Shanoff's WUC: Wall, Bubble, Bullock, NFL FA

Today's Calls: John Wall vs. Carmelo Anthony, Florida vs. the Bubble, Gonzaga vs. St. Mary's, Julius Peppers vs. Aaron Kampman, Chad Ochocinco vs. Terrell Owens, Levi Brown vs. NFL Scouts, MLB vs. Umps, Sandra Bullock vs. Meryl Streep and More. ↵

↵The Opening Pitch: For the next four weeks, college hoops rules. If you haven't been paying close attention, this is your week to catch up on top contenders, bubble teams and potential spoilers. ↵

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↵Automatic bids will be won by teams with Cinderella potential for a Sweet 16 run (like Cornell or Northern Iowa). Top teams will jockey for seeds that matter less for what they are than where they are played. Bubble teams will scratch and claw through conference tournaments, hoping for that extra win or two that gets them in. ↵

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↵A week from today, your work week is obliterated by the Sunday-night release of the bracket. A week after that, we will already be down to the Sweet 16. A week after that, we're down to a Final Four. One week later, the season is over. That's it. It is the tidiest -- and most jam-packed, get-your-money's-worth -- schedule in sports. ↵

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↵What we know right now isn't so far off from what we knew back in November: Kansas and Kentucky feel like the teams to beat -- the ones that will, four weeks from now, be preparing to battle for the title. ↵

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↵But if you've been hanging back for the last few months -- distracted by the NFL or college football or the NBA -- it's time to lock in on college hoops.  ↵

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↵Bubble Watch: Florida isn't finished for losing at Kentucky -- frankly, they were more competitive than anyone expected them to be, so chalk one up for moral victory in the face of low expectations. Still: Florida is finally in a "must-win" situation against Auburn (and Mississippi State) in the prelims of the SEC tournament. ↵

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↵Automatic-Bid Mania: Northern Iowa leaves no doubt about its worthiness, winning the Mo Valley. (Meanwhile, credit Winthrop and East Tennessee St. for winning their conf-title games on the road.) ↵

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↵Championship Week Game of the Day: Gonzaga-St. Mary's for the West Coast Conference title. (More: Wofford-App St in Southern; Siena-Fairfield in the MAAC; and Old Dominion-William&Mary in the Colonial.) ↵

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↵More C-Week: Aside from bubble teams making or breaking their seasons, C-Week among major conferences will settle some situations at the top, including who that 4th 1-seed will be. (I agree with DeCourcy, who thinks Duke is a lock if they win the ACC Tourney. Then again, that will just make their inevitable early exit all the more schadenfreudy.) ↵

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↵SN Freshman of the Year: John Wall. This is entirely unsurprising, as Wall is also the National Player of the Year -- and the best freshman guard (perhaps the best college hoops point guard, period) since Allen Iverson and, I'd argue, on the all-time All-Freshman team. ↵

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↵NFL Free Agency: Everything else seems dwarfed by the concept of pairing Chad Ochocinco with T.O. But the headliners have been on the defensive side: Peppers to the Bears, Dansby to the Dolphins, Rolle to the Giants and, yesterday, Kampman to the Jags. (As for remaining FAs, the cupboard feels bare at this point.) ↵

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↵More trouble for Big Ben: Yikes. ↵

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↵UConn women's hoops: 70 straight. ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: Is there any reason to think that the Lakers' 3-game losing streak is an early indicator of potential struggles in the playoffs? Hardly. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: It's a big week for "pro days" -- how much money can Troy QB Levi Brown make (or lose) today? ↵

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↵Tebow Watch: I know turning pro means the chance to make money, but it really feels out of character that Tebow would charge $160 to get his autograph. (But they lined up anyway! Probably mostly memorabilia merchants or people who ultimately will try to sell their stuff with his sig on it - which makes the cost a little less onerous.) ↵

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↵MLB Spring Training: It's all well and good that MLB fired three umpire "supervisors" for egregiously bad calls, but it doesn't solve the larger systemic problem of ensuring as many calls are accurate as possible. ↵

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↵The only way to do that is to expand the replay system to include "fair-or-foul" and "tag-up" situations (which got the umps fired), not to mention "safe-or-out" calls at home, if not every base. ↵

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↵If umps thought that replay would help them keep their jobs, they might be a little more bullish on the idea. And if a handful of missed calls are worth firing umps with 40 years of experience over, then they are worth expanding the replay system for. ↵
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↵MLB Power Poll: Yankees and Phillies go 1-2, which shouldn't surprise you at all. (Notables: Rockies at No. 5, Mariners at 7 -- one behind the Angels -- and the Braves as the top-ranked NL East team... at No. 11.) ↵

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↵Thanks to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference for putting on a phenomenal event this past weekend, which featured lively panels, engaged attendees (more than 1,000 of them) and a team of MIT MBA students swarming the place to ensure that it all went smoothly. ↵

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↵(One of the top moments: When Colts honcho Bill Polian completely defended -- on strategic soundness, in hyper-detail, all from memory -- Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th-and-2.) ↵

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↵The Last Word: Congrats to Sandra Bullock, who won "Best Actress" for her role in "The Blind Side," beating out no less of a powerhouse competitor than Meryl Streep, which is a little like the Marlins beating the Yankees for the World Series title. ↵

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↵Does this give Bullock claim as the greatest female character in a sports movie ever? However you feel about the movie, I would argue it does. ("TBS" is already the highest-grossing sports movie ever.) ↵

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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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