Skiing in her first-ever Olympic downhill, Mikaela Shiffrin completed her run well off the pace in the event at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
(Looking for a recap of Monday’s events? We’ve got you covered.)
In bitter cold conditions, Shiffrin finished nearly two seconds behind the leader, putting her temporarily in 11th place with several skiers still to go.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who skied out in the giant slalom and slalom, is still planning to compete in all five individual disciplines.
Meanwhile, the off-ice drama has finally ended, and attention can now turn to the start of the women’s figure skating competition.
Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva has been cleared to compete in the short program after a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A test that Valieva took two months ago was flagged for a banned heart medication, but CAS ruled that the 15-year-old Valieva, a “protected athlete” because of her age, can compete.
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Kamila Valieva takes the ice for her short program later Tuesday
BEIJING — The most-anticipated figure skating short program since the 1994 Tonya-Nancy scandal begins Tuesday at 6 p.m. Beijing time (5 a.m. ET).
But the show really starts at 9:52 p.m. local time (8:52 a.m. ET). That’s when 15-year-old Russian gold-medal favorite Kamila Valieva takes the ice for her two-minute, 40-second short program.
She was expected to dominate the competition, but that was before she became perhaps the most infamous athlete on earth due to a positive drug test that has rocked these Games.
Now the question is: how will Valieva deal with the immense pressure she is under? She shared an emotional moment with her controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze, after practice Saturday.
Will she steel herself against the onslaught of worldwide athletic condemnation and perform as she did in the team event, when she became the first woman to land a quadruple jump in an Olympic figure skating competition?
Or will the pressure get to her? Will she make mistakes or even worse, crumble under the intense glare of the spotlight?
American Karen Chen, who won the silver medal with the U.S. team earlier in these Games, skates right before Valieva in the final group. Mariah Bell is three groups earlier and Alysa Liu is in the second-to-last group.
One thing is certain: whatever happens, viewership of Valieva’s short program will pale in comparison to the number of people who watched Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan skate their short programs in February 1994. TV ratings for that night of the Olympics on CBS soared to 48.5, meaning almost half the nation watched an event that was tape-delayed, in which everyone already knew the result.
— Christine Brennan
Alex Hall goes for a ‘scary’ option in men’s freeski slopestyle and it pays off
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Alex Hall likes to keep an open mind as one of the best freeskiers in the world.
So when he got to Genting Snow Park in the snowy mountains of the Beijing Winter Olympics, he wanted to try every rail, go on every jump and angle and look at every possibility of the slopestyle course first before deciding on his run.
On Tuesday, for his first and second qualification runs, Hall then unveiled a new creative angle: he took the middle of the slope on the second jump feature, which he didn’t see from any other skier – or snowboarder for that matter. He looked like he was a skipping stone thrown over water, grazing the slope with two aerial moves on both sides. It was graceful and a move he’s been trying for a couple of days and finally dialed in.
“It’s been really scary to figure out but I am a little more confident on it now,” said Hall. “Still a little scared of it but I figured I’d go for it and hope that it worked out – and it did.”
In more technical terms, it’s a switch left seven to nose butter, to switch left 5 with a Japan grab. And it helped him earn him a qualifying score for the finals on Wednesday.
“I’m always looking for something creative, something that will bring me joy,” said Hall, who advanced with U.S. teammates Nick Goepper and Colby Stevenson. “If I can do that in competition skiing and a big stage like this, at the Olympics, that’s kind of the cherry on top.”
“It’s a really free sport, you can express yourself exactly how you want. That’s also my personality; that stuff doesn’t really work out for me when I’m too regimented and too serious about everything.”
– Lori Nickel
BEIJING – Su Yiming is well-known throughout China as a child actor, but he’s never put on a better performance than in Tuesday’s snowboard big air finals.
Just 17 years old, Su landed both frontside and backside 1800s – the latter with a triple cork, or three vertical flips – to easily win the gold medal in front of the home crowd.
Norway’s Mons Roisland took the silver medal, while Canada’s Max Parrot snagged the bronze with two good runs after crashing on his first attempt.
After the first run, it looked like American Chris Corning might have a shot at a medal when he landed a massive backside quad cork 1800, earning him a score of 92. Corning said he had been struggling in practice with his mental focus and was surprised to be able to land that trick.
