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Original Issue

Chasing the Huskies

Five years after its last title, UConn is the team to beat in '09

THE DAY after she led Tennessee to its second straight national title, a 64--48 win over Stanford on April 8, Candace Parker switched jerseys. The Naismith Award winner—who redshirted as a freshman and will graduate next month—was taken first overall in the WNBA draft by the Los Angeles Sparks after forgoing her senior season. The loss of Parker and four other starters means that the Lady Vols will be hard-pressed to three-peat. It also means that the Maya Moore era in women's college hoops will commence a year earlier than expected. The UConn sophomore-to-be heads a deep returning cast for the Huskies, who made it to the Final Four this spring. "All the pieces of that puzzle are back together," says LSU coach Van Chancellor. "It's scary." Here's an early look at next year's top five:

1. Connecticut (36--2 in 2007--08) Geno Auriemma will have the nation's most dynamic player in Moore, a 6-foot forward from Lawrenceville, Ga. A first-team All-America as a freshman, Moore (17.8 points per game) is joined by three returning starters. Now comes the really frightening part: UConn brings in a top-five freshman class fronted by Naismith prep player of the year Elena Delle Donne, a 6'5" distaff Dirk Nowitzki--type from Greenville, Del.

2. Stanford (35--4) The national finalists lose only one starter, but it's an All-America:shooting guard Candice Wiggins. The Cardinal will be solid inside, and if it can find a go-to scorer, a return to the title game is possible.

3. Duke (25--10) The Blue Devils have 11 of their top 12 scorers back, including 6'5" center Chante Black (14.1 points) and shooting guard Abby Waner (49 three-pointers).

4. Oklahoma (22--9) Underachievers the past two seasons, the Sooners bring back every significant player, led by three-time All-America center Courtney Paris (18.6 points).

5. Rutgers (27--7) Gone are a pair of WNBA first-round picks, Matee Avajon and Essence Carson, but the Scarlet Knights still have center Kia Vaughn and guard Epiphanny Prince. Among the five McDonald's All-Americans that coach C. Vivian Stringer just signed is 5'9" point guard Nikki Speed, who will run the offense—and carry on the Rutgers tradition of wonderfully named players.

Go Figure

$48 million Potential value of the seven-year contract the Indians gave Fausto Carmona last Thursday.

8 Walks yielded by Carmona two nights later against the A's.

35 Seconds it took the IHL's Bloomington PrairieThunder to score four goals against the Flint Generals on April 5, the fastest four-goal spurt at any level of pro hockey.

0--11 Start by the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the worst in International League history.

3 Lefthanders, out of six in the Masters field, who had bogey-free second rounds at Augusta last Friday.

0 Righthanders, out of 88 in the field, who had bogey-free second rounds.

A Pox upon Your Stadium!

NEXT YEAR the Yankees will move out of the House That Ruth Built and into the House That Gino Castignoli Helped Build. And because of that, the Red Sox--Yankees rivalry took another bizarre turn last weekend. Castignoli, a Bronx construction worker and die-hard Boston fan, admitted to the New York Post that he had buried a David Ortiz jersey in the foundation of the new Yankee Stadium last year in an effort to hex the Bombers. Cue the hysteria. On Saturday workers took jackhammers to the section of the stadium where Castignoli had worked. There, after five hours of digging through two feet of concrete, they found a soiled Sox jersey. Yankees general partner Hank Steinbrenner promptly called on Castignoli's coworkers to "kick the s— out of him." Castignoli, 46, responded by telling the Post, "Tell Hank he can come meet me if he wants to try. And tell him to bring [catcher Jorge] Posada, because he's the one Yankee I can't stand."

The Yankees announced that they plan to auction off the jersey and donate the proceeds to the Jimmy Fund, a Boston-based charity. But the story may not have a happy ending for everyone. New York Yankees COO Lonn Trost said that the team was looking into filing criminal charges against Castignoli. And the hex may have backfired: Ortiz is hitting .070 this season and was benched in Sunday night's win over the Yankees at Fenway.



DRIVING FORCES Top scorers Moore (23) and Black could meet in the next Final Four.



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PAPI SEED An Ortiz jersey, planted to jinx the Yankees, was unearthed on Sunday.