Yao Ming may be overrated (see below), but he has helped the Rockets go 6-2since returning from toe surgery. As Space City readies for NBA All-Starweekend, locals can see bling on a native son: speedskater Chad Hedrick (aboveand page 42) who has a medallion of gold.
The No. 2-ranked women's team, with top scorer Sarah Bauer (left) clinched itsfirst WCHA title; the No. 4 men beat Ohio State before a hopped-up,Badger-lovin' crowd of 40,890 at an outdoor game at Lambeau Field. Injured,Hobey Baker-quality goalie Brian Elliott is back soon.
He's back! Raiders great-a Hall of Fame offensive tackle and the first blackcoach in the modern NFL when he led Oakland from 1989 to '94-will again patrolthe Oakland sideline. "It's coming home to finish what I started," hechirped.
The Blizzard of 2006 appeared to have struck indoors last week: at men's hoopsgames at Connecticut and Texas A&M and at a women's game at Oklahoma, fanswore all white in solidarity with their teams, each of which won.
A tough watch any year, and this year excruciating. Ten turnovers (six by theAFC), a couple of botched snaps (by Steve McNair), a fumble by Tiki Barber(above), four field goals (thrilling!) and a 23-17 NFC win that amounted to thefewest Pro Bowl points in seven years.
About to become the first fiftysomething female (she's 52) to compete in aWinter Olympics, slider Anne Abernathy of the U.S. Virgin Islands-who says herconspicuous red helmet is "in honor of women over 50"-crashed duringpractice and broke her wrist, ending her sixth trip to the Games.
He's back-even though Raiders owner Al Davis admitted Shell wasn't his firstchoice for coach. Now Shell has the job few wanted. Davis has discarded fivecoaches over the past 11 seasons; the Raiders are 13-35 over the pastthree.
The Bulldogs most rabid faithful-they call themselves the Kennel Club-werecriticized by faculty and by a campus "gay-straight alliance" afterchanting "Brokeback Mountain" at opponents during a game with St.Mary's.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Who's the most underrated player in the NBA?
Chauncey Billups, Pistons G 14%
Elton Brand, Clippers F 12%
Chris Bosh, Raptors F/C 5%
Gilbert Arenas, Wizards G 3%
The Most Overrated?
Stephon Marbury, Knicks G 12%
Yao Ming, Rockets C 10%
Steve Francis, Magic G 9%
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets F 5%
FAST FACTS Billups (page 52) and Bosh will make theirAll-Star Game debuts this Sunday; Arenas and Brand will play in the game forthe second time.... Yao is the lone top four "overrated" finisher whowas chosen for this year's game.... Through Sunday the "underrated"players' teams were a combined 33 games over .500; the "overrated"players' teams were 39 games below.
[ Based on a survey of 248 NBA players ] • For anexpanded version of the poll, go to SI.com/Players.