“I was like 0-for-3 in X-Games (with that trick) so I was super happy about that,” Corning said. “I put it down about as perfect as I can.”
But after failing to land a frontside 1440 on his second jump, he tried again on his third. Though Corning executed it well, it didn’t have nearly a high enough degree of difficulty to get on the podium given the level of competition. He ended up in seventh place.
For American Red Gerard, the slopestyle gold medalist in 2018, big air has never been his favorite event. With some help from his competitors, he was in position to potentially medal after landing a solid triple cork backside 1620 with his third jump. But Gerard didn’t get quite enough help and ended up fifth.
“I was very happy I was able to land two runs,” Gerard said. “Just to be in this final was something crazy, definitely a big day for snowboarding with how many spins that were going on. I just didn’t know what to fully do trick-wise, whether to keep it chill or try to push it and go for a way bigger trick. I ended up keeping it chill and I’m quite happy with it honestly. I don’t know if I was fully ready to go 18 and 19 right now.”
— Dan Wolken
Kamila Valieva says grandfather’s medication to blame for positive drug test
BEIJING — Attorneys for Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva argued that the banned substance trimetazidine entered her system through a medication that her grandfather takes, a member of the International Olympic Committee confirmed Tuesday.
In a scrum with reporters after the IOC’s daily press briefing, a reporter asked IOC member Denis Oswald if the IOC was aware of the explanation that Valieva, 15, offered to the Russian Anti-Doping Agency in an appeal hearing earlier this month.
“I was not in this hearing,” Oswald said. “Her argument was this contamination which happened with a product her grandfather was taking.”
The crux of Valieva’s defense had been previously reported Monday by The Dossier Center, a website run by exiled Russian businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The website said it obtained audio of Valieva’s hearing with RUSADA, which it said lasted only 90 minutes.
According to The Dossier Center, Valieva’s attorney, Anna Kozmenko, argued in the hearing that trimetazidine entered the 15-year-old’s body accidentally, through a contaminated product. She also argued in the hearing that the product likely belonged to Valieva’s grandfather, who takes trimetazidine for heart issues, according to the website.
— Tom Schad
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Maggie Voisin couldn’t feel her brother’s dogtag move as she slid, flipped and spun her way down the Olympic slopestyle course.
Though it was tucked under many layers as Voisin competed in her third Games, the 23-year-old knew it was there both to remind her of the brother she lost just more than a year ago and of the lessons she’s learned since.
So the veteran freeskier knew to be grateful even as she finished just outside the podium for a second Olympics. The only American in the final at Genting Snow Park on Tuesday, Voisin finished in fifth.
“That really changes the way you look at life. The fact that I am here at the Olympics getting to do what I love, you’ve got to be grateful and appreciative every day,” she said. “That’s how my brother lived his life.”
Michael Voisin, a second lieutenant in the Army, died by suicide in January 2021. His death devastated Maggie Voisin, sending her into a grieving process that prompted her to take time away from training.
To come back in the Olympics – to briefly sit in bronze medal position – was something to be grateful for.
“I thought about him every moment, every run,” she said, “and I know that I made him proud.”
Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud, the silver medalist four years ago, won gold, narrowly beating out China’s Eileen Gu for silver. Estonia’s Kelly Sildaru won bronze on her safety run, seeing her ski pop off at the end of her second run that likely would have scored higher.
Voisin was in bronze-medal position after her second run only to get bumped by Gu and Russia’s Anastasia Tatalina.
— Rachel Axon
Father of US figure skater Alysa Liu says Kamila Valieva decision ‘destroys the Olympic spirit’
BEIJING — The father of United States women’s figure skating Olympian Alysa Liu is not happy with the decision that allowed Kamila Valieva to continue competing at the Beijing Olympics despite testing positive for a banned substance Dec. 25.
“She tested positive for a banned drug. What’s not clear about it? She should be out,” Arthur Liu said, according to the Associated Press. “That is as simple as that. What kind of message are they sending to millions of young boys and girls in sports — particularly figure skaters? That cheaters are allowed to compete in the Olympics, the holiest competition on the planet. It totally destroys the Olympic spirit.”
