USA Today

Pauly's Point After

Wes McElroy
February 16, 2018 - 10:33 am

My five takeaways from the show this week. 


Monday: UVA picked the best time to lose. Obviously, the majority of people would say there is no good time to lose, but sometimes in sports, those moments do creep up. The Cavaliers had not been ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press Poll since 1982 and, though it holds no significance whatsoever to a team’s postseason standing, finally crossing that threshold once again was a proud moment for the Hoos and their fans. However, as soon as it appeared they would claim the top spot following Villanova’s loss to St. John’s, the Cavaliers turned in their worst offensive performance of the season against in-state rival Virginia Tech and fell at home in overtime, 61-60.

It was the untimely hiccup some had feared, and yes, losing to the Hokies stung, but it could not have happened at a better time. Tony Bennett’s exhausted squad was tripped up during a week that saw four top 10 teams lose (not including UVA), with two of those being in the top three. So, the following Monday, Feb. 12, the Wahoos found themselves at No. 1.

The damage was minimal and did very little to derail what has been one of the most successful seasons in the Tony Bennett era. The Cavaliers are still the No. 1 overall seed according to the bracket preview, Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm and have all but wrapped up the regular season ACC title with less than a month remaining until the conference tournament. And though they’re not exactly lethal on offense, they continue to grind out tough wins as one of the best teams in the country. Insert comment about them not being boring here.


Tuesday: Chloe Kim is America’s new darling. It happens every Olympic Games. Whether summer or winter, somewhere along the way a young American phenom who can’t even vote steals the show and consequently our hearts by dazzling us on the world’s biggest stage. In 2006, it was a floppy–haired ginger named Shaun White in Torino, in 2012, it was Gabby Douglas in London, in 2016, it was Simone Biles in Rio De Janiero. In 2018, it’s Chloe Kim.

The 17-year-old Long Beach, CA native wowed the crowd at Phoenix Park Monday night by turning in two runs so impressive, she didn’t even need a third to capture her first Olympic gold medal in the women’s halfpipe. She still went out and landed back-to-back 1080s (I’ll save you the math: that’s 3 full rotations in mid-air) on her way to the podium. But it wasn’t just that she won, it was watching her before, during and after her victory.

Like a true teenager, she tweeted in between qualifying runs about missing breakfast and her ice cream craving, and never once did the moment seem too big for her, even with the mountain of expectations she faced. And after winning gold in her parents’ native country, she stood proudly atop the podium, donning her medal and wiping away tears as the Star-Spangled Banner played.

When I was 17, I bought my first car and had just sent out my first college application. It was a pretty proud time in my life. I think Chloe Kim might have a slight edge on me here. Nevertheless, this kid is a lot of fun to watch, and with a smile and personality to match, it looks like the future of American snowboarding is in very good hands.


Wednesday: Shaun White proved Sochi was just a fluke. After failing to medal in the 2014 games, Shaun White returned to the Olympic spotlight with a gravity-defying final run on the men’s halfpipe that simply left you in awe. He became the third American man to win three gold medals in three different Olympics and cemented his legacy as one of the sports’ best ever.

His crash and subsequent failure to medal in 2014 left many to wonder whether that might be it for White, who was 27 at the time. Would he even be able to make it back in four years to reclaim his crown? Would he be too old to keep up with the young hotshots hungry for their shot at Olympic gold? But Tuesday night, as the old man in a field of competitors whose average age was 21.9 years old Shaun White reminded them who still owns the halfpipe.

It takes an extremely confident athlete to experiment with something in the midst of a competition, fail, then go right back to it when it matters most. White did just that. Attempting back-to-back 1440s (yep, four rotations) on his second run and hitting the deck as a result. But he had done precisely what he wanted to do – he had set the stage for his final run. He nailed the 1440s on his final run, snatching the gold from Ayumu Hirano of Japan. It was the first time in his life he had landed the trick, and it made him an Olympic champion once again.

Who knows where he’ll be in four years, but one night after we witnessed the future of American snowboarding, we saw its greatest legend fly to victory once again.


Thursday: The U.S. Men’s hockey team has a long way to go. When you’re leading 2-0 in the period of a group play game against Slovenia (I challenge anyone to point that one out on the map), you feel pretty good about your chances. But when Slovenian forward Jan Mursak tapped home the game-winner in overtime to give Slovenia a 3-2 win, we quickly realized the youth and inexperience of Team USA.

This is the first Olympics since 1994 in which NHL players have not participated, and the early result was less than comforting. Defensive mistakes, failure to capitalize on opportunities on offense and turnovers ultimately led to the U.S. squad coughing this one up in the opener. To be fair, the team had only practiced together four times before taking the ice against Slovenia, but it was a win they had in hand, one they should have closed out with little dispute but couldn’t. It may have been the first game, but the competition will not get easier from this point and Team USA has plenty to clean up if they want to hold on to any hope of brining the United States its first Olympic hockey gold medal since the “Miracle on Ice.”

The way this year’s bracket is structured does work in the U.S.’s favor, however, as everyone makes the 12-team tournament, with the group winners receiving an automatic bid to the quarterfinals. So, while winning the group is not necessary, it would certainly be a major boost to this team’s confidence and give them more time to find their rhythm before the bigger games. Call it an overreaction, but anything less than a medal would be a disappointment, and if Team USA wants to taste gold, the road will likely go through, you know, that team from up North.


Friday: College basketball is in for reckoning. We all joke from time to time about how corrupt the college sports system is and how coaches and programs everywhere cut corners and break the rules, but what if all those jokes were suddenly fleshed out in thousands of legal documents? That could very well be the situation in college basketball within the next year.

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports wrote an article highlighting a major corruption case levied by the FBI that is primed to take down Hall of Fame coaches, major programs and even high-ranking NBA draft prospects. If this case goes as planned, according to Thamel, the NCAA could not only have a National Champion that will be forced to vacate its title, but as many as half the teams in the initial Top 16 bracket preview could be hit with penalties.

We hear things like this and generally brush them off knowing coaches and teams will receive little more than a slap on the wrist for their offences, but those investigations usually don’t involve the federal government. This case is just gaining steam, and from here, it’s only a matter of time before players, coaches and certain shoe executives are linked together and justice rolls down. And when it does, it will be felt across the entire sport. And for once, the NCAA is completely powerless to affect anything.

Will this bring about positive change to the shifty underworld of college sports, particularly basketball? It’s hard to say at this point, but timing will be everything in this case, and if the FBI has its way, this will alter college basketball as we know it.

We talked with Dave Glenn of the ACC Sports Journal, who is actually a former lawyer, and he shed some light on this case from a legal perspective.


Interview: Dave Glenn (2-16-18)