Shanoff's W.U.C.: Big South, Bubble, A-Rod

Today's Calls: Conference tournament title games vs. Bubble Watching, UConn-Pitt vs. Duke-UNC, T.O. vs. A-Rod, Manny vs. Manny, Shaq vs. Van Gundy, Cal Ripken vs. the iPod, Tom Brady vs. Entourage and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: There are three kinds of college hoops games this weekend. ↵

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↵Most meaningful, there are the conference-tournament championship games: Big South (high-flying VMI vs. Radford), Atlantic Sun, Ohio Valley, Mo Valley. Win, and they're in the NCAA Tournament. Lose, and they are out. It's that simple. The seeds might be in the 13-14-15 range, but it sure beats ... ↵

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↵Desperate Bubble teams playing for their life: This includes the Kentucky-Florida winner, Northwestern(!!!)-Ohio State and others. These Bubble teams still have their major conference tournaments later next week to ... ↵

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↵Tournament locks jockeying for seeding: Will UConn-Pitt "decide" a No. 1 seed? I don't think so. Let's say UConn loses, but then comes back and beats Pitt next week in the Big East Tournament title game — think anyone will remember tomorrow night's game? ↵

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↵Same thing with Duke-UNC: Will Duke beating UNC knock UNC out of a No. 1 seed? Not if the Tar Heels win the ACC Tournament. (The reverse is true, too: If UNC beats Duke — and they will — but lose in the ACC Tournament, do the Heels really still deserve a No. 1 seed?) ↵

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↵Could Michigan State make a play for a No. 1 seed? Beating Purdue in the regular-season finale is mandatory, but — again — the Spartans would still have to win the Big Ten Tournament to put themselves in contention. All the Purdue game does is keep them in the conversation for a 1-seed ... for now. ↵

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↵So the weekend is less about "Play-In" than "Play-On": ↵

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↵Winning now gives certain teams the option to continue battling for a place on the Bubble, security within the tournament field or defending a top seeding, the main value of which is keeping those top teams geographically closer to home in the opening rounds. ↵If you haven't been paying close attention to college hoops, start now. ↵

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↵More CBB Mania: I think Penn State's buzzer-beating win over Illinois just punched their NCAA Tournament at-large ticket. ... Forget the Watchmen: The X-Men foiled rival Dayton and are rolling into Tournament season. ... South Carolina is now an SEC Tourney opening-round loss from playing themselves onto the outer edges of the Bubble. ↵

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↵T.O., Cont'd: Why was he cut? Here are five reasons, but isn't it pretty simple? He wasn't a winner, wasn't a team player, wasn't getting any younger and wasn't particularly cost-effective? ↵

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↵Meanwhile, is it possible that T.O.'s career will be over when no team is willing to sign him, regardless of cost? (Would T.O. even be able to bring himself to play for less than his perceived market value, if that would help convince a team to sign him?) ↵

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↵Then again: It IS the NFL — teams are pretty merciless about doing whatever it takes to win. So what does it say that T.O. is so radioactive that even NFL GMs don't want any part of him? ↵

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↵A-Rod Update: No surgery. This, after reports that he would have surgery on the cyst (keeping him out several months). Usually, I'm all for taking care of problems early — do you really want it to become a problem in September? But it's not like the Yankees are a lock for the playoffs — with or without A-Rod; they need every win they can get with him. Again, the question is: What's the chance this injury could get worse as the season goes on? ↵

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↵WBC Update: One less reason to care — A-Rod won't be playing for the D.R. (Looks like the D.R. is going to have problems, with or without him.) ↵

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↵Manny returns to L.A.: Boston fans may disagree, but Manny Ramirez makes baseball better, single-handedly. In addition to being arguably the greatest hitter of the generation (I sincerely believe Manny was simply too dumb to ever try steroids), he is the biggest character in the game today. ↵

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↵NBA Instant History: Is Mark Cuban going to have to scream after every game? It appears so. ... Let's get real: Carmelo Anthony is more valuable to the Nuggets than George Karl. (I liked that Melo showed a sense of humor by sprinting to the bench when Karl subbed him out.) ↵

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↵Pop Culture: Tom Brady on "Entourage?" Perfect match of two formerly popular things that jumped the shark in the last year. ↵

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↵Media: Cal Ripken, the iPhone app? ↵

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↵The Last Word: "Obviously I struck a nerve and hurt his feelings. Shaq's a very sensitive guy. If I hurt his feelings, I'm sorry." — Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, responding to Shaq's "frontrunner" rip. ↵

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↵SVG might think he is defusing the situation, but you don't want to further engage a rival with a platform like this. ↵

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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. ↵

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

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