The figure skating world, and Olympic movement at large, has been ablaze with criticism after the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) determined that Valieva could keep competing at these Games.
Arthur Liu said he’s avoided giving his daughter medicine while sick to avoid a positive test, and was critical of Valieva’s controversial coach, Eteri Tutberidze. He also expressed regret of having his daughter compete in figure skating.
“I just simply can’t believe the ‘irreparable harm’ to her,” he told reporter Kalyn Kahler. “How about the irreparable harm to other clean athletes? You are depriving them.”
— Chris Bumbaca
Hilary Knight’s skills, leadership pushing Team USA forward in women’s hockey
On a team filled with stars, U.S. women’s hockey forward Hilary Knight is probably the most popular.
She has the endorsements, including with Visa and Ralph Lauren. She has posted on TikTok daily from Beijing. But U.S. coach Joel Johnson says to not pay attention to that side if Knight. He prefers to focus on who she is behind the scenes – a soft-spoken, quiet, intense leader off the ice.
“The one that people look to when they’re not sure where to look. The one who people trust in when they’re not sure who to trust,” Johnson told USA TODAY Sports. “I think the impact she has on her teammates is so meaningful.”
Knight already tied the U.S women’s hockey record for most Olympic selections with four, and with another medal now assured in Beijing — Team USA will play archrival Canada for gold — Knight’s hardware count (four) will be also tied for most all time.
“Consistency kills,” Knight, who won gold in 2018 and silvers in 2010 and 2014, told USA TODAY Sports before departing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
At these Beijing Games, Knight has been a model of “consistent” production. She’s recorded at least one point in five of six games and leads the team with nine points overall. And if the U.S. wins its second consecutive gold, it will be hard to find someone in USA hockey history whose résumé matches that of Knight.
— Chris Bumbaca
Why are Olympic skiers in Beijing wearing tape on their faces?
While watching the women’s downhill, it’s hard not to notice the blue tape on the faces of many of the skiers.
Athletes in Beijing are using KT Tape to protect their skin from the freezing cold temperatures, but the CEO of KT Tape Greg Venner warns that the tape isn’t clinically tested for faces.
The KT Tape that athletes are putting on their faces is normally used as an elastic sports tape to provide support for muscles, ligaments and tendons to allow for full range of motion. The tape is sponsored and used by several athletes in the Beijing Winter Olympics as well as the summer Olympics season.
There’s no precedent for using the tape on faces or evidence that it protects people from the cold, and Venner says that athletes should be careful about using the tape on the delicate skin on their face.
“We’ve seen KT Tape used as protection against the wind in winter sports over the years, so although it isn’t a clinically approved usage, we appreciate the ingenuity. KT Tape doesn’t endorse the use of kinesiology tape on the face as it isn’t clinically tested,” Venner told USA TODAY. “However, we certainly applaud the creativity – we are proud to support Team USA!”
— Michelle Shen
Mikaela Shiffrin gains valuable experience in completing women’s downhill
BEIJING — Consider this preparation for the Alpine combined.
Mikaela Shiffrin raced the downhill for the first time at an Olympics on Tuesday. She didn’t win a medal – she finished in 18th place, 2.49 seconds behind gold medalist Corinne Suter from Switzerland – but it gives her more experience on the course ahead of Thursday’s combined, which features a run each of downhill and slalom.
Unlike her first few races in Beijing, Shiffrin was not expected to get a medal in the downhill.
But she had hoped to do all five individual races at the Beijing Olympics, something she couldn’t do four years ago after weather-related delays upended the schedule.
Expected to contend for multiple medals in Beijing, Shiffrin has instead had a tough time. The two-time Olympic champion skied off the course five gates into the first run of both the giant slalom and slalom, her two best events, and was ninth in the super-G.
— Nancy Armour
Team USA making a push to advance in men’s curling with win over Switzerland
BEIJING – It’s come down to crunch time for the U.S. men’s curling team. With three matches to go in round-robin play entering Tuesday and a 3-3 record, winning out would almost surely guarantee a place in the semifinals.
