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HAMPTON: In a year when the so-called power conferences got more NCAA Tournament bids than ever before, the Pirates stood up for the little schools, beating Iowa State 58-57 to become only the fourth No.

15 seed to knock off a No.


KEVIN WEEKES: Perhaps inspired by pending competition from Nikolai Khabibulin, the Lightning goaltender has been outstanding of late. Entering Saturday's game against Pittsburgh he had a 1.77 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage in his past five games.

SUGAR SHANE: "Right now, I'm pound-for-pound the best," says WBC welterweight champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley (37-0, 34 KOs), who dismantled tough-guy Australian Shannan Taylor (28-1-1) on March 10. After their bout in Las Vegas, a shaken Taylor said, "I didn't know where I was."

CHICAGO CUBS: Quietly, the lovable losers have had one of the best off-seasons in baseball. They signed a slugging catcher (Todd Hundley) and a couple of nice arms for the rotation. They let Arizona overpay for Mark Grace. And now they've ended months of rancor with Sammy Sosa, one of the best players in baseball, by locking him up through 2005. This is how you show a commitment to winning: by investing, heavily if necessary, in your superstars.


USF: Finishing 18-13, one could make a good case for the Bulls at least getting an NIT bid (nine teams got in with fewer wins). But cries of outrage were barely audible _ coach Seth Greenberg, the players and fans knew this season was supposed to lead to something far greater.

UNIVERSITY OF NEW ORLEANS: Joey Stiebing was fired after leading the men's basketball team to a 17-12 record and being named Sun Belt Conference coach of the year. A year ago, the Privateers finished 12-17. The reason given by the school for the firing? It wanted to go in another direction, which we guess means 6-23 would've been job security for Stiebing.

TRACY McGRADY: Why sully your breakout season by instigating a fight with a journeyman player? The Magic superstar _ and he is becoming one before our eyes _ earned a two-game suspenison and a $10,000 fine for his dustup with Kings guard Bobby Jackson.

Jim Melvin, Anthony Perez, Alan Rittner, John Schwarb, Mike Stephenson, Pete Young