Daily Sports: The Battle In South Beach

There’s an array of good  action on TV tonight, but there’s no question what the daily sports highlight is—the Battle In South Beach, as the Indiana Pacers visit the Miami Heat for Game 7 of their Eastern Conference Finals. Tip time is 8:30 PM ET on TNT, with the pregame show of Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley starting a half-hour earlier.

I’ve made no secret of how much I like Smith and Barkley for their entertainment value, but that shouldn’t obscure how astute both analysts are. Barkley flat-out picked Indiana to win this series. Smith said that, at minimum, it would be a very long series. Whatever happens tonight, both were much more accurate than mainstream media analysts. There were also more accurate than TheSportsNotebook (admittedly, a low bar of excellence). I saw Indiana’s possibilities for creating problems for Miami, but didn’t think the Pacers would have the maturity to close out this many wins. I was wrong.

The conference finals in the NHL playoffs offer Game 2 of Boston-Pittsburgh (8 PM ET, NBC Sports Network), as the Bruins try and follow Chicago’s lead and take a 2-0 series lead. Major league baseball coverage will be on ESPN, with Cleveland paying a visit to the Bronx to play the Yankees at 7 PM ET.

But the real baseball action today is at the college level, where the final day of the regionals in the NCAA Tournament is taking place. This is a double-elimination event, and 11 of the 16 regionals have already crowned their winner. The remaining five will be settled in a one-game showdown today, and to the surprise everyone, two of the teams in action are North Carolina and Vanderbilt. These are the 1-2 teams in the country and now have their fate down to a single game. Carolina starts at 6 PM ET, Vanderbilt at 7 PM ET, and ESPNU will be showing games and doing look-ins all day, starting at noon ET.

If you want an NFL fix, check out the NFL Network at 8 PM ET, for a replay of the 1997 Super Bowl, when Denver upset Green Bay 31-24. It was the win that took the monkey off John Elway’s back, becoming the first of the two rings that he would end his career with. And in a certain sense it put a monkey on Brett Favre’s back—though the Packer legend had won the previous year, the fact he would never again return to the game’s biggest stage became a sword used against him when Packer fans started acting like jilted teenage girls when Favre left town.

Here at TheSportsNotebook, we’ll have MLB coverage on the American League today, with a yet-to-be-decided feature focus. Please also check out the NBA commentary that previewed Game 7, and the NHL analysis that looked at both conference finals after the conclusion of Game 1.