Team Schuster took care of business in the first of those matches and defeated Switzerland 7-4. The Americans were tied with the Swiss for fourth place; the top four teams advance to the semifinals. The U.S. lost the first end, but battled back to take a 2-1 lead at the end of the second. Clutch shooting in the seventh and ninth ends helped secure the victory.
For the U.S., friendly scheduling will be a boon. The final two games of the round-robin are against the bottom two teams in the standings, Italy (later Tuesday) and Denmark (Thursday). In other good news, Russia – another team that entered 3-3 and tied for fourth – lost to Norway 12-5. That means the U.S. is currently in sole possession of fourth place to give them some room for error, depending on how the tiebreakers shake out.
A loss to Canada earlier in the tournament dropped Schuster and Co. to 2-3. But like they did four years ago in Pyeongchang, the Americans appear to be capturing momentum when it matters most.
— Chris Bumbaca
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – That it was expected made it no less remarkable.
Needing to put down a big run to get in contention, Gu landed a double cork on her second to last jump, followed by a 900 to get on the podium.
Switzerland’s Mathilde Gremaud took gold and Kelly Sildaru of Estonia won bronze.
Gu already claimed gold in big air’s Olympic debut last week.
The American-born teen is competing for her mother’s native China, a decision that has made her beloved here but also drawn criticism.
— Rachel Axon
Austria’s Anna Gasser makes history in winning big air gold
BEIJING – The first female snowboarder to ever land a cab double 1260 in competition did it again when it mattered most.
Austria’s Anna Gasser, sitting in second place before her final run of the big air competition and needing to pull off a big trick to pass New Zealand’s Zoi Synnott-Sadowski for the lead, didn’t just land the 1260 Tuesday – she absolutely stomped it for a monster score of 95.5. It turned out to be more than enough for Gasser to win her second consecutive gold medal in this event.
As Gasser landed cleanly at the bottom of the Big Air Shougang, she put her hands to her head, almost in disbelief. Even for someone who has been dominant over the years in this discipline, pulling that off under such immense Olympic pressure was a tremendous feat.
Synnott-Sadowski, who won the gold in slopestyle earlier in these Olympics and also took the big air title at the most recent Winter X-Games, had a shot to one-up Gasser and steal back the title. But her attempt at a double cork 1260 failed as she came in a bit too steep on the landing.
The way the competition set up, with snowboarders being scored on their two best jumps out of three, paved the way for a big dramatic finish and encouraged the riders to try for huge tricks towards the end.
Japan’s Reira Iwabuchi, who was sitting in fourth place, even tried a triple cork on her final run in an attempt to make the podium. Though she didn’t quite land it, the other snowboarders rushed to congratulate her at the bottom of the hill for the audacious attempt.
At that point, the only question was how the top three would finish. After Japan’s Kokomo Murase missed on her third run, the path was cleared for Gasser to make one of the most dazzling runs of her legendary career.
American Hailey Langland, who squeaked into the final by a quarter of a point, was not able to land either of her first two tricks. Eliminated from medal contention, she took the safe route down the jump on her third try and settled for 12th place.
— Dan Wolken
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – On Monday night the American women qualified three for the finals and two in the superfinals of women’s aerials.
“And that’s a quarter of the field so we all came out here and we put down our best jumps,” said the youngest member of the team, Kaila Kuhn, 18. “We really showed there’s a great future for the U.S. team.”
It spoke to the strength of the women’s Team USA and the team in general.
“I think the hard work that we’ve all put in – in the last few years, and Vladimir Lebedev became our head coach, that was a new shift for me as well,” said bronze medal winner Megan Nick Monday night. “And so that has really helped some of the athletes who have worked with him.
“But all around just having Ashley Caldwell on the triple and being such a great role model for how we can keep pushing our ability and our degree of difficulty has been really beneficial.”
Lebedev was born and raised in Uzbekistan, earned a bronze medal at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, and his uncle was president of the Uzbekistan Ski Association.
When Lebedev took over in 2019, he immediately set his sights on the new Team Aerials event, which debuted here at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games, and which the Americans won. Caldwell was the woman on the mixed team which earned her a gold medal.
Nick’s bronze is the first medal for the U.S. women’s individual aerials in 24 years; Nikki Stone was the last to medal, at the 1998 Nagano Olympics, with gold.
