April 4, 2006
Joakim Noah:
NCAA MVP finishes breakout month with 16 pts, 9 reb, 6 blocks (title-game record) and a kiss blown at the UCLA dance team. (Yes, you saw that right.)
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Up until Monday night, the gold standard for youth in college basketball was Michigan's Fab Five: The most talented, team-oriented, telegenic and successful team of underclassmen ever.

Until now.

Florida's soph "Fab Four" won with all the skills and charisma of the Michigan kids but delivered something they couldn't: A championship, combining near-perfect offensive execution with eye-popping D.

For those fans looking for a close game, they might curse Florida's effectiveness, which turned a promising matchup into yet another Gators rout.

But that just underscores how great these Florida champions are. Considering their inexperience coming into the season and how thoroughly they dominated Monday night (and all tournament long), they put on a clinic.

As college hoops gets younger and many studs still display "me-first-ism," the Gators offer a template of teamwork and selflessness coaches can point to as the new model for ultimate success.

That's where this Florida team really separates itself from the pack in college hoops' history since the Fab Five changed the game:

With dunk after mesmerizing dunk, you could tell the individual stars remained focused on executing as a team -- at both ends of the floor.

You can't love basketball and not admire what the Gators did out there as a blueprint for any would-be champ -- and as superior to the Fab Five as the best "young" team to play college basketball in the ESPN Era.

For this 2006 Gators team, there's no focus on the "I" in "Dominate."

But there is one on "T-E-A-M."

Duke vs. Maryland
Graham Hays offers a firsthand report from Boston:

Ivory Latta, meet Peyton Manning. Seimone Augustus, meet Kevin Garnett. The biggest stars at the Final Four were one-and-done after semifinal losses, leaving Duke and Maryland as more proof that teams win titles in sports these days.

Maryland's Crystal Langhorne and Duke's Monique Currie lead the way (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET), but keep an eye on Marissa Coleman and Abby Waner, two of the best freshmen not named Parker or Paris.

Barry Booed
Wait, I mean BOOOOOOOED! It's as if fans on the road, after years of paying for Giants tickets to gawk at Barry hit home runs, are now paying for the chance to jeer him mercilessly.

There's probably a little self-loathing going on there; what seems to drive fans' rage is that they feel duped. (Throwing a plastic syringe on the field was a real classy touch, Padres fans.)

Will it last? My bet is that Bonds' first game in each city will be the worst treatment; it's hard on the vocal cords (and the soul) to sustain loathing.

Billy Donovan: Youngest coach since Knight to win title
Kenji Johjima: Mariners C a hit (no, a HR!) in MLB debut
Hines Ward: Received as a hero in birthplace South Korea
LSU: Coach John Brady indicates he wants Final Four raise
S. McNair: Banned from Titans training complex (contract)
Mississippi St. football: 6 players plead not guilty to assault
Thank goodness Barry gets 81 games at home, where presumably they'll continue to love him unconditionally. We'll see how the fans in San Francisco treat him at the Giants' home opener.

Meanwhile, no home runs in his 2006 debut, with a double his only hit in a 6-1 loss to the Padres. Maybe the boos unnerved his teammates? (More likely it was instant NL Cy favorite Jake Peavy.)

MLB Opening Day Wrap
The annual Quickie tradition of MLB Opening Day Instant History returns!

No 'roids? No greenies? No problem. (Well, except maybe for pitchers.) 10 teams score 6 or more runs.

Jimmy Rollins hits again! He took a nail-biting oh-fer into the bottom of the 8th, but Rollins extended his hit streak to 37 games.* (*over two seasons. Curse you, Mr. Asterisk!)

Wait, wasn't the A's strength supposed to be pitching? But giving up 15 runs to the Yankees is more a signal of New York's sick lineup than Oakland's pitching deficiencies.

The Opening Day game with the Yankees inspired the quote of the day, from A's GM Billy Beane: "It's like having calculus first period. You are not real happy when the alarm goes off."

Closer Billy Wagner is the Mets' MVP already because yesterday's 3-2 win is precisely the kind of game Braden Looper would have lost in '05.

