Shanoff's W.U.C.: Wake, Bonds, SB 43, WRs

Today's Calls: Wake vs. Duke, Mike Florio vs. Chris Mottram, Larry Fitzgerald vs. Hines Ward, Accuscore vs. Madden, Tom Dimitroff vs. Tom Cable, Matt Stafford vs. Rex Grossman and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: Is Wake Forest the best team in the country? ↵

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↵Let me follow up yesterday's item about how meaningless college basketball's regular season is. That's not entirely true: The regular season is useful for its influence on how you fill out your brackets in March. ↵

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↵So what can fans learn about March from Wake's thrilling win over Duke last night? That Wake is better positioned than any team in the country to win the national title. That Wake seems to have an ideal combination of size, depth (or, more to the point, depth of size), defense and go-to scoring. Add toughness: Duke's last-minute comeback was classic Dukie — old Wake teams would have folded; this one muscled back for a game-winning play. ↵

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↵That they have now picked up a better pair of "prove-it" wins (Duke and UNC) than any other team in the country. (Caveat: Both wins were in Winston-Salem.) ↵

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↵The Deacons still have to play at Duke in three weeks (they avoid playing at UNC until the ACC Tournament), but last night, they proved they’re bracket bonafides. ↵

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↵Barry Bonds Watch: Smoking sample? The Feds have a steroid-positive urine sample from Bonds, the New York Times is reporting. Tracking, but the timing on this is interesting — not only is it leaked during the relative sports-media lull of the Thursday before the Super Bowl, but it is timed with the Feds raiding the home of Greg Anderson's mother-in-law. ↵

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↵Super Bowl XLIII Mania: ↵

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↵— Hines Ward didn't practice, but is expected to play. ↵

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↵— More intriguing, Mike Florio weighs in on the Steelers' future with Ward — beyond Sunday's game. ↵

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↵— On top of being the best player in the NFL right now, Larry Fitzgerald is also some kind of team-first saint: He is willing to re-do his deal so the Cards can keep Anquan Boldin, who now looks like an even bigger jerk. ↵

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↵— Lombardi Trophy? Ring? History? Nah: The players are motivated to win by ... having the chance to meet President Barack Obama. ↵

↵— I just know you have been waiting on the Super Bowl prop betting list. ↵

↵— Have you been keeping up with Chris Mottram in Tampa? Awesome stuff from a guy on the outside looking in. ↵

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↵— Obligatory pictures of players out on the town. You would think they would learn by now — or perhaps they just don't care. ↵

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↵— The picks roll in: Accuscore picks the Steelers, as does Madden 09. Who am I picking? Check back tomorrow morning. ↵

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↵Big East Insanity: Sure, the ACC has its "Big Three," but it is as much of a measure of the Big East's awesomeness this season that the teams at the top can lose on any given night — to anyone in the league — than that there are up to nine teams that are NCAA Tournament-worthy: ↵

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↵Nova beats Pitt, the Wildcats' first win against a ranked team this season. ... Cuse loses at Providence, forced into 21 turnovers. ... Georgetown loses fourth straight, at Cincy. ... (Again: I'm not going to see this as a sign of weakness at the top, but as strength through the conference.) ↵

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↵And speaking of parity, there was UNC's buzzer-beating 3 to survive at Florida State. ↵

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↵NFL Awards: Tom Dimitroff wins Exec of the Year. As he should have, turning around the utterly dysfunctional Falcons in his first year as GM. From hiring Mike Smith to drafting Matt Ryan to constructing a playoff team from the ashes of "Bad Newz," Dimitroff is the poster guy for how a supremely smart GM can change a team's fortunes. ↵

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↵NFL Coaching Carousel: The Raiders (re-)hire Tom Cable. Does it count as "carousel" if the old interim coach doesn't leave and is retained as the new quasi-interim coach? It does if you are the Raiders, who actually — or rumoredly — held a head-coaching search, but came back to the guy who ran the team last year. Of course, in true Raiders style, the deal is reportedly only for next year, no further. Now THAT is a strong foundation a young team can build on! ↵

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↵CFB Coaching Carousel: Be honest, Florida State fans. How many of you are a little disappointed to know that Bobby Bowden is coming back for one more year, which seems more like a vanity move than one that will help the program. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: If the Hornets can beat a contender like the Nuggets when Chris Paul is off, how good should things be when he is on? (I say off, but I mean "off": he had only 2 rebounds, but also "only" 12 pts, "only" 10 assists and "only" 4 steals.) ↵

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↵NBA All-Star Mania: Reserves announced tonight. Will Shaq make the team? That is less interesting to me than to see how many young "non-stars" leapfrog the old guard (Rondo over Pierce? Harris over Carter?) and earn a little All-Star spotlight for themselves. (Better see Danny Granger on the list!) ↵

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↵Meanwhile: I enjoy the Rookie-Soph Game, although I would have liked to have seen Greg Oden — technically a rookie but drafted in the Class of 2007 — suit up for both teams, each for one half. I like the Rookies (Mayo, Rose, Beaz, Rudy, Westbrook, Oden, Lopez) to win. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Matt Stafford No. 1 to the Lions? That's the emerging conventional wisdom, even though some of us (cough!) think he's Rex Grossman 2.0. Of course, the same some of us (cough!) thought Matt Ryan would be a bust. ↵

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↵I'm not a fan of the QB-as-No.-1-overall-pick philosophy — unless you're Peyton or Eli Manning, the recent history of the league is too dominated by successful QBs and successful teams that DON'T fit this mold. (And Stafford is no Manning.) I would take a franchise LT like Andre Smith. ↵

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↵There is one other thing to consider: With or without Stafford, the Lions will likely be woeful in 2009. Aren't they better off drafting building-block pieces on the O- and D-lines, then using their No. 1 overall draft pick in '10 to take, say, Sam Bradford? ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: Cubs get Aaron Heilman. The best thing you can say about this deal is that at least Heilman grew up a Cubs fan. ↵

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↵The Last Word: No!!! You don't say!!! NFL TV ads contain (a) violence, (b) sex, and (c) alcohol. (And — guess what? — they sell a lot of product.) ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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