It wasn't much of a surprise to see Saturday's Arizona-Arizona State “showdown'' end as it did. The Wildcats are fighting for a national championship; the Sun Devils are fighting for an NCAA Tournament berth. The gap between those two worlds was on display in Tempe — and the better team is that much better.

But it was disappointing to see ASU coach Rob Evans sitting calmly on the bench as the Devils fell further and further behind in the second half. With an overflow crowd at Wells Fargo Arena for the first time in forever, and the biggest college basketball audience in Fox Sports Net Arizona history tuned in, apparently resigning yourself to defeat on such a stage was a downer.

Last month, Evans coached his pinstripe suit off in Tucson. With one player physically (Donnell Knight) and one mentally (Tommy Smith) missing, Evans was able to change the tempo, turn the tide and transform a 20-point blowout into something that was at least interesting late.

Saturday, Evans wasn't working officials in the second half. He didn't move many chess pieces, or make many counter-punches to free up star Ike Diogu. It was curious, and a letdown for those yearning for some semblance of an in-state rivalry.

AFRAID OF BOSTON? BEANS!

Remember David Boston? That human hand grenade, according to Cardinals camp whispers, with so many off-the-field problems that no NFL team will touch him with a 10-foot goal post (or a Jake Plummer fly route, whichever is longer).

Even before he becomes an official free agent Friday, reports have the Baltimore Ravens already interested — even if the price tag includes a $10 million-plus signing bonus. Atlanta, desperate to find someone to play laser tag with Michael Vick, is preparing to be one of the first hosts of the Boston World Tour 2003.

Think either of those teams would have “wasted'' a second- or third-round pick for Boston if Arizona had used the franchise tag? Me, too.

BEAR SIGHTING

The Coyotes recalled defenseman Drake Berehowsky from their AHL affiliate in Springfield, Mass., Monday. He could return from triple-knee-ligament surgery as soon as Wednesday night against Carolina. Berehowsky, who could force Deron Quint to the bench when he steps on the ice, will get his chance to improve Phoenix's erratic power play.

The four-year contract extension signed by Radoslav Suchy last month began this season — with a healthy raise over the $600,000 he was due to earn.

He is guaranteed for the next two seasons at about $1 million annually — and the club holds an option for the 2005-06 season.

QUICK HITTERS

• Diamondbacks reliever Greg Swindell is experimenting with a knuckleball in training camp. It will be interesting to see how he sprinkles it among his repertoire of holdover pitches — the straight ball, the slow ball and the gopher ball.

• Mike Tyson said he isn't near ready for a rematch with Lennox Lewis, saying he needs at least two or three more $5 million “tuneup'' fights that are over quicker than the average NASCAR pit stop.

The man isn't stupid. He's psychotic, dangerous and cannibalistic, but not stupid.

• Bravo to the Houston Astros, who will wear the mission patch from the space shuttle Columbia throughout the season to honor the astronauts who died earlier this month. The team also will conduct a special ceremony on Opening Day, April 1, at Minute Maid Park.

• The Japan Sumo Association has informed Osaka Governor Fusae Ota that she will again be banned from entering sumo’s sacred ring — known as the dohyo — because of her gender.

Since Ota became Japan’s first female governor in February 2000, the vice governor, a male, has presented the Osaka governor trophy to the winner of the Spring Grand Sumo Tournament.

Ooooh. Wait until Martha Burk hears about this!

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