Shanoff's WUC: LeBron, Sweeps, Big Ten, Habs

Today's Calls: Lakers vs. Suns, Magic vs. Destiny, LeBron vs. Rondo, Big Ten vs. Big 12, Andre Ethier vs. All-Star Status, Brian Cushing vs. AP NFL Award Voters, Tiger Woods vs. Hank Haney, Duke vs. Michigan State and More. ↵

↵LeBron JamesThe Opening Pitch: LeBron is sweating, and the other contenders are sitting pretty. ↵

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↵That is the state of the NBA playoffs today: The National Broom Association, following last night's double-sweep by the Magic and the Lakers. ↵

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↵The Magic suddenly look like the team to beat in the East. While the Cavs struggle to shake off the Celtics — "pivotal" Game 5 is tonight and things are so desperate that LeBron might guard Rajon Rondo — Orlando looks unbeatable: Howard is unguardable, the 3-point shooters are dead-eye, Jameer Nelson is in complete control, the bench is unparalleled and the team has last year's Finals experience. This is a team built to win in the playoffs. ↵

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↵Meanwhile out West, for all the momentum the Suns have earned, the Lakers look like defending champs ready to win another one. Hard to figure out how the Suns will contain Pau Gasol — let alone Kobe. ↵

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↵The good news for LeBron is he now has the playoff stage all to himself. The bad news is that while he prepares to play the most important game of his career tonight, everyone else is kicking back — and all look better than the Cavs. ↵

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↵NBA Offseason: What next for the swept? The Hawks are kind of a mess. They seem to have hit their ceiling, and there's no way they re-sign Joe Johnson. The Jazz were predictably solid, and they get the Knicks' Lottery pick. Not bad. Utah needs more size. ↵

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↵Meanwhile: Would the Spurs really trade Tony Parker? On one hand, the series win against the Mavs showed the Spurs are still contenders; on the other hand, the Suns’ sweep displayed that they need to do something. It's not the Spurs' M.O. to panic, so I don't think they trade TP. ↵

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↵Big Ten Expansion Mania: Mizzou! Nebraska! Rutgers! Notre Dame! (Well, probably not Notre Dame.) But let's call it an even 14, including two poaches from the Big 12, which is now the Big Ten — not just ironic, but also not particularly likely to stay that way. The Big 12 could either try to replenish its ranks quickly with, say, TCU and Utah. Or it could wait for Texas to get poached by the SEC. The various schools, of course, won't confirm anything. ↵

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↵NFL Offseason: New Defensive Rookie of the Year? That's how the Associated Press wants to play it with Brian Cushing, having a "re-vote" on the award, which seems exceptional for its heavy-handed moralizing. How about an NFL reporter worrying less about post-hoc award votes and instead cracking the positive drug test back in September when it happened? ↵

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↵MLB Talking Points: ↵

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↵— Andre Ethier is having an All-Star season. ↵

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↵— Tigers honor Ernie by beating Yanks. ↵

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↵— Micro-slump continues for Rays ↵

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↵— Fantasy Stud: Martin Prado (HR, 5 RBI). ↵

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↵Tiger Woods insists his neck injury has nothing to do with his November car crash. But would you really believe he would tell you if it did? Ultimately, this is where his brand erosion hurts: It's one thing to mock him; it's another to distrust him. ↵

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↵NHL Playoffs: Habs taking Penguins to 7. We've seen how this ends. ↵CBB Offseason: 2010-11 Regular Season Game of the Year? Duke-Michigan State. ↵

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↵The Last Word: "I know Tiger Woods will be successful in the future no matter who helps him." ↵
↵— Hank Haney, Tiger Woods' swing coach, as he quits working for him. ↵

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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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