... is Alex Sanchez?

The irony is that this is the first thing Sanchez will ever be known for, not simply the biggest.

Not exactly the poster guy MLB's 'roid critics were looking for.

(See Olney's column for his "no biggie" take.)

Nats: Franchise opener? Or RE-opener? (At PHI, 3:05 ET)
Kevin Harvick: Wins Food City 500 (despite no crew chief)
Dave Odom: Fresh off NIT title, coach headed to Virginia?
Pats: Overreaching for moody WR Terrell? (Or next Dillon?)
Michigan St fans: More than 60 arrested in post-FF riots
Oklahoma: Men's hoops team being investigated for viol'ns
Women's Final Four
If you're just tuning in, feel free to jump right on the Baylor bandwagon. The Lady Bears played the Game of the Tournament, coming back from 15 down to stun overall top seed LSU.

Meanwhile, When I picked "Michigan State" to win its Final Four semi, everyone knows I was talking about women's hoops, right?

MLB Openers
I love this Twins bandwagon. Stark, Gammons and Olney all have 'em winning not just the AL, but the World Series! What a nice change of pace from the monotonous success of the Yankees and Red Sox.

Minnesota opens with Seattle, but the must-see game of the day is the "New Mets" at Cincy (2:10, ESPN). We can see what all that Pedro and Beltran hubbub was about.

See Odds and Ends for more.

NBA P'off 8-Spot
East: Philly up a game on ORL and 1.5 on NJ with less than 10 to play.

(In fact, the Sixers are closing in on the Atlantic-leading Celtics, who may be without catalyst Antoine Walker for a week.)

West: Sizzling Denver and Laker-thumping Memphis are tied for 7th, battling over a pick-your-poison 1st-round draw (Suns or Spurs).

A surge into 6th (or even 5th) isn't crazy: Houston is only 2 GA; Sacto only 2.5. KG's Minnesota is on the outside looking in, 3 GB MEM and DEN.

Terrell to Pats
2005's Corey Dillon: A misunderstood talent who merely needs the right winning culture around him to fulfill his potential?

Or the Pats' first overreach of the Dynasty Era? After all, David Terrell washed out as a WR on the Bears.

With Pioli and Belichick, I'll always bet on the former. Dud-to-dynamo is their specialty. (And he's a Brady buddy too.)

Quickie Challenge
One day to go!

If Illinois wins:
"I Wanna Talk to Sampson" beats out more than 6,000 others to win the unofficially biggest single pool in country.

If UNC wins:
"Hurricane AquaTeens" looks to have a lock on the title.

Check back tomorrow!

National Bracket
If you're curious about this year's experiment, the "National Bracket" aggregation of all ESPN.com user picks is now in the 90th percentile, vs. all individual judgments.

Illinois d. UNC, 80-77: We'll see how close users' collective wisdom comes. 90th percentile? I wouldn't pick against them.

Kobe's Lakers:
"We know elimination is coming," coach Frank Hamblen said. Quickly, too: Kobe limped out of L.A.'s loss Sunday to Memphis with a leg injury. What a symbol.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie live!
NCAA Tourney coverage
MLB picks
Title Game Matchups
Two fastest PGs in nation
Will they cancel each other?
Must contain UNC's big man
Super-scorer vs. D stopper
X-factor: Super-sub Marvin

More MLB Opener-Watching:

Cubs at D-Backs: Forget Prior (on DL) or Wood; the real ace of Chicago's staff is Zambrano. (At least the only healthy one.) (5:10, ESPN2)

Padres at Rockies: S.D. is like "Twins West": Young, budget-minded and built to succeed in a wide-open division. Gammons and Olney love 'em, too.

A's at Orioles: Perhaps the most well-run organization in baseball vs. MLB's worst-run organization, counting the minors.

Royals at Tigers: Is Magglio Ordonez this year's Vlad, the free-agent OF who delivers an injury-free MVP-type year? He's in DET's lineup today.

Brewers at Pirates: Sheets vs. Perez could be a matchup of the best two pitchers in the National League.

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