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1. Tracy McGrady. It's his team again. And, it's funny because all year I've been telling everyone who I force to listen to me talk about the NBA that I really liked the Houston Rockets' chances this season because they had finally become Yao's team. It seemed to me that the gravity of the halfcourt sets had changed. I really thought that was would get them out of round one. Yet, here we are. The Red Army of One is out for the season and Tracy has to assume the role that he had been phased out of. He has to do his best just to get them to Round One. Well, apparently being the alpha dog is like riding a bike because he scored 31 last night, to go along with nine assists, to lead the Rockets over the Dallas Mavericks (sans Dirk) in Dallas. Houston has now won 17 games in a row.
2. UCLA. By overcoming Stanford in overtime last night for their school record 27th regular season win the Bruins have sewn up the Pac-10 title and likely garnered a #1 seed for the Big Dance, which is really just around the corner. Although they should have lost (really, really should have) this game they showed the resiliency of a champ and were opportunistic enough to take advantage of the breaks they were given. Collison was clutch hitting those ill-gotten free throw attempts to force overtime and the team rolled in the extra session.
3. Stanford. Man, that hurts. They went into the half leading UCLA, 30-18, and had a five point lead during the final minute of the second half. The Lopez boys were banging with the more heralded Bruin bigs and everything looked like it was going their way. And, then a questionable foul call in the waning moments completely undoes it all. They played well enough to win but lost their composure due to a combination of Bruin pressure and hard-luck officiating.
4. The Chicago Bulls. The leftover Bulls and the discarded Cavs ran roughshod over the Current Cavs last night. My favorite statistical part of the beating is that the Bulls out-rebounded the Cavs by 7 on the offensive glass and 8 overall. This is worth noting because the Bulls just traded the rebounder formerly known as Ben Wallace to the Cavs. Before being traded, Wallace had repeatedly had run-ins with rookie Joakim Noah. No doubt sparked by the visit of his former sparring partner, Noah grabbed 20 boards last night. LeBron had to score 50 two nights ago to ice a game against a bad New York Knicks, team and his 39 was nowhere near enough to lift the Cavs over a mediocre Bulls team. This has to be troubling for Cavs fans and the boy King himself. I think that everyone (myself definitely included) was so overwhelmed by the majesty of LBJ's game that we didn't wonder why the Cavs were in a dogfight with the lowly Knicerbockers until the last few minutes.
5. Conference Tournaments. The pre-amble to the Madness begins this weekend as the smaller conference tournaments start up and the regular-season titles are decided in the power conferences. Oh, and I guess it's worth noting that UNC and Duke also square off this weekend. Yeah, there's that too.
Benched. The Brett Favre love-fest. I admit that he is one of the best to play the position and most definitely the most charismatic and folksy QBs to line up under center in my football watching life. But, I think that we've all gotten a little carried away in the past week. All the flags at ESPN headquarters should not be flying at half mast like they have been. Peter King should not be threatening to stay in whatever war torn part of the world he is in until Brett relents and retakes the field. Favre was old. He was tired and he was going out on a high note. It was actually perfect. Remember how nobody wanted him to leave after his dismal 2006 because that wasn't good enough? And remember two seasons ago when he was a sort of a jerk who was over-the-hill and holding a franchise hostage by holding this retirement over everyone's head? Now, don't get me wrong, there has been no quarterback (well, other than Vinny Testaverde) who I would have rather watched play the game over the last decade. I loved watching this guy play. As trite as it sounds, he was having fun and that was fun to watch. But that is partly because he was just as likely to do something brilliant as he was to do something boneheaded. And, he never showed the regret inherent in the Vinny-face after his miscues. There is a reason why he only won the Super Bowl as many times as Trent Dilfer. So many times the gunslinger pulled his six-shooter out of its holster and proceeded to shoot himself in the foot. For that, and many other reasons, the NLF Network should not have programs with titles seemingly cribbed from the scribblings on the back of a middle-school girls biology notebook. Brett Favre 4-Ever.