Beyond the gridiron (page 36): Florida hoops had 16 straight wins, a No. 1ranking and a balanced attack including Joakim Noah, who helps the Gators inmany ways. When forward Corey Brewer's pajama pants got ignited by a candle intheir dorm—talk about hot: Brewer (above) later scored 16 on Kentucky—Noahslapped out the flames, declaring, "I saved his life."
Cincinnati starter Bronson (14 wins, a league-high 240 2/3 innings last year)got a two-year, $25 million extension. "I'm a Red through and throughnow," said Bronson (left). And Orlando guard Carlos is more than a prettyface in the Pop Culture Grid (page 26): He's averaging 10.5 points this month,double his January output.
The Maloofs' (page 50) team was looking like the Kings of the early aughts.Five wins in six games—behind streaking shooter Kevin Martin—had them thinkingplayoffs.
While Natalie Maines (right) and her Dixie Chicks cleaned up at the Grammys,Maine's NCAA pucksters were winning (four of five for the men, two straight forwomen). And as pitchers arrived at spring training, the Mets' John Maine—aplayoff surprise—had the inside track to be the team's No. 3 starter.
The Machiavellian question: Who can a team with a name like this make a pactwith? Duke had lost four straight games (its worst streak in 11 years) andslipped out of the polls as Coach K desperately shuffled his lineup. In thewords of point guard Greg Paulus (above, seven turnovers in a 12-point loss toMaryland): "It doesn't feel good."
Welterweight Luis Collazo crowed that Sugar Shane Moseley—at 35 he's 10 yearsolder than Collazo—would melt in their Saturday-night fight at Mandalay Bay.What happened? Moseley won by a lopsided decision. Said Collazo (left) to TheNew York Times after the underattended bout, "I'll be back."
The NHL's Western Conference doormats dropped 12 of 15 and as the tradedeadline nears, their talent level thins: Veterans Craig Conroy and Sean Averywere shipped out.
As superbly nicknamed Daisuke Matsuzaka (right) prepared to toe Florida rubber,he was causing unease among Red Sox brass with an Asahi beer ad that aired inJapan. Between shots of him pulling on, and pitching in, his Sox issue number18, he quaffs a tall brew. In the U.S., such ads are a Major League no-no.
SI PLAYERS NBA POLL
Which NBA player is least interested in playingdefense?
Steve Nash, Suns G 9% ¬ª
Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks F 9%
Tracy McGrady, Rockets F-G 8%
Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets F 8%
FAST FACTS: The top four finishers were chosen forSunday's All-Star Game.... Bobcats rookie Adam Morrison was fifth (7%) thoughhe had not yet played in a regular-season game when the poll was conducted....Nuggets guard Allen Iverson (3%) joined Anthony in the top 10.... TheCavaliers' LeBron James received the most votes among players in his ownCentral Division (13.8%).
[Based on a survey of 271 NBA players] • For anexpanded version of the poll go to SI.com/players.