Shanoff's W.U.C.: UNC-Duke Rivalry Has Sizzle But No Stakes

Today's Calls: UNC vs. Duke, A-Rod vs. Miguel Tejada, Jose Canseco vs. Derek Jeter, LeBron James vs. Danny Granger, JR Smith vs. Mo Williams, Mike Vick vs. UFL, Stump vs. Westminster and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: UNC-Duke IS a great rivalry, but it lacks something essential: ↵

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↵Consequences. ↵

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↵It's not like winning a typical regular-season game translates into the losing team's exclusion from the NCAA Tournament. Even if they play for the ACC title, both teams are going to the Big Dance, likely as high seeds. There is nothing tangible on the line. Bragging rights? Fine: There are 50 rivalries in sports where regional bragging rights are up for grabs. ↵

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↵Compare that lack of real stakes to the biggest rivalries in other sports: ↵

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↵• In college football's survive-and-advance regular season, a rivalry game can mean the difference between winning a conference title -- even playing for the national title -- and not. (Look at Michigan-Ohio State or USC-UCLA in 2006.) ↵

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↵• Just last week, the Celtics-Lakers rivalry yielded a season sweep for the Lakers, which could be the edge if they play each other in the NBA Finals. ↵

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↵• In a 16-game season, NFL division rivalry games are often the difference between going to the playoffs and staying home in January, like when the Eagles beat the Cowboys in Week 17. ↵

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↵• Sure, the Yankees and Red Sox play each other umpteen times per season. But the intensity of their rivalry was built not on that, but on their win-or-go-home matchups in the playoffs -- a classic hatred only became transcendent after that two-act ALCS drama spanning 2003 and 2004. ↵

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↵When was the last time a Duke-UNC game yielded such a live-or-die result? And so Duke-UNC is a classic college hoops rivalry, but ultimately overrated. Why? Because for all the lofty rankings, their games never really mean anything in the bigger picture of winning a national championship. ↵

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↵CBB Last Night: Speaking of stakes, Jodie Meeks' game-winning 3 in the final seconds saved Kentucky's Billy Gillispie from a 3rd straight home loss in the SEC -- and calls for his firing this morning. ... As expected, Marquette is imploding against a slate of tougher Big East teams. ... Tonight: Warm up for UNC-Duke with UConn-Cuse, one of the best games the Big East will provide in this wild season for the conference. ↵

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↵MLB Scandals, Cont'd: Tejada ... yikes. Sure, A-Rod lied to fans, but at least he didn't lie to Congressional investigators, like Miguel Tejada is alleged to have. This could get ugly for Tejada in a hurry – hmm ... wonder if he'll "flip" on other players who cheated? ↵

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↵A-Rod Watch: Derek Jeter, the Yankees' so-called "Captain," whined that he doesn't want to talk about A-Rod until spring training, even though it is reasonable to expect the team leader to have something constructive to say about it in the first 72 hours it became a scandal. ↵

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↵Way to back up your teammate, Jeter. This is the 2nd time in the last few weeks that Jeter has shown less leadership and more "me"-dership -- he should have spoke out against his beloved ex-manager telling stories out of the clubhouse. But of course he didn't, which was as predictable as it was lamentable. ↵

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↵(A-Rod Pop Culture Crossover: He made David Letterman's Top 10 last night. Here's the video clip.) ↵

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↵More A-Rod Fallout: Should the list of 103 positive-testing players be released? Absolutely not. Those tests were taken under the presumption they would be anonymous and destroyed. ↵

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↵Jose Canseco wants to help MLB: Given his successful track record, I think MLB should take him up on his offer. (Although shouldn't Canseco be making that offer to the Baseball Writers Association of America or the American Newspaper Sports Editors Association? Those were the folks who dropped the ball on PEDs in MLB at least as badly as MLB or the union.) ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: LeBron vs. Granger produced a remarkable finish pitting the NBA's biggest star against one of its newest rising stars. Down 2 with 0.8 to play, LeBron drew a foul on Granger on an alley-oop attempt, sinking both FTs. With 0.2 to play, the Pacers ran the SAME play, with Granger ooping on LeBron. It seemed like LeBron made a great defensive play, but he was called for a foul; Granger sank a FT to win, negating LeBron's 47. ↵

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↵(Good news for Cavs fans, though: Mo Williams was named an All-Star replacement for the injured Chris Bosh. So you can stop your whining about it now.) ↵

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↵More NBA All-Star Mania: Rudy Gay is out of this weekend's Dunk Contest, and J.R. Smith is in (I'm sure Shoals is thrilled). Hey: What happened to Joe Alexander? Why didn't the NBA pull from their pool of "fan vote" dunk contenders that yielded Rudy Fernandez? ↵

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↵And the H-O-R-S-E field has been announced, and it's a good one: Kevin Durant, OJ Mayo and Joe Johnson. They will have the chance to establish the bona fides of the competition for future years -- so they better be insanely creative! (Not quite as creative as changing the name H-O-R-S-E to G-E-I-C-O.) ↵

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↵Amare Trade Rumor Mill: To the Blazers for Aldridge and Bayless? Wow: Amare, Roy and Oden? That would be a lot of fun. ↵

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↵NCAA Tournament: Glad to hear the Selection Committee isn't going to take the economy into account when seeding the field; local fans have never had a problem coming to the closest NCAA arena to cheer on whoever might be playing. (See Boise, the best NCAA Tournament sub-regional there is.) ↵

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↵Meanwhile, if you like reading tea leaves, when the Selection Committee chairman Mike Slive said that the committee wouldn't artificially cap the number of teams that can make it from a single conference (Big East woot!); the "last 12" game results won't be weighted as much as in recent years; and, oddly, the committee won't factor in RPI -- they must have their own proprietary quantitative system they use, because seeding without one would be the real madness. ↵

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↵Vick Watch: Will the UFL let him into their new league? The fact that they would put it on online to a fan vote is -- I'm not being sarcastic -- one of the most awesome ideas ever. (h/t: Fly) ↵

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↵(It's too bad that it will be a moot point -- an NFL team will poach him first. The UFL should get going on that fan-vote idea immediately, to capitalize on the publicity, even though the league doesn't launch until the fall.) ↵

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↵Of course, if the league wants to REALLY succeed, there is an easy way to do it -- they just have to follow my advice. ↵

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↵Phelps Tracker: I really hope that Michael's recent run-in with scandal won't dissuade him from swimming in the 2012 Olympics. Fans (and sponsors and sports media) will have long-forgotten by then. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Stump! You don't have to be a dog-show fan to appreciate what happened at Westminster last night. Out of competition for 4 years and with virtually no recent practice, "Stump" became the oldest winner ever AND the first spaniel ever to win. It's unheard of at the top levels of dog shows, particularly for this most prestigious event in the sport. (Alas: Sorry, "Tiger Woods!") ↵

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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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