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Another Busy Weeks in Sports

Column by Bo Light
and Brian Petersen
Sports Columnists

As usual, the sports world has had a busy week. Among the comings and goings: the World League of American Football returned, Joe Montana said goodbye after 15 years (maybe), and the O.J. Simpson Trial dragged onward.

Dennis Conner's improbable comeback in the America's Cup continued with a victory over Young America, and the world's best runners began arriving in Boston for Monday's Marathon.

Spring Training continued for major league baseball, and the players and owners continued to try and reach a labor agreement (or so we are told). We will begin reporting on baseball when the season actually begins later this month. Until then, here's what's happening elsewhere in sports.

NFL Report

It's almost official this time: Joe Montana, after 15 years in football and months of denials, will be holding a press conference on Tuesday, ostensibly to announce his retirement. We'll believe it when we see it; the first report of this came from Will McDonough, who is notorious for getting the inside scoop on misinformation.

In free agency news, linebacker Darryl Talley, formerly of Buffalo, was signed by the Atlanta Falcons for an undisclosed sum. The Rams, whose move to St. Louis is, amazingly, still pending, wooed defensive end Keith McCants away from the Cardinals. The Raiders, whose move to Oakland has been defunct for years, signed linebacker Pat Swilling to a one-year contract; no one knows why.

On the Ice

As the NHL season winds down, we will be reviewing each division in the league, so you'll know your team's chances (or lack thereof) come playoff time. This week we cover the Pacific division, easily the weakest in the league.

How bad is the Pacific? The first-place Calgary Flames, who over the weekend became the last division leader to reach 40 points, could still finish dead last in the West. Add to that the fact that the division winner is likely to be the only team to be seeded among the top four in the Western Conference, and you're looking at a fairly pathetic bunch.

The Flames, with three of the top 25 scorers in the league (Theoren Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk, and Phil Housley), do have the offensive punch to get it done, but the defense and goaltending are suspect (2.86 goals against average as a team).

Unfortunately, the other teams in the division are even worse, as Calgary is the only team with a gaa of less than 3.00, as well as the only team to score more goals than it gives up. Vancouver, with Pavel Bure and Geoff Courtnall, are the only team that really has a hope of catching Calgary.

Don't look for any second-season miracles from the Kings, either. Even if the many veterans on this team raise it a notch for the playoffs, these guys are simply too old and too erratic to go very far. The Great One himself can't help them.

College Hoops

Last week, Arkansas' Corliss Williamson and Arizona State forward Mario Bennett became the first underclassmen to officially announce their early exits to the NBA. While we disagree with Bennett's decision, we wholeheartedly support Williamson's decision to turn pro. He already has NBA-like skills, such as an unstoppable post-up move to go with strong rebounding skills and decent shooting range.

Critics will argue that Williamson does not have the size required to be a power forward in the NBA. Although he is only 6' 7" tall, he has the strength and bulk (250 pounds) to dominate the lane like other short power forwards like Larry Johnson and Charles Barkley.

Bennett's and Williamson's decisions are most likely the beginning of a mass exodus of underclassmen to the NBA. Several other of the nation's top sophomores and juniors, such as Joe Smith, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, and Marcus Camby are contemplating leaving college early.

Why not? With a rookie salary cap lurking just around the corner, these potential superstars risk losing the opportunity to make seven figure salaries by staying in college. But barring extreme financial hardship, we believe that these guys should stick around for at least one more year in the college ranks.

They are not ready to move on to the next level. All four players have several things they need to work on to become NBA all-stars.

Smith and Camby both have the basketball skills necessary to make it in the NBA, but they lack the bulk needed to handle the rigors of life in the NBA paint. Both are close to seven feet tall, but weigh a meager 220 pounds. This would make them mere punching bags for the likes of Ewing, Shaq, Karl Malone, and Georges Muresean.

Stackhouse, although having a Jordanesque ability to drive to the hole and solid defensive skills, needs another year to develop the shooting range needed to excel at the next level.

Wallace, like Smith and Camby, is too scrawny to play in the NBA. But this pales in comparison to his biggest flaw: his lack of aggression. This was very noticeable in the Tarheels' national semifinal game loss to Arkansas.

So guys, why don't you hold your horses and stick around another year. That will give you some more time to work on your games and strength. You would be really good players if you entered the draft now, but you will be even better if you stay.

NBA Insights

Just when it seemed that the Spurs were going to run away with the Western Conference crown, the Blazers had to blow them out Tuesday night in San Antonio, by a score of 9171. Still, as of Wednesday, Mr. Robinson & Co. had a 2 1/2 game lead over the Sonics for the top spot in the West.

Have no fear Spurs fans, NBA rebounding king Dennis Rodman will be back from a shoulder injury before the end of the season. His return should be enough to ensure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Jason Kidd recorded his third triple-double in five games in the Mavericks 154-147 double overtime victory over the Rockets Tuesday night. Kidd has been making a strong case for rookie of the year honors as of late, along with Milwaukee's Glenn Robinson, who is averaging 21 points and 6 rebounds per contest, Detroit's all-star Grant Hill, and Sacremento's Brian Grant.

Trivia Question

Who was the last senior to be the first pick in the NBA draft? Send answers, comments, and tickets for Opening Day at Fenway to easports@the-tech.

Answer to last week's question: The Indiana Hoosiers went undefeated to win the NCAA basketball championship in 1976. Congratulations to Tim Piwowar '97, Aaron Day '95, and Joel Sokol G, who got it right.