“I know that interest in our sport in the U.S. has been dwindling,” Nick said, “so I just hope that our gold in the mixed team event and this medal – and hopefully another medal in the coming days – inspires kids around the nation to consider starting aerials.”
— Lori Nickel
Skating world offers near-unanimous rebuke of CAS ruling on Russia’s Kamila Valieva
Shortly after the Court for Arbitration in Sport issued its ruling allowing Russian teenager Kamila Valieva to compete in the women’s figure skating competition despite a positive drug test in December, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee issued a strong statement in opposition.
“We are disappointed by the message this decision sends,” USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said. “It is the collective responsibility of the entire Olympic community to protect the integrity of sport and to hold our athletes, coaches and all involved to the highest of standards.”
That rebuke was mild compared to what other skating stars had to say. For example, NBC commentator and former U.S. Olympian Johnny Weir called the decision “a slap in the face to the Olympic Games, to our sport and to every athlete that has ever competed at the Olympics clean.”
Team USA finished second to Valieva and the Russians in the team figure skating competition earlier in the Games. Valieva will be the gold medal favorite when the women’s individual competition begins on Tuesday.
Team USA curling squads in action Tuesday. Let’s review the rules.
As you’re watching maybe you’re like us, thinking: What was that move for? Why did they do that? And what is with all the sweeping?
Well we’ve got you covered. Here’s a reminder of the rules of curling and more information about the event’s schedule at the Winter Olympics.
Mikaela Shiffrin skis back into action in women’s downhill
BEIJING — Looking for a reason to stay up late? Mikaela Shiffrin is racing the Olympic downhill for the first time.
The downhill begins at 11 a.m. Tuesday Beijing time, so 10 p.m. Monday night on the East Coast. No doubt NBC was pleased with Shiffrin’s decision.
Shiffrin didn’t do the downhill at her previous two Olympics. She’d hoped to race it at Pyeongchang in 2018, but weather-related delays disrupted the schedule and she didn’t have enough time to train. Though she hadn’t been on downhill skis since December until the first training run Saturday, Shiffrin has decided to do the race.
“It’s going to be intense and a little bit of nerves but in general I think it’s going to be really cool to be able to race,” she said. “One of my biggest goals coming here was to start in every event. At least that dream may still be alive.”
Shiffrin is 12th on the start list, just in front of reigning Olympic downhill champion Sofia Goggia. Alix Wilkinson starts 21st and Keely Cashman will go 26th. The final American, Jackie Wiles, will start 30th in the 36-skier field.
It’s cold at the National Alpine Skiing Centre; the temperate forecast for the start of the race is minus-7 degrees. But it’s clear and sunny with light winds, so good conditions for a downhill race.
— Nancy Armour
There’s no great need or demand for permanent venues to host a sport as niche as big air, but the Chinese went ahead and did it anyway. It is a towering, dramatic structure rising above a former industrial park where they used to mill steel, flanked by cooling towers that evoke images of nuclear winters moreso than the Winter Olympics.
But are those towers really part of a nuclear power plant, as many social media posts have suggested?
A USA TODAY fact check reveals they’re actually industrial cooling towers from a now-closed steel mill.
Russian teen skater Kamila Valieva cleared to compete
In a momentous decision, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Monday in favor of the Russian figure skating superstar and the country’s anti-doping agency, dismissing the provisional suspension that Valieva, 15, would have otherwise faced after she tested positive for a banned heart medication.
The CAS panel reasoned that the six-week delay from the time Valieva’s sample was collected to the time she was informed of the positive result was “not her fault” and noted her special status as a “protected person” under world anti-doping rules, because she is not yet 16.
– Tom Schad
US moves up medal count with four more on Monday
Bobsledders Kaillie Humphries and Elana Meyers Taylor took gold and silver in the monobob, while first-time Olympian Megan Nick won a bronze in women’s aerials and the ice dancing team of Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue also won bronze.
Team USA now has a total of 16 medals, which ranks third in the overall medal count behind Norway’s 19 and the Russian Olympic Committee’s 18.
The Norwegians also lead the way with nine golds. Germany is second with eight.
US women’s hockey team to play archrival Canada in gold medal game
The U.S. women’s hockey team is headed to the gold medal game.