Jim Leyland: AL Manager of the Year! (Too soon, especially considering the Tigers beat the lowly Royals to start the season 1-0? Perhaps.)

Who cares if the Orioles gave up 6 runs? That's an improvement! The Mazzone Effect pays off! (Helps to get 9 runs of support.)

Think Scott Rolen is ready for a bounce-back year? His grand slam was the highlight of a 13-5 Cards win over the Phillies.

The NL home run race between Albert Pujols (2 HR) and Ryan Howard (1 HR, after 11 in March) will make fans forget about Bonds.

Welcome, Boston newbies! The three new infielders had 4 hits, but Ortiz (3 RBI) and Schilling (117 pitches) show them how it's done.

The Marlins might be "rebuilding," and they did face Oswalt, but it looks as though they're going to have a tough time scoring this season.

Hysteria as Clemens watches Rangers-Red Sox game: Fans of both teams argue he's coming to them. Odds-on fave? Still Team Retirement.

Rob Neyer has a must-read that you know I'd support. He makes the argument that the 2006 MLB season will be the greatest ever. Yes!

MLB Today
Halladay vs. Santana: If you can believe it, the best pitching matchup of the entire MLB season takes place today on Day 2.

What other potential pitching pairings might round out a dream top five in 2006, if they ever come up in a confluence of rotation and schedule:

*Unit vs. Schilling
*Peavy vs. Pedro
*Carpenter vs. D-Train
*Clemens vs. ?!?!?!

'Bonds on Bonds'
No show on ESPN has produced more controversy, which I would argue is all the more reason to tune in and check it out (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

Critics who insist it'll be one big PR plug for Barry before they've even seen the show are displaying the same insularity they denounce in Bonds himself, aren't they?

All I'm saying is: You don't get to criticize if you don't watch the show. Kind of like voting in an election.

Tournament Challenge
Congratulations to Daily Quickie Readers group winner A. Finken, who capped the comp by correctly picking Florida over UCLA, beating out more than 10,000 other entries in the largest tournament group anywhere.

(I'm so happy about Florida winning the title, I don't even mind my 60th percentile finish.

Mrs. Quickie, still celebrating the Gators' victory, finished with an entry ranked 27th out of 10,000. New debate: Would it be so crazy to name this first kid Noah? (Ehh, probably, but still ... )

In the overall Tournament Challenge, Final Four week sensation Russell Pleasant finished first thanks to Florida's win, cashing in on ESPN.com's $10,000 prize. The National Bracket finished in the mediocre 56th percentile.

Washington Nats:
Hard-luck start to season as Soriano erroneously is called out at home with the tying run. One more reason baseball needs limited instant replay.
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Tournament Challenge
Page 2 Index
Quickie All-Tourney Team
Joakim Noah
In November, no one saw this
Corey Brewer
An upgraded Tayshaun Prince
Lee Humphrey
3s were key against G. Mason
Al Horford
Actually still underrated
Taurean Green
Oh, sorry: only Gators!

We've been praising Florida's sophs, but let's also give props to juniors Lee Humphrey and Chris Richard and senior Adrian Moss. Huge Final Four contributors.

The question for later, of course, is whether Noah, Horford or Brewer will bolt for the NBA or return to be odds-on faves to repeat as champs.

Kudos to UCLA on its own unexpected run. What a "transitive property" finish the Bruins had: They crushed the LSU Tigers, who thumped Duke. Bright future ahead.

Congrats to Hoops Hall inductees Barkley, Dumars, 'Nique and Auriemma. I have extraordinarily high expectations for Barkley's induction speech.

Why were TV ratings for the Mason Final Four game down from last year's Final Four? Maybe because, deep down, you like Cinderellas early but want Big Boys late.

The perfect symbol of the Gators' title was Noah jumping on the press table, popping his jersey and doing the Gator Chomp to the crazed fans.

Last comment about Noah: He's like the anti-Adam Morrison. Where Morrison exudes stress, Noah exudes joy. Maybe that was the difference.

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