Shanoff's WUC: KU, UK, ManBrees, Wade, Jeter

Today's Calls: Kentucky vs. Kansas, Northwestern vs. History, Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning, Rich Rodriguez vs. Charlie Weis, Zach Collaros vs. Tony Pike, Dwyane Wade vs. Gilbert Arenas, Joakim Noah vs. Hasheem Thabeet, J.R. Smith vs. Earl Smith, Derek Jeter vs. Sabermetrics, Matt Holliday vs. Mark Teixeira, Harrison Barnes vs. Tobacco Road, UNLV 1990 vs. Anyone and More. ↵

↵NorthwesternThe Opening Pitch: College hoops seasons are defined by exceptional teams. ↵

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↵The most recent example: Last year's wire-to-wire UNC. Or, in 2007, back-to-back champ Florida. Or the ‘Melo-fied 'Cuse in 2002. The greatest of the post-ESPN Era, of course, was the 1990 UNLV juggernaut — can you believe it's been 20 years? ↵

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↵I was looking through SN's intriguing NCAA Tournament predictions, and Kansas over Kentucky is as good of a national-title match-up as we could ask for; both teams size up as having the potential to be exceptional. ↵

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↵But if we're talking about exceptions, don't overlook this small — but humongous — detail in SN's projected NCAA Tournament field: Northwestern in the field of 65. ↵

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↵Northwestern has never been in the NCAA Tournament, the only major-conference team never to appear. Despite inching closer to competitiveness, Northwestern (I'm a proud alum) continues to define futility in college hoops: Making the tournament matters that much. They came tantalizingly close last year, and even in a strong year for the Big Ten, this is NU's best shot at making The Dance ... well, ever. ↵

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↵Kansas will be dominant, and the Johns (Wall and Calipari) will help make Kentucky the most intriguing team since UNLV '90. But the most exceptional team of the year will be the one not winning the tournament — but the one making it for the first time ever. ↵

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↵NFL Must-Read: Mike Tunison's Designed Rush hands out NFL midseason awards (SN's version is coming today). It's hard to argue with his picks: ManBrees for Co-MVP, Polamalu for Defensive MVP, Harvin for ROY. See his full list here. ↵

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↵CFB Hot Seats: Rich Rodriguez. "He's got my total support" ... says the AD who is leaving the role imminently. ↵

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↵Charlie Weis Watch: Awww, it's so cute he thinks Notre Dame has a chance at Pitt this weekend. Weis has never beaten a really good team — why would it happen now? ↵

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↵Zach Collaros for Heisman! The Cincy (backup) QB will start, even though incumbent Tony Pike is available — and will get a few series himself. You know you're playing well as a replacement when the undefeated starter can't get his job back. (Note the lack of any talk of a controversy — one more reason Brian Kelly is one of the best coaches in college football.) ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: ↵

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↵— 41 for Dwyane Wade: Staying in Miami? ↵

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↵— Ugh: 12 (12!) turnovers for Gilbert Arenas ↵

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↵— VC is back: Good news for Orlando ↵

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↵— Hey: The Kings are .500! ↵

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↵— Fantasy: Joakim Noah (12/21) ↵

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↵— Injury: Hasheem Thabeet breaks jaw ↵

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↵— J.R. Smith ... Earl Smith ... J.R. Smith? ↵

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↵— Must-Read: Bethlehem Shoals on ‘Melo ↵

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↵MLB Gold Gloves: Derek Jeter wins one, drawing the predictable fawning from his analytically-challenged supporters — and the predictable griping from folks who let data help inform their decisions. ↵

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↵MLB Hot Stove: ↵

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↵— Whither replay? GMs miss their chance to support expanding replay — this despite the overwhelming video evidence that the current policy should be supplemented. ... ↵

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↵— Boras Watch: Is Matt Holliday worth "Mark Teixeira money?" Short answer: No (not even for the Mets). ... ↵

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↵— Halladay Derby: Remember that frenzy from the trading deadline? The Phillies were close — they "settled" for Cliff Lee. (Ha!) But no joke: Imagine the Phillies getting Doc, then setting him up in front of Lee, Hamels and Happ. Yikes. ↵

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↵— What economic recovery? Anyone want Edwin Jackson? How about Brandon Phillips? ↵

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↵— When will Mark McGwire get it? All he has to do is face the media and admit that, yes, he used PEDs, and — yes — he's sorry about it. They WANT to absolve you, Mark! And yet, McGwire still balks at any display of accountability or contrition. Precisely the kind of terrible judgment that you want in a hitting coach. ↵

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↵More CBB: Mike DeCourcy's All-America team includes Warren, Collins, Ebanks, Patterson, Harangody. (Tsk: No John Wall? Hater.) ↵

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↵CBB Studs: Evan Turner. After his opening-night triple-double, he has everyone's attention. ↵

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↵CBB Early Signing Day: Many of the top players will, predictably, wait until the spring to announce. Consensus No. 1 overall player Harrison Barnes will announce on Friday — on national TV, naturally. He is reportedly down to UNC or Duke. (UCLA, Kansas and Oklahoma are also in the mix. Hometown Iowa State gave him a scholly offer when he was 15; given that Barnes is obviously a one-and-done player, why not stay home, be The Guy and try to do something special in-state. At Duke or UNC, he's just another star recruit.) ↵

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↵Business: Want to see Mark Cuban own a baseball team? Don't hold your breath. (Obviously, that's a shame.) ↵

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↵Hey! A Brady Quinn sighting! ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Sammy Sosa has an explanation for his freaky visage — it's the facial cream. (Isn't it always?) ↵

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↵The Last Word: To all the veterans out there (and, of course, active-duty military) thank you for your service. ↵

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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. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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

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