Team USA will seek its second straight Olympic gold against Canada (11:10 p.m. ET Wednesday). The U.S. and Canada have faced each other in six of the seven Olympic women’s hockey finals. Canada has won gold four times.
“You know, I think it’s wonderful hockey. It’s the most beautiful rivalry in sports,” forward Hilary Knight said after scoring a goal and adding an assist in Monday’s win. “It gets the best and the worst out of both of us at the same time. And it’s just a wonderful game.”
Razzies royally torch 'Diana' musical and 'Space Jam 2,' show love to Oscar favorite Will Smith
In its proclamation of the worst films of 2021, the Razzies lambasted a critically reviled Princess Diana musical and LeBron James’ “Space Jam” sequel, but spread love instead of hate for Will Smith.
The Golden Raspberry Awards, annually announced the day before the Academy Awards, bestowed five dishonors on Netflix’s “Diana: The Musical,” a filmed production of the recent Broadway show that closed after 33 performances. “Diana” beat out “Infinite,” “Karen,” “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Woman in the Window” for worst picture, plus picked up worst screenplay and worst actress for star Jeanna de Waal.
“New Legacy,” the live-action/animated hybrid basketball comedy featuring James hooping it up with Bugs Bunny and Co., earned three Razzie awards. James was named worst actor and also was saddled with worst screen couple – which went to James and “Any Warner Cartoon Character (or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On” – while the movie snagged worst sequel.
How to watch the 2022 Oscars:Everything you should know about Sunday’s Academy Awards
“House of Gucci” star Jared Leto lost his Screen Actors Guild race for best supporting actor but nabbed the Razzie for worst. And Bruce Willis does so many VOD movies now that he received his own special category (worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie) that, to no one’s surprise, he won – for “Cosmic Sin.”
Smith, who’s expected to win the best actor Oscar Sunday for “King Richard,” received this year’s Razzie Redeemer Award for previous Razzie honorees who’ve come back with quality efforts. Recent winners include Ben Affleck, Sylvester Stallone, Melissa McCarthy and Eddie Murphy.
The full list of this year’s Razzie “winners”:
Worst picture: “Diana: The Musical”
Worst actor: LeBron James, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst actress: Jeanna de Waal, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst supporting actress: Judy Kaye, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst supporting actor: Jared Leto, “House of Gucci”
Worst performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 movie: Bruce Willis, “Cosmic Sin”
Worst screen couple: LeBron James and Any Warner Cartoon Character
(or WarnerMedia Product) He Dribbles On, “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst remake, rip-off or sequel: “Space Jam: A New Legacy”
Worst director: Christopher Ashley, “Diana: The Musical”
Worst screenplay: “Diana: The Musical”
As more marijuana dispensaries get targeted by robbers, SAFE Banking Act lingers in Congress
A bill that could allow electronic transactions at weed dispensaries nationwide is again make its way through Congress but the SAFE Banking Act might not be the cure-all that supporters envision.
In over a decade of operating cannabis shops in Washington, Shea Hynes never once worried about his stores getting robbed at gun point – until recently: In a span of three weeks, his stores were robbed three different times at gun point.
Reports of armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries like Hynes’ have nearly doubled in the first quarter of this year compared with all of last year, according to data maintained by the Craft Cannabis Coalition. The group, which represents more than 50 stores in Washington, has recorded more than 65 armed robberies so far this year, compared with 35 in 2021 and 29 in 2020.
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Takeaways from Friday's Sweet 16: North Carolina looks like national title contender
CHICAGO — In a ridiculous coincidence, the Saint Peter’s Peacocks wrote NCAA Tournament history on National Peacock Day with a thrilling upset of Purdue.
The mid-major became the first-ever No. 15 seed to reach the Elite Eight, outdoing previous No. 15 seeds Oral Roberts (2021) and Florida Gulf Coast (2013). Exactly 0.8% of people picked the Peacocks to get this far, with the school from Jersey City, New Jersey, defying all odds. Is Saint Peter’s the best Cinderella of all time?
Meanwhile, the ACC is sitting pretty with three teams – Duke and now North Carolina and Miami (Fla.) – in the Elite Eight on the same day the Big Ten saw its last team go down.
A look at three key takeaways from Friday:
Saint Peter’s writes NCAA history
Coach Shaheen Holloway has this team playing inspired basketball, and now the Peacocks (22-11) are just one win from the Final Four. The best Cinderellas of the last two decades to reach Final Fours – George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011, Loyola-Chicago (2018) all were double-digit seeded mid-majors. But none was as highly seeded as this Saint Peter’s team that’s now beaten No. 2 seed Kentucky, No. 7 Murray State and No. 3 Purdue.
WINNERS, LOSERS:Poised Saint Peter’s keeps the dream alive; bye-bye, Big Ten; hello, ACC
OPINION:Saint Peter’s embodies wackiness and uncertainty of this NCAA Tournament
ANALYSIS:Purdue’s loss leaves Big Ten shut out of Elite Eight. We could see this coming.
MORE:Legendary Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson: Coach K’s farewell tour ends Saturday
OPINION:Houston is leaving Phi Slama Jama in the 1980s for good
While other bracket-busting NCAA Tournament darlings of yesteryear have had flair (FGCU’s “Dunk City”) or a lovable fan (Loyola’s Sister Jean), this team from the MAAC is doing it with defense, namely with nine steals. In spite of being undersized against the Boilermakers, the Peacocks used aggressiveness and hustle to outduel their seemingly superior opponent behind 6-8 freshman Clarence Rubert and 6-7 junior Hassan Drame. Daryl Banks III (14 points) is the go-to scorer for Saint Peter’s, but Mr. Clutch has been guard Doug Edert (10 points) off the bench. One stat to note: a 19-for-21 clip from the free-throw line. What’s been most impressive is the Peacocks’ ability to stay hungry and poised under pressure, winning close games in all three NCAA Tournament matchups.
Blue-bloods show title potential
Duke and Villanova advanced on Thursday, and fellow blue-bloods Kansas and North Carolina will now join them in the Elite Eight. And yes, if both the Blue Devils and Tar Heels win Sunday, we could see them meet in the Final Four.
Ever since North Carolina embarrassed Duke in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final home game at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Heels have been red-hot – knocking out No. 1 Baylor in the previous game in overtime. That continued against a UCLA team that reached the Final Four last year and seemed destined to get back. Caleb Love was brilliant again, finishing with 30 points off six three-pointers. Armando Bacot’s tip-in with 22 seconds left sealed the win in another impressive outing for coach Hubert Davis’ resilient team.
The last remaining No. 1 in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas stayed alive, escaping Providence by five points. It’s coach Bill Self’s ninth trip to the Elite Eight with Kansas and 11th of his career, as the Jayhawks (31-6) are one win from the Final Four. They’ve now won eight in a row and are looking like a title contender after entering the NCAA Tourney having won the Big 12 tournament.
The secret weapon for Kansas has been guard Remy Martin. For the third consecutive tournament game, Kansas got a jolt off the bench from the fiery Martin (23 points), the Arizona State transfer who has erupted in these NCAAs after playing a reserve role throughout 2021-22.
ACC > Big Ten
Despite garnering nine NCAA Tournament bids on Selection Sunday – the most of any conference – the Big Ten is out following Purdue’s stunning exit vs. Saint Peter’s. The league tanked in the first two rounds, with No. 5 Iowa – the conference tourney champ – getting upset by Richmond in the first round. No. 3 Wisconsin, No. 4 Illinois, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 7 Ohio State all lost in the second round. And now, with Michigan’s loss to Villanova, the overall underachievement is on full display. That’s a 9-9 finish in the tournament.
No Big Ten team has cut down the nets since 2000 (the Spartans), and it’s a depressing outlook for the league that posted the second-best NET score in 2021-22 and showcased several teams with Final Four potential.
The ACC, which finished with the sixth-worst NET score as a league, has Duke, North Carolina and Miami all in the Elite Eight. That’s after the Tar Heels, Hurricanes and Notre Dame were all bubble teams in early March. The NCAA Tournament is about matchups and pathways. No matter how well the Big Ten did in the regular season, much like the Pac-12’s surprising finish last year, the ACC is well-positioned with three teams still alive and two of them title contenders